Album Review – Foreigner – With the 21st Century Orchestra (Sony Music)
Review by Geoff Jenke
Foreigner’s last studio album was the 2009 Can’t Slow Down and since then they have released 5 live albums, counting this one and 6 compilations. Such seems to be the way of some classic bands these days. There is a trend to tour with only one or two original members, re-record classic songs and push out live albums, acoustic, electric and with orchestra. Foreigner are one such band and they have now completed the full circle with a live album recorded with an orchestra.
There is no doubting Foreigners status as one of the great rock bands of last century. They have sold over 75 million albums, have 10 multi-platinum albums and have had sixteen top 30 hits. However, the band presenting these songs on this album is not the band that recorded all those hits with the exception of guitarist Mick Jones.
The band Mick has put together to form the current rendition of Foreigner are all top-notch musicians and include Jeff Pilson on bass (former Dokken & Dio member), Michael Bluestein (played with Roger Hodgson, Stevie Nicks) on keyboards, drummer Chris Frazier (Whitesnake, Edgar Winter, Steve Vai) and singer Kelly Hansen who has guested with Slash, Don Dokken as well playing in his own bands.
Add to this line up a 58-piece orchestra and a 60-piece choir and you expect and to a degree get, a perfect performance. Songs like Waiting for a Girl, I Want to Know What Love Is and Starrider could have been written with orchestra in mind and on this album sound really good.
But Foreigner are a ROCK band and really don’t need an orchestra behind them for most of the songs. Urgent, Juke Box Hero and Double Vision just need to rock out with the band alone.
Vocalist Kelly Hansen is a more than capable singer but he is no Lou Gramm and often fails to hit the notes that Lou could.
I am really torn on this release. I love (original) Foreigner but just can’t give a lot of love to this, yet another live album. I was lucky enough to see Foreigner just after their first album release, in 1977 when they played Festival Theatre supported by an upstart band of young men who called themselves Cold Chisel. It was a memorable night. Maybe I need to go along on October 14th when the band come to Adelaide accompanied with an 18-piece orchestra to see what all the fuss is about. With Cheap Trick as support it should be a great evening.
However, till then I will just play the original albums.
The set is also available on DVD with 3 extra tracks, for some reason left off this CD.
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