Even though Boston, Heart, and Styx, among others, deserve credit for inventing '70s arena rock, no band parlayed the stadium sound with such dependable know-how as Foreigner. The key to the band's suc-cess has been main man Mick Jones. A battle-scarred, hit-savvy veteran who played with the artful organ-rock outfit Spooky Tooth before founding platinum-selling Foreigner, Jones is not only a master of the hook but also a guitarist of unerring efficiency. In Foreigner's early days, former King Crimson multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald added a touch of class, but Jones' passion for a streamlined sound meant that the band was soon reduced to a smarter, trimmer rhythm-section core.
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And, of course, there's ace vocalist Lou Gramm. Not quite a stylist on the order of Bad Company's Paul Rodgers, Gramm is still one of the finest singers in all of pop metal. Gramm's gift lay in roughening up Jones' shimmering grooves; Gramm brought an R&B, almost bluesy style to bear on the band's rockers, and in time, he became the Pavarotti of the power ballad.
Foreigner's catalogue of car-stereo hits is nearly unrivaled: "Feels Like the First Time," "Cold as Ice" (Foreigner); "Hotblooded" (Double Vision); "Dirty White Boy" (Head Games); "Waiting for a Girl Like You" (4). The canny Jones kept the sound fresh by working with different producers on each album and supplying the perfect surprising flourish (Junior Walker's sax coda on "Urgent," for example) for each hit. The band's high point came with Agent Provocateur's "I Want to Know What Love Is" -- backed by a gospel choir, Gramm belted away with commendable anguish. Inside Information also displayed his growth as a vocalist, and the record's synth-work saw Foreigner keeping pace with the times. By the time of Unusual Heat, however, Jones had asked Gramm to depart. New singer Johnny Edwards was ultracompetent, but he hadn't yet developed a distinctive style. Heat marked a return to Foreigner's reliable, full-out rocking standard. A complete comeback in terms of original vision didn't take place until 1995's Mr. Moonlight, for which Gramm was coaxed back into the fold. It was solid rock, but Foreigner's moment had long passed. Records is the group's tightest greatest-hits collection. Every bar band in the world has burned out several copies. (PAUL EVANS)
From 2004's The New Rolling Stone Album Guide