Review Summary: 4 is a flawed but remarkable cheese fest
Foreigner will always be remembered as one of the 80's pop rock leading bands. This, however, isn't usually something you should be proud of, and that's because, like most 80's pop rock acts, Foreigner delivered classic hits like Cold as Ice
, Hot Blooded
or I Want to Know What Love Is
(which might be one of the best love ballads ever), but failed to produce albums of great quality that were actually consistent, doing nothing more than just rely on their radio hits.
But even if most of the band's albums, just like many other groups of the time, were overall weak with the exception of a couple of great, catchy potential hits, there is one LP that stands out in their discography and that's 4
Being (who would've guessed) Foreigner's fourth album, 4
catched the band on a difficult time since Al Greenwood and the ex-King Crimson Ian McDonald had just left, forcing the group to create an album without 1/3 of its members. However, this didn't prevent the band from creating what's probably their biggest achievment.
Don't get me wrong, 4
is still a cheese fest with many "80's standard and monotonous moments" but it has small details on it which turns it into a real highlight at some points.
Juke Box Hero
, for example, is the definition of excellence in cheesy rock, featuring what's probably Lou Gramm's best performance, perfectly fitting backing vocals and impeccable accompaniments by the guitar and the keys, it truly is an 80's anthem.
And that's the thing with this album. It doesn't have a unique nor complex sound, but most of the time the melodies are played in a way that each instrument plays the exact note that needs to be played. The guitar on I'm Gonna Win
, the synths on Woman in Black
or that mother ***ing sax solo by Junior Walker on Urgent
prove that what you need in a pop album is a simple but well placed sound.
This doesn't mean that there isn't talented technique to be found on 4
. Adding to great vocal passages by Gramm on songs like Juke Box Hero
or Waiting for a Girl Like You
, there's also an excellent yet short and straight to the point guitar work on many tracks and the same happens with the keys.
But these details, these moments of perfectly placed pop harmonies aren't the strict rule in here. There are many weak spots like Luanne
or the opener which are not bad by any means and still manage to be catchy and enjoyable songs, but they just don't have anything on them that's truly remarkable, making of some songs in here nothing but just "another 80's rock song".
Foreigner's fourth release is flawed but it is one of the few 80's AOR albums to provide real pop delightfulness. It is simple and not original at all, but among the hundreds of LP's of its type, 4
, as an album and not just "a couple of singles and filler" really stands out. Few bands of this style could actually do this and not even Foreigner managed to replicate it ever again, making of I Want to Know What Love Is
probably the only great thing they did after this.
In 1981 Foreigner were:
Lou Gramm - Vocals, percussion
Mick Jones - Guitar, backing vocals, keyboards
Rick Wills - Bass guitar, backing vocals
Dennis Elliott - Drums, backing vocals