Sound: Foreigner, like many classic rock bands that reigned during the 1980s and 1990s, are in a delicate position. Still much beloved by audiences (particularly the ones that frequent the classic rock summer tours/festivals), Foreigner has a monster-sized collection of hit songs that will still get regular airplay. The problem arises when a band that hasn't released an album of new material in 15 years decides to have another go at it. This time around veteran vocalist Lou Gramm is no longer with the band, and Kelly Hansen of Hurricane fame has taken over his duties for the new album Can't Slow Down. A 3-disk collection that includes 13 new tracks, a package of remixes, and a live DVD, Can't Slow Down is being sold exclusively at Walmart which may cause the biggest uproar when all is said and done.
Like Journey and many others before them, Foreigner has now given exclusive selling rights of their latest album to Walmart. For a band that is no longer a key figure on the music scene, it's actually understandable why Foreigner would go this route. It may not get the cool award, but a classic rock band with a new lead singer has got to do what it's got to do. Before delving into the new songs, it should be mentioned that the second disk of remixes are by no means club tunes with an assortment of digital drum tracks. Hits like Hot Blooded, Feels Like The First Time, and Juke Box Hero are merely enhanced versions of the songs we know and most likely love. So in essence, you're getting a greatest-hits collection on the second disk. We did not receive the DVD, but it features performances from a current European tour as well as behind-the-scenes material.
The new songs on Can't Slow Down, which were co-produced by Marti Frederiksen and guitarist Mick Jones' stepson Mark Ronson, are a more sterile, low-key extension of the Foreigner from the past few decades. What's most amazing is that vocalist Kelly Hansen sounds eerily like Lou Gramm in moments. He's not a carbon copy, but the band did a pretty incredible job of filling Gramm's shoes. As far as the songwriting, don't expect another Dirty White Boy or Cold As Ice. There is more of an emphasis on balladry and soft rock tunes, with I Can't Give Up being the standout. It's probably the most solemn and slow track, but it also feels the most honest.
The main disappointment comes in the fact that the edgier, rock side of Foreigner is rapidly dissipating. Sure, we knew it was coming when songs like I Want To Know What Love Is arrived on the scene, but it's still a shame not to utilize a rock singer like Hansen. Exceptions come in the title track, which delivers the biggest blast-from-the-past with its classic rock feel, and Too Late with its infectious, grooving melody. The most surprising element doesn't come from the rock tunes or ballads, but with the R&B-influenced Fool For You Anyway. It sticks out like a sore thumb, but it's also one of the most enjoyable and heartfelt tracks on Can't Slow Down. // 7
Lyrics: The lyrical content is pretty standard Foreigner fare, with themes usually revolving around love or reflections on life. An exemplary track would be When It Comes To Love, which includes such lines as, I'm out on the street now; With a monkey on my back; I need somebody to help me; To get my soul back on track. We've all heard similar lyrics before, and Foreigner has made a pretty decent living by following the format. // 6
Overall Impression: For the price (currently $12.00 for a preorder via Walmart), you're getting a decent amount of music on Can't Slow Down. The remixed disk 2 features 10 classic hits, and if you're a mega-fan, you'll appreciate what new material is included on disk 1. Vocalist Kelly Hansen resurrects the spirit behind Gramm's delivery, and he does a fine job with the songwriting presented to him. Can't Slow Down has moments that recall classic Foreigner (Too Late), but the ballad-heavy content often slows things down a bit too much in the end. // 6