Foreigner – Can’t Slow Down Review

Published on October 5th, 2009

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Whenever a band goes more than a few years without releasing an album, the fans tend to expect more and more from the next one – just ask Def Leppard. In Foreigner‘s case, a 15 year gap between 1994′s Mr. Moonlight and their current release Can’t Slow Down created a lot of pressure on the new material. And so the question that critics and fans will inevitably ask themselves is: “was it worth the wait?” We will let you make that call, because it’s a tough one.

A bit contrary to what its title may suggest, Can’t Slow Down is heavy on the ballads. However, this doesn’t stop it from becoming a quality album done in the classic Foreigner style that we all have come to know and appreciate. As you would expect, the musicianship is top notch, and the melodies are strong and memorable. Mick Jones and Kelly Hansen prove themselves to be an excellent writing team alongside the talented Marti Frederiksen. All things considered, Can’t Slow Down is certainly something to be excited about.

When the title track “Can’t Slow Down” kicks in through your sound system, it’s hard not to ‘feel that blood rushing through your veins’, to borrow from the lyrics. Solid production and an urgent chorus make this first track a clear winner, and more importantly it establishes Kelly Hansen’s dynamic singing style for the rest of the album. A modern groove slows the pace down during “In Pieces“, which offers a diverse and full sound with layered background vocals and ethereal keyboard tones. The slower tempo just one song into the album may catch some off guard, but it hardly disrupts the flow of the album. “When It Comes to Love” sounds like 1981 again as romantic keyboard harmonies mingle with sultry saxophone. It’s songs like these that remind the listener of that Foreigner sound they’ve been missing all these years.

In many ways, “Living in a Dream” picks up where the title track left off. An instantly catchy guitar riff makes it memorable while tempo changes keep it interesting. The only missing element seems to be a longer guitar solo. Soft piano and passionate vocal delivery illuminate “I Can’t Give Up” as a truly gripping ballad, while “Ready” brings the fast tempo back with an upbeat hook; it’s a finely crafted song that delivers persistent guitar atop a steady bass line.

Give Me a Sign” is a prime example of the excellent production value on this CD. All the instruments from tambourine to trumpet are there to be heard in their fullest, making the listener feel as if they are sitting in on a live jam session. The song itself is rather addictive with its punchy keyboards and enjoyable chorus. “I’ll Be Home Tonight” comes on strong in the band’s classic ballad style. Filled with all the right sounds and melodies, it leaves nothing to be desired and would be a perfect fit for AC radio.

Too Late” is a familiar song that has already been blessed with the play on rock radio that it so clearly deserves. It proudly flaunts all of the characteristics of a Foreigner rock anthem – a sing-along chorus, strum-along riffs, and a climatic guitar solo. A little experimentation is in the cards for “Lonely“, which initially carries a Caribbean feel. In the end the song is rounded off nicely by rich vocals from Hansen and aggressive riffs from Jones. “As Long As I Live” is a darker ballad that gives Hansen a chance to sing in a huskier style, and despite its similarity to songs three and eight, this song stands up quite well thanks to yet another melodic chorus.

Drummer Brian Tichy and guitarist Mick Jones take you on a ride for “Angel Tonight“, another strong point on the album. Kelly Hansen’s wails lead into an all-too brief guitar solo from Jones; it’s the rockers on this album that leave the listener wanting more. A 32 years later version of “Fool for You Anyway” finishes out the disc in fine form. Longtime fans will recall it from the band’s 1977 debut, and its inclusion on Can’t Slow Down gives the feeling that the band has come full circle.

For years now Foreigner has been touring the world over and over, bringing their world class rock show with them (see our concert review). Finally the time came to enter the studio once again, and it is great to have them back. Mick Jones is truly the master of the rock ballad, and Kelly Hansen has taken this opportunity to prove himself just as proficient with the songwriting pen as he is with the microphone. Although the criticisms of the album are few and far in between, the writing input of Jeff Pilson is missed (Pilson became known as a brilliant songwriter while a member of Dokken). Perhaps the next album will feature more of his input.

If you’re in the market for a consistent mix of quality rockers and ballads, Foreigner has what you need. Visit www.foreigneronline.com for the latest on the band, and be sure to get your copy of Can’t Slow Down at Wal-Mart retailers everywhere.

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Comments

  1. Posted by Kris on October 24th, 2009, 15:49 [Reply]

    Hey Matt,

    Nice review on “Sonic Boom”. Can’t wait to hear that and the new Ace cd. I did catch a concert on VH1 Classic starring Foreigner. It looked like a shortened version of the new dvd that comes with “Can’t Slow Down”. I was impressed with the new line-up. The band sounded great. Mick Jones can still rock!

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