CD Review of No End in Sight: The Very Best of Foreigner by Foreigner
Recommended if you like
Styx, REO Speedwagon, Journey
Label
Atlantic/Rhino
Foreigner:
No End in Sight:
The Very Best of Foreigner

Reviewed by David Medsker

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T
he monsters of late ‘70s rock have gotten their asses positively kicked by revisionist history. In some cases, it was a matter of long-delayed justice (let’s face it: Styx and REO Speedwagon were never that good in the first place), but the fact that it’s happened to Foreigner seems a tad unfair. Yes, they fell into the same trappings as every other mainstream rock band as they left the ‘70s and tried their damndest to embrace the ‘80s, but Foreigner was a better band than their peers at pretty much every stage of their existence, Journey excepted. They didn’t reinvent the wheel, but they were never going to; they were just a group of guys with a big bluesy white boy singer that churned out hooks by the pound.

Now, the general consensus is that early Foreigner, from their eponymous debut through the multi-platinum 4, is the only Foreigner that matters, and it would be hard to argue that point. But one listen to No End in Sight: The Very Best of Foreigner, which is approximately the six hundredth reissue of their catalog, and you might be surprised at how well the songs from those ballad-y later years have held up. It’s well documented that singer Lou Gramm grew tired of singing those damn slow songs, and that’s understandable; when you begin your musical career belting out songs like “Feels Like the First Time” and “Dirty White Boy,” the last song you want to be known for is a syrupy song featuring a cast member from “Dreamgirls.” But as Billy Joel once said, the good old days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems. That describes this set as well as anything.

Foreigner

It’s probably a safe bet that Gramm himself will skip past the first seven tracks on Disc Two of No End in Sight, since it includes four ballads, two minor-key rockers, and one straight-up rocker. That is not something we’d recommend to anyone else, though, as it would mean passing over “That Was Yesterday,” “Reaction to Action,” and the shoulda-been-a-hit “Down on Love.” The back half of Disc Two shows the band experimenting with replacements for Gramm, and like Journey, they wisely picked singers who could do decent impressions of Gramm (as opposed to Bad Company’s decision to replace Paul Rodgers with a Don Dokken soundalike). The band’s 1991 album Unusual Heat tanked upon its release, but every album released that year by a ‘70s rock band tanked (with the exception of Rush’s Roll the Bones), so the phenomenon was not unique to Foreigner. Listening to the selections from that album now, namely “Lowdown and Dirty” and “I’ll Fight for You,” it is not the band’s finest hour, but far from an embarrassment. Rounding out the set are three live tracks with new singer Kelly Hansen (a dead ringer for Gramm), one new studio recording and one song from Mr. Moonlight, the 1996 reunion of Gramm and Mick Jones. Surprise! It’s a ballad.

As for the only-Foreigner-that-matters material, that would be all of Disc One, which includes their first 12 Top 40 hits (it begins with “Feels Like the First Time” and ends with “Waiting for a Girl Like You”) and rounds things out with four album tracks. Strangely, “Rev on the Red Line” was passed over in favor of songs like “Women” and “Night Life,” which is just silly. On the plus side, unlike most latter-day hits compilations, No End in Sight uses the album versions rather than the single edits. It’s a small thing, but an important one.

It must have been a challenging proposition to anthologize Foreigner’s entire career, since there are two distinct phases to their catalog, but No End in Sight does it as well as one could have asked. They weren’t the sexiest band in the world, but there is a reason why these songs were so popular.

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