Music Review: Foreigner: Alive & Rockin’ (Eagle Records, CD)

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Foreigner Alive & Rockin' CD

There’s nothing more potentially disastrous for a rock band than replacing a singer. What other instrument is as unique and irreplaceable? Classic rockers Foreigner faced this challenge when original singer, the voice of all of the band’s radio-staple hits, left to go solo.

But wow, they lucked out with replacement singer Kelly Hansen. The guy can simulate Gramm’s vocals to a tee, and delivers the songs with a power, precision and most importantly range that Gramm himself may be hard-pressed to match these days.

Submitted as evidence is the recently released Alive & Rockin’, recorded at a live show in Germany in 2006 but out for the first time on CD in 2012.

By this point, only one player—founder/guitarist Mick Jones—remains from Foreigner’s glory days, but the lineup he’s assembled here (Hansen, bassist Jeff Pilson, drummer Jason Bonham, keyboardist Jeff Jacobs, and Tom Gimbel on rhythm guitar and sax) pull off the band’s hits with energy and accuracy. Jones’ lead vocal on “Starrider” is a little shaky at times, but that’s cool—means it’s really live and not fixed.

Bonham’s Led Zeppelin lineage (and his brief stint at the drum stool when the band reunited in 2009?) gets a nod when the band shifts into “Whole Lotta Love” at the “Juke Box Hero.” Elsewhere, Foreigner delivers recreations of its classic hits with little in the way of variation on this well-recorded (lots of bottom) disc. There’s some nice organ soloing from Jacobs on “Cold As Ice”, and Gimbel goes nuts on the sax at the end of “Urgent”, but otherwise it’s pretty much business as usual—the arrangements you know and love. And I like that it sounds pretty much untouched—not a lot of audio “tweaking” in evidence. Just a solid band doing what they do, and doing it well.

While it’s not a revelatory release, Alive & Rockin’ is a fine representation of a retooled band that still lives up to its legacy onstage.

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