You won’t believe how excited I am to talk about this album. If you follow my publications, you would know that Foreigner and I go way back and my relationship with their music is very personal and very strong – I cannot think of any other band which defines me so much (except Def Leppard, of course). Since we have already established my unconditional love for Foreigner, I think it’s time to move on to their smashing hit record “4” which also happens to be one of my favorite Foreigner albums of all time! I would like to take a moment of your time to talk a little bit more about the album and the brilliant songs you can find on it. Also, I would like to emphasize that there is absolutely no possible excuse for not having this record in your personal collection – it’s a MUST and I urge you to go and get it if you don’t have it yet! If you love classic rock, you should know that “4” is one of the albums that defined the 80s and gave the music industry something to talk about for decades ahead!
Released: July 2, 1981
Recorded: 1981 at Electric Lady Studios, New York City
Genre: Hard Rock, Rock
Label: Atlantic Records
Producer(s): Robert John “Mutt” Lange, Mick Jones
Singles: “Urgent”, “Waiting For A Girl Like You”, “Juke Box Hero”, “Break It Up”, “Luanne”
Personnel: Lou Gramm – lead vocals, percussion; Mick Jones – guitar, backing vocals, keyboards; Rick Wills – bass guitar, backing vocals; Dennis Elliott – drums, backing vocals;
1. “Night Life”
2. “Juke Box Hero”
3. “Break It Up”
4. “Waiting for a Girl Like You”
7. “I’m Gonna Win”
8. “Woman In Black”
9. “Girl On The Moon”
10. “Don’t Let Go”
+Bonus Tracks On 2002 Reissue, Recorded In 1999
– “Juke Box Hero” (Nearly Unplugged Version)
– “Waiting for a Girl Like You” (Nearly Unplugged Version)
Before we move on to the specific songs, I would like to say a few words about the overall sound and influence of “4”.
Foreigner’s “4” hold the #1 position on the Billboard album chart for exactly 10 weeks – this is a phenomenal success and speaks volumes! The album sold over 7 million copies in the US alone and naturally, it was certified as Platinum by the RIAA. Not only that, but “4” achieved some unbelievable success in Europe, as well – for that I can also guarantee personally because in Bulgaria, Foreigner and especially this album are quite loved and deeply appreciated! Tracks such as “Urgent” and “Waiting for a Girl like You” topped the mainstream rock charts and completely changed the course of rock music!
Furthermore, all the songs from the album are written and composed by Mick Jones and/or Lou Gramm. This right here is what I’m talking about – artists writing their own music and lyrics and producing something authentic and truly valuable. That’s definitely what I miss nowadays…
Also, we should not forget about the lengendary Mr Mutt Lange! I’ve said it before and I will say it again – when it comes to producers, Mutt Lange is the absolute genius. With his impeccable attention to detail and ability to just come up with the perfect strategies, Mutt Lange just once again proved that he is a brilliant mastermind when it comes to crafting music and helping an artist reach the top! Interesting fact, he actually contributed with some backing vocals as well – a producer does so many things for a project!
In terms of sound, “4” marked Foreigner’s full shift to hard rock. Their previous albums, “Head Games” and “Double Vision” established them as one of the most notable AOR bands of the era; however “4” was actually the album that gave them the ultimate ticket to stardom. With the help of Mutt Lange, who had just finished working on AC/DC’s “Back in Black”, Foreigner were able to craft a very rare and unique combination of mainstream rock sound and one-of-a-kind sounding.
In this album, you can also find some of the most brilliant lyrics ever to be written in the history of rock music. Every song tells us a very alluring and colorful story and your imagination can’t but start working the moment you hear Lou’s voice. I’ve always appreciated the way some bands make your imagination go wild with their lyrics – it’s a very pleasant experience as you just dive yourself into the story and imagine being “the woman in black” or the “juke box hero”.
There are countless songs that explore the topic of achieving the dream of “becoming the ultimate rockstar”; however no other song is as exceptional as “Juke Box Hero”. The rhythm, the chorused vocals, the captivating sudden melody changes and of course the superb lyrics can provide you with the much needed power boost and you can indeed feel the energy running through your veins. Maybe it’s just me, but every time I play “Juke Box Hero” (which by the way is at least 2-3 times per day), I get chills down my spine – this song is better than any energy drink!
…That one guitar, felt good in his hands
Didn’t take long, to understand
Just one guitar, slung way down low
Was one way ticket, only one way to go
So he started rockin’
Ain’t never gonna stop
Gotta keep on rockin’
Someday he’s gonna make it to the top…
Another song I’d like to focus your attention on is titled “Waiting for a Girl like You” which in my book, happens to the ultimate example of a flawless classic rock ballad. Since its release, the track has become a must-play for any rock radio and one of the main reasons why the album turned out to be so successful. When we talk about Foreigner and tearjerker songs, naturally “I Want to Know What Love Is” (which comes a few years later in their “Agent Provocateur” album) is the first that comes to our minds. However, if you ask me which Foreigner’s most defining ballad is, I would say “Waiting for a Girl Like you”. To me, this song has everything – touching lyrics, beautiful vocals and most importantly, the feeling of hope…
…It feels so right, so warm and true
I need to know if you feel it too
Maybe I’m wrong
Won’t you tell me if I’m coming on too strong
This heart of mine has been hurt before
This time I want be be sure…
At last, I would like to move on to the funky, upbeat and probably Foreigner’s most memorable and career-defining songs – “Urgent”. There’s one thing I love more than piano in rock songs and that’s sax in rock songs! Junior Walker‘s signature saxophone solo is the absolute point of delight for me – I can just listen to this song for days!
…Got fire in your veins
Burnin’ hot but you don’t feel the pain
Your desire is insane
You can’t stop until you do it again
But sometimes I wonder as I look in your eyes
Maybe you’re thinking of some other guy
But I know, yes I know, how to treat you right
That’s why you call me in the middle of the night…
Some other energetic, catchy, impeccably written melodic rock tunes from “4”, include “Don’t Let Go”, “Luanne” and my personal favourite “Woman in Black”. Just listen to this awesome guitar intro…
…I saw a dark silhouette, at the table
I tried to talk, but I was unable
She drew me in right under her spell
I was hypnotized by the sudden temptation
Of that woman in black, she’s a mystery
She’s everything a woman should be
Woman in black, she’s got a hold on me
She’s in control, she won’t set me free…
I will wrap up things by saying that through it all, vocalist Lou Gramm does his role in the most exceptional way one could imagine. I’ve said it before – he is without doubt one of the finest voices of his generation. “4” is probably the album which completely assured his throne in the category of the greatest male rock vocalists. Song such as “Urgent”, “Waiting for a Girl like You” and “I’m Gonna Win” perfectly illustrate his vocal capacity and I am beyond delighted with the way those tracks match his voice! Nothing more to say – his voice is everything!
The following years were quite turbulent for Foreigner, as Lou Gramm and guitarist Mick Jones would often clash and engage in countless ego wars. Eventually, those tensions would lead to the band’s collapse. Nevertheless, “4” remains their ultimate career pick and one of the greatest rock albums ever!