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The Lou Gramm Band

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Album Review

On paper, it's unlikely that one of rock's greatest singers ever, who fronted one of the biggest mainstream bands of the 1970s and 1980s, would take a detour into the world of Christian rock. But that's just what Lou Gramm did in 2009 with his new group and its self-titled album, The Lou Gramm Band. It's his first "solo" effort since 1989's Long Hard Look. The album rocks convincingly, and the lyrics vividly reflect his born-again Christian faith. It's a miracle that the ex-Foreigner vocalist lived to reach this point. After surviving surgery to remove a benign brain tumor in 1997, he struggled to regain his health and his voice. He left Foreigner for the second time in 2002 and eased back into performing with his own band, which now includes two of his brothers, bass guitarist Richard Gramm and drummer Ben Gramm, as well as guitarist Don Mancuso and keyboardist Andy Knoll. According to the liner notes, the band originally planned to just "re-record spiritual classics." The focus shifted to strong original material although two interesting covers remain: Billy Preston's "That's the Way God Planned It" and the Parliaments' "(I Wanna) Testify." Sonically, The Lou Gramm Band has some production flourishes, but it's mostly no-nonsense and straightforward. The best originals are "Made to Be Broken," "Willing to Forgive," "Baptized by Fire," "Single Vision," and "Rattle Yer Bones." "Single Vision" includes a bridge lyric that has Lou jumping from merely faithful to political: "Don't take our Lord from the classrooms/Please let us say our prayers of thanks/And when we pledge to our country/I know that without him, we would never be free." "Rattle Yer Bones" has the strongest Foreigner vibe, and it wouldn't have been out of place 30 years before on Head Games. Truth be told, Lou's voice isn't what it used to be, and sometimes on The Lou Gramm Band he strains to reach notes he hit effortlessly in the past, but that's to be expected given the natural toll of aging and the effects of his health battles. It still has power, and a less than prime Lou Gramm is light years ahead of most others. Few "classic rock" singers have come close to sustaining their vocal abilities over the decades, even without fighting a life-threatening illness. The Lou Gramm Band proves that inspired music can still emerge when the spirit is willing but the flesh is (slightly) weak.

The Lou Gramm Band, The Lou Gramm Band
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