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Unusual Heat

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Album Review

With Rick Willis on bass, Dennis Elliot playing drums, Mick Jones on guitar/keyboards, and the debut of Johnny Edwards from King Kobra and Buster Brown on vocals, the 1991 version of Foreigner actually was better than one would expect. Ten of the 11 songs on the Unusual Heat CD were written by co-producer Terry Thomas, new singer Johnny Edwards, and band mainstay Mick Jones, and they still had that bombast and brash appeal of the group which once featured so many textures brought to life by the voice of Lou Gramm. The unusual thing about Unusual Heat is that it is actually a good product and quite listenable. "Only Heaven Knows" kicks things off, and it could be the second cousin (or sequel) to Lou Gramm's solo smash from four years earlier, 1987's "Midnight Blue." Edwards is a stylish vocalist, and he, like the multiple replacements for Bad Company's Paul Rodgers, the Guess Who's Burton Cummings, and the Jefferson Starship's Grace Slick, has that tonal quality that can keep the public happy by keeping the sound consistent with what came before. "Lowdown and Dirty" actually got onto the band's Rhino double-CD retrospective Juke Box Heroes, and is another solid rocker. Everything here sounds very much like the product Foreigner was known for, but as slick album-oriented rock was fighting other genres vying for the public's attention, it may have been more advisable for the group to go into a slightly different direction — some acoustic music here might have been a nice break from the generic onslaught. The lone Mick Jones solo composition, "Safe in My Heart," is mellow, but not a dramatic departure needed to establish a new identity. But it's all hooky hard pop, from "I'll Fight for You" to the "Juke Box Hero" clone that is "No Hiding Place" and the title track, "Unusual Heat," a strong chorus surrounded by the thumping hard rock sound. It's a record Johnny Edwards, Mick Jones, and crew can be proud of. Guest appearances by Stories' Ian Lloyd (Mick Jones had, after all, worked on Lloyd's Third World Civilization solo outing), and additional keyboardists Tommy Mandel and Richard Cottle make things somewhat interesting, though the keys take a back seat on this album (you have to strain your ears at some point to hear them, à la when Flo & Eddie called Mountain's Steve Knight "the most useless man in rock & roll"). It may have been funny, but as Corky Laing came to Knight's defense, saying he kept the rhythms going, the rhythm and spirit is prevalent on this interesting addition to the Foreigner catalog. In an ironic turn of events, bassist Rick Willis departed after this for Atlantic labelmate Bad Company.


Formed: 1976 in New York, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

While quite a few arena rock acts of the '70s found the transformation into the '80s quite difficult, several acts continued to flourish and enjoyed some of their biggest commercial success: Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon, and especially Foreigner. Foreigner's leader from the beginning has been British guitarist Mick Jones, who first broke into the music biz as a "hired gun" of sorts, appearing on recordings by George Harrison and Peter Frampton, and as part of a later-day version of hard rockers...
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Unusual Heat, Foreigner
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