Album Review: Unusual Heat

The seventh studio album of Foreigner [1], this album clearly marks the beginning of late-period Foreigner, in the sense that from this point onward the only commercially successful albums the band had were repackaged best-of compilations. The genesis of this particular album was occasioned by some band turmoil, in which founding lead singer Lou Gramm departed the band, at least temporarily (he would return for the 1992 best of compilation “The Very Best…And Beyond and 1995’s unsuccessful studio album Mr. Moonlight before health problems forced him to leave the band for good). As was the case with another legendary band during this period, Fleetwood Mac, this album is the result of a band’s attempt to defiantly present itself as viable despite the absence of its most recognizable voice, and although the resulting album did not inspire success in the marketplace, its spirit must be accepted, even if the album’s failure led them to be dropped unceremoniously from their label. A track-by-track review follows:

Only Heaven Knows: The album opens with a familiar Foreigner sentiment, bewilderment at the difficulties suffered in a relationship. But the band’s new lead singer manages to sing about the struggle to be properly understood and to do what is right despite the fact that good intentions do not guarantee good results over surprisingly gritty music that comes across well.

Lowdown And Dirty: The first single from this album, this song promises a wild night for the partner of the narrator to music that sounds like the rock music of Bryan Adams at the time. Although the single was not a hit, it is sung with conviction and skill, along with some notable chops, even if the song seems to be referencing the earlier hit “Dirty White Boy,” probably to the confusion of those who listened to this song without understanding its context.

I’ll Fight For You: The second single from this album, this song promises in defiant spirit that the singer is not going to abandon his partner. It is considerably more muscular and defiant than many of the recent tracks from the band in this vein, but it must be admitted that the desire to maintain relationships in the face of difficulties had long been a staple of Foreigner songs by this point, and despite the fact that this is a lovely ballad, it did not catch on with listening audiences at the time.

Moment Of Truth: This jaunty and upbeat track with a slick guitar solo in the bridge cheers something that not many people tend to feel overjoyed about in practice, the moment where a decision is necessary and where a line must be drawn. As might be expected from this band’s pedigree, the moment of truth is framed in the context of a relationship, where the expectation is that the crisis will be resolved in the strengthening of the relationship. How, in light of previous experience, this is taken to be optimistic is a sign of the triumph of optimism over experience that drives us to seek intimacy despite our histories.

Mountain Of Love: This rousing and feisty song, with another lovely guitar solo in the bridge, uses an intriguing mixed metaphor about the size as well as the intoxication of the narrator’s love for his partner to express his desire. In this song the narrator also expresses the flattering, if unlikely, proposition that he loves his partner and longs for her alone, which is something that everyone wants to hear even if not everyone can believe it confidently.

Ready For The Rain: This song, sung with characteristic defiance, expresses the readiness of the narrator to deal with the unpleasant aspects of life, with the uncertainty of the future, as he sets himself free from expectations commits to living as best as he can. The song is sung with conviction and passion and the music is cleanly performed and a bit bluesy.

When The Night Comes Down: This song, a lovely and bounce ballad, is sung in the third person about the results of people living in darkness with an absence of hope and true love. The obvious hope and joy of the singer nevertheless demonstrates compassion for those in difficulty, sung with descriptive and compelling imagery of the sadness of life without love or hope.

Safe In My Heart: This lovely synth ballad, expressing the lasting safety that the narrator’s partner has in his heart, is the sort of song that could have and should have been a hit. Even now it has a beauty in its loyalty and devotion to a partner, sentiments that are all the more touching because they are often so hard to find in life. Yet the fact that this album as a whole did not attract much attention meant that this track was entirely disregarded, even in later Foreigner compilations.

No Hiding Place: This upbeat rock track expresses the belief that there is no hiding place from love, or from what happens in life as a whole. Of course, if we cannot avoid the vital and important aspects of life, at least we can deal with them with the help and encouragement and support of others, which is why people join bands or enter into relationships or join institutions.

Flesh Wound: This song, which defiantly considers the difficulties of life to be nothing but a flesh wound, uses the familiar metaphor of rain for life’s difficulties, but expresses true grit and spirit in dealing with difficulties, even if it is not entirely honest. In a form similar to Fleetwood Mac’s “Blow By Blow,” it expresses the confident but perhaps misguided belief that the turmoil of the band is no big deal and that they will rise above the challenge, confidence that was belied by the popular response to the album as a whole.

Unusual Heat: The album ends on a cheery and upbeat note, as so much of the album was filled with hope and optimism. Given the good feelings that one feels upon listening to this song, and its album, it is a bit sad that so few people actually seem to have listened to this album at all. Nevertheless, those that do were given a great deal of encouragement at a time when the music that was popular was particularly dark and unpleasant.

It is a great shame that this album was ignored upon its release. Despite the fact that the replacement lead singer of Foreigner, Johnny Edwards, was not as polished or as talented a singer as Lou Gramm, the turmoil in the band inspired a defiance and confidence and effort that had not been made in some time. For the first time since 4, the upbeat rock tracks on the album were filled with conviction and the album as a whole only had a couple of obvious ballads, and although these did not receive a great deal of airplay, this album is a massively underrated gem in the Foreigner discography, and one that deserves a lot more attention and notice.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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3 Responses to Album Review: Unusual Heat

  1. Pingback: Product Review: Foreigner: The Complete Atlantic Studio Albums: 1977-1991 | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: If You Need To Crash, Then Crash And Burn; You’re Not Alone | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Album Review: Irontom Compilation | Edge Induced Cohesion

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