Review: I Want To Know What Love Is - The Ballads

QUESTION: DOES ANYBODY really need another Foreigner compilation album? Is there a record collection out there whose devoted owner strokes his/her chin thoughtfully and thinks, "Hmm, I'm a bit short on Foreigner compilation albums"? It's nigh-on impossible to imagine such a scenario, but the spin on this particular release is that it contains only ballads. So if that worried, chin- stroking record collector is you, and you've got a penchant for the smoochy stuff, this is your lucky day.

Its provenance may be questionable, but the quality of the music most certainly isn't. Fourteen fine songs dating from Foreigner's self-titled 1977 debut to 2011's Acoustique, neatly bundled up, sealed with swirly heart artwork and offered to us as a timely reminder of their greatness just before they tour the UK with Europe and FM in tow.

It is a Lou Gramm free zone, so everything you hear has the mighty Kelly Hansen on vocals, and there's a trio of tracks in particular where his voice is just sublime. Feels Like The First Time, Say You Will and The Flame Still Burns all from Acoustique are proper spine- shivering experiences, ramming home the point that guitarist and guiding light Mick Jones chose very wisely when it came to filling Gramm's enormous (well, dinky) shoes.

Jones is the master when it comes to crafting soaring ballads that tell the rollercoaster tales of love's ups, downs and all points of agony and ecstasy in-between, and anyone in the throes of a romantic meltdown would be well advised to steer clear of epic tearjerkers like When It Comes To Love and As Long As I Live until their emotions are on firmer ground. Both those little crackers (from 2009's Can't Slow Down) should really come with a public health warning or at least a free pack of tissues and a session with a counsellor.

Equally close to the heartstrings is I'll Be Home Tonight, a killer love song elevated way, way out of the ordinary by the musical chemistry of Hansen's passionate vocals and the band's classic guitars'n'keys cocktail.

The proper hardcore Foreigner-heads in the audience perhaps considering the exacting completeness of their record collection will definitely need to trade up to the 2CD special edition digipak. Produced by bassist Jeff Filson, the second disc contains 12 unreleased acoustic tracks from a German radio session last year. The extra couple of quid it costs is a small price to pay for the privilege of being at peace with your record collection (and your chin) again.

Alison Joy - AOR Magazine