Foreigner soaks '70s, '80s classics in orchestral splendor

This cover image released by ear music shows "Foreigner With The 21st Century Symphony Orchestra & Chorus," The latest release by Foreigner with a 60-piece orchestra and 70-member choir. (ear music via AP)

The latest Foreigner CD features their songs backed by a 60-piece orchestra and 70-member choir, showing why their songs remain as popular as they do.

Foreigner "Foreigner With The 21st Century Symphony Orchestra & Chorus" (ear music)

It really MUST feel like the first time when the members of the band keep changing.

Foreigner, the juke box heroes who dominated FM radio in the '70s and '80s with some of the most memorable and enduring classic rock hits ever recorded, have made something of a cottage industry of performing and packaging their greatest hits in varying arrangements. The latest is a CD with a 60-piece orchestra and 70-member choir that shows why these songs remain as popular as they do.

Only founding guitarist Mick Jones remains from the original Foreigner lineup. Singer Kelly Hansen, who had half a cup of coffee in the spotlight in the '80s with the band Hurricane, inherited vocal duties from original singer Lou Gramm, and does a creditable job keeping these songs alive, even if he adds little of his own style to them.

But the real difference here is the orchestra. At times it meanders with indulgent and eminently skip-able introductions. But in playing with and integrating into the songs themselves, it breathes new life into many of them.

"That Was Yesterday," ''Starrider" and "Urgent" never sounded better. A large strings section doubles and triples the iconic keyboard riff in "Double Vision," and "I Want to Know What Love Is," which already had its own choir on the studio recording, is even more grandiose here.

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