iTunes Hero

Wurlitzer jukebox image on an iPhoneThinking back on the song “Juke Box Hero,” I started wondering if that has any context with today’s music fans. I mean really, a jukebox? In this age of white earbuds, how many Gen Y or Zers have ever even touched a jukebox?

I fondly recall plunking coins into a flashy old Wurlitzer, watching the machine magically come to life, clicking and whirring as the Rube Goldberg-esqe mechanism selected then whisked the 45 RPM records off the rack and plopped them gingerly down on the turntable, and finally hearing the slight hiss & crackle as the diamond needle met the black vinyl. Man, that was something special!

(And who didn’t envy Fonzie’s special gift for knocking a temperamental jukebox back into action with a quick, cool snap of the wrist?)

What got me thinking about this is a new album by Foreigner called Can’t Slow Down that was released just a few weeks ago. It’s another Wal-Mart exclusive 3-disc set like last year’s Journey “Revelations.” Like the Journey release, this one features one disc of new material, a disc of 10 refreshed versions of some of the band’s classics (including “Juke Box Hero”), and a live concert DVD.

But the parallels don’t end there. Foreigner’s new lead singer Kelly Hansen is to that band’s original frontman Lou Gramm what Journey’s new Arnel Pineda is to Steve Perry. Really. He’s that close. No he’s not exactly Lou any more than Arnel is a true Xerox of Steve, but the vocal style & flavor is so strikingly similar (especially on the studio recordings) that it’ll easily pass as the original singer’s sound for casual listeners. Don’t believe me? Compare the following classic hits as performed then vs. now:

Hot Blooded – 1993
Hot Blooded – 2009
Urgent – 1981
Urgent – 2009

Yeah, it is a little freaky for a guy who looks like he could be Steven Tyler’s cousin to sound like Lou Gramm. And continuing the comparisons to Journey, doesn’t rhythm guitarist & sax player Tom Gimbel (who coincidentally, used to tour with Steven Tyler’s Aerosmith!) look an awful lot like Neal Schon?

Anyway, the new material is good! It may not be quite as punchy & raw as the late 70s / early 80s stuff when Foreigner first landed on the radio (and in jukeboxes!), but the new songs are certainly on-par with much of the group’s mid to late 80s stuff. Several of these could easily be hits if the label works them right. If you were a fan of Mick Jones & the boys back then, you’re going to air-drumming & whistling along with most of the songs on this new album. Of course, it might’ve made more sense for them to remake "Juke Box Hero" as "iTunes Hero" — except that you can’t get the new album on iTunes…

If you give the new Foreigner a listen, post a comment!

By the way, bonus points go out to anyone who saw Foreigner’s original tour in ’85 that actually featured a giant inflatable jukebox. Were you there?

4 Comments

  1. I saw them last month on "Soundstage" (PBS show), and they were great! I was amazed at how much he sounded like Lou Gramm.

  2. "In Pieces," "When It Comes To Love," and "Too Late" are definitely my favorites from Disc 1.

    I really dig the bombastic extended intro for "Urgent" that's featured in the clips I've spied on YouTube from their '09 concerts like the one in Moscow, Munich, or New Jersey.

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