on 4 April 2003
I give this album four stars because of the title track - "Foreigner Suite". This track is worth the price of the album alone and in my opinion is amongst the finest work that Cat Stevens has done. This track is pure feel good, warm, sunshine music - some 20 minutes or more!. This is the type of music you want to listen to on a winter's night, lock the door, turn up the heating and relax this track will soon transport you to the Carribean - and that's from a guy whose never been there!
The Hurt and How Many Times aren't too bad but the album slips away after that. But as I said before it is worth it for the title track alone. I played it to death when it first came out on Vinyl and still love it all this years later.
on 16 May 2015
The title track alone deserves the five star rating. After writing a number of new songs for his next release, (six in fact), suddenly it dawned on Cat Stevens that they could fit together and so foreigner suite was born. On its release it mainly got a slagging from our music press, which is good, as it confirmed my long believe that they were more into themselves than music.
Yes on first listen it is differant from his first four outings, but it is also a beautiful piece of music with the interlinking passages of play. The other tracks are of top quality without being fantastic. Again this musicians true nature and abilities shine through. Lost and nearly unheard album is over used in music, but here it has never been so true. The press gave it a slating and most on first listen agreed, a shame that the press seem to dislike people moving out of their pigeonhole. Don't do this to it and give it a good chance.
on 7 December 2010
The first track here is wonderful, especially the last 5 minutes, with delightful music backing cat's emotional singing. Classic cat no doubt about that. More than I can say for the rest. I think Cat Stevens is perhaps too ambitious here. Nothing wrong with ambition, but that's if you can pull it off.
Cat should perhaps be congratulated for a change in style, where it really works in the first track, but the tracks next up feel fairly uninspired and aren't very exciting. The Hurt and How many times are a bit painful, and later and 100 I dream are only alright, making this below par cat. No matter how many times I listen I can't get into this album. I just listen to the first track, which doesn't make for much of an album. The album lacks cohesion, and there is too much musical confusion, compared to the winning simplicity of his other works. I don't really get what he is singing about either most of the time.
However, I don't think the drop in quality isn't as large as many make out. I'd give it 5 stars for effort. Cat was obviously feeling restless. Despite featuring some great vocals and instrumentation this album is slightly flawed. I give it 3 stars purely on the merit of the first track. I think there's too much weaker material. Not the first album to buy. You might want to buy the whole album to complete your collection. If you are new to Cat, you might want to buy teaser and the firecat instead, or his next album Buddha and the chocolate box, where he returns to his winning formula.
on 7 August 2010
This gem, issued 1973, well belongs to Cat's most fruitful period - the early 70's - his creativity then culminated. The music, the lyrics, the rhythms (speaking of the Cyprian roots) were extremely straightforward, spontaneous, without any shadow of intelectualism. Many reviewers here put this album quite inappropriately as a then trendy prog rock attempt. In my opinion, this is a sad misunderstanding of what Cat actually did. It may be that only because the word "suite" appears in the title of the first track ("Foreigner Suite" - 18 min, i.e. half of the LP/reissued CD), some listeners may deem this to be something very experimental or overcomplicated. However, by no means can this record be compared to what the prog rock groups, such as Yes, Jethro Tull or ELP (as stated in the editorial Amazon.com review), produced by that time. Musically, this has nothing to do with the somewhat experimental music of that kind. The Foreigner Suite is, in fact, just a medley of altogether some 6 tunes, which are now and then connected by several tacts of full-blood music with typical Cat Stevens rhythms, usually produced by Cat's syncopating piano or by woodwinds. These tiny interludes naturally fit to the songs themselvelves; occasionally, one song simply turns to the other one even without this connecting material. Nevertheless, this is still the genuine, typical music of Cat Stevens of that time, full of positive energy and emotion. Only big masters with huge creativity can afford to only gently indicate a catchy motif, and without numerous repetitions and refrains, simply go further (after all, this applies to classical music as well). A lot of pop stars would make a 2-LP of these songs. Cat has made sketches of great melodies, and skilfully connected them into one functional composition. Side 2 of the original LP consists of 4 similarly strong individual songs, all 5-star, without a weaker one (this is, again, in common with the 1970 records of Cat Stevens). The atmosphere of earthy happiness from music in the entire album was maybe amplified by the milieu of Jamaica, where all the tracks were recorded (only the strings and brass/woodwinds were added in New York). I think that there is maybe some unifying element, hard to define, over the mood of all the tracks, making this album very special - I have not felt this from any other Cat's album.
The booklet brings the lyrics and elementary info- on the musician line-ups on each track. The sound of the reissue is superb and matches to what you would expect of Cat's songs. In summary, I am extremely happy with this reissued version of one of the best Cat's records. Simply, it is him.
With 1973's 'Foreigner,' Cat Stevens probed the opposite extreme of his most popular work, the short, sparsely-arranged, guitar-dominated songs of three years before. By now, he was using a standard band arrangement, preferring to use keyboards for his main texture, and the title track saw him exploring the 'suite' format beloved of many of his contemporaries. Far from being overloaded with bombast, however, 'Foreigner Suite' is light on its feet. Like all of the tracks here, it is unremarkable on the first listen, but grows on you with successive plays.
The subject matter is fairly limited, freedom, love and our environment being the main themes. Stevens's impassioned delivery makes up for some generally ordinary lyrics, while the dramatic feel of 'Later' makes it the most distinctive track. 'Foreigner' needs a little patience but is ultimately rewarding.
In truth - by the summer of 1973 - Cat Stevens was probably losing his audience. Released in July of that strange year for Rock music - "Foreigner” managed a No. 3 placing in the UK and US charts despite some critical reviews about its move away from simple three-minute songs. And 1974's occasionally musical mishmash "Buddah And The Chocolate Box" didn't help matters either. With a get-some-money-in-quick "Greatest Hits" in July 1975 - from thereon in - 1977"s "Izitso" saw him drop even further down the LP charts (No. 18) and 1979's "Back To Earth" didn't bother the UK Top 100 at all.
In fact for some fans his classic run of albums on the mighty Island Records ends with September 1972's "Catch Bull At Four". But I'd argue that the overlooked and now forgotten "Foreigner" LP is a bit of an unsung masterpiece - especially that fabulous 8-part "Foreigner Suite" occupying the whole of Side 1. And this little beauty of a CD Remaster from way back in the summer of 2000 only hammers that home. Here are the cat-like details...
UK released August 2000 - "Foreigner" by CAT STEVENS on Universal/Island IMCD 272 (Barcode 731454688727) is a straightforward CD Remaster of the 5-track 1973 LP and plays out as follows (36:07 minutes):
1. Foreigner Suite [Side 1]
2. The Hurt [Side 2]
3. How Many Times
5. 100 I Dream
Tracks 1 to 5 are his 7th studio album "Foreigner" - released July 1973 in the UK on Island ILPS 9240 and in the USA on A&M Records SP-4391. Produced by CAT STEVENS (all songs by CS also) - it peaked at No.3 on both the US and UK LP charts.
CAT STEVENS – Piano, Electric Piano, Pianos III, Organ, ARP Synth, R.M.I. Electric Piano, Acoustic & Synthesized Guitars, Clavinet, Bass and all Lead Vocals
PHIL UPCHURCH – Guitar
PAUL MARTINEZ – Bass
HERBIE FLOWERS - Bass (only on "How Many Times")
BERNARD PURDIE – Drums (All Tracks except for GERRY CONWAY on Parts 2 and 4 of "Foreigner Suite")
JEAN ROUSSEL - Brass and String Arrangements (Electric Piano on Parts 6 and 8 of "Foreigner Suite")
PATTI AUSTIN, BARBARA MASSEY and TASHA THOMAS – Backing Vocals on Tracks 1, 2 and 4
The 12-page booklet reproduces the lyrics that were on the hard card insert that came with original vinyl LPs (front cover on the first page, back cover on the last) and that black and white painting he did of a Polar Bear. But some UK copies came with a 'Postcard' and of course that beautiful embossed sleeve that was so hard to keep clean - you don't get either. BILL LEVENSON supervised the reissue while TED JENSEN did the Remaster from original two-track analogue master tapes at Sterling Sound in New York. This CD sounds gorgeous - all the instruments clear, strong and present in your speakers. If anything - it seems to have brought the musicianship out more. A top job done...
"...There are no words...I can use...because the meaning still leaves for you to choose..." opens the 18:21 minutes of the 8-part "Foreigner Suite". Beautifully musical - the moods dip and sway - fast to slow - the production so damn good. You can hear Bernard Purdie's expert drumming, Phil Upchurch flicking those guitar strings - but most of all you can hear Cat giving it passion when he sings and the sheer range of instruments he plays. I've always loved this track - and yet at nearly nineteen minutes - it doesn't feel laboured or overstaying its welcome. The final part play-out when he sings "...The moment you fell inside my dreams...I realised all I had not seen..." is joyful and dare we say it - cool.
Preceding the album - Island Records UK tried the Side 2 opener "The Hurt" as a 45 on Island WIP 6163 in July 1973 with "Silent Sunlight" from the "Catch Bull At Four" album as its B-side. It's a great Cat Stevens melody lifted hugely by the 'oohs' and 'aahs' of the three Soulful ladies on backing vocals - Patti Austin, Barbara Massey and Tasha Thomas (Jean Roussel's String and Brass contributions help too). His always close to the surface pain and longing come screaming through the aching "How Many Times" - one of the LP's forgotten gems. Herbie Flowers plays a sweet bass but Cat’s own gentle tinkles on the piano also entrance. "Later" is a wicked foot-tapper that could also have been a lead off 7" single if not for its slightly saucy nature - Phil Upchurch, the girls and those Jean Roussel string arrangements (this one done in conjunction with Cat) all adding hugely to the overall sonic impact. "100 I Dream" has somehow always felt like the weakest song on the LP - but actually on re-hearing it in 2016 - I'm digging it a whole lot more - even if it isn't the greatest tune on the CS roster.
Reviewers always want to focus on 1970's breakthrough album "Tea For The Tillerman" followed by the glorious "Teaser And The Fire Cat" in 1971 - but Cat Stevens is one of those artists where I want to own everything because I know there'll be good stuff on them somewhere. And "Foreigner" contains a lot of that 'good stuff' (it’s online for peanuts too).
"Heaven must have programmed you..." - cat Stevens sings on "Foreigner Suite". Indeed...
on 8 November 2003
For his fifth Island Records album after reinventing himself as a more poetic and philosophical singer-songwriter, Cat Stevens made some significant changes in his recording methods. Dispensing with Paul Samwell-Smith, who had produced his highly successful albums of recent years, he took on production duties himself, and went to Jamaica to record with a new group of seasoned session musicians (several from the USA) replacing most of the players from his previous albums. Perhaps Stevens considered that this new direction would give him a more 'serious', less overtly commercial identity than his preceding albums, and if so the experiment probably achieved its objectives. However, it is notable that for his next album after 'Foreigner', Samwell-Smith was back on board and the recording again largely returned to the more concise and accessible style of albums such as 'Tea for the tillerman' and 'Teaser and the firecat'. And although the new remastering compensates to some extent, the overall production sound of 'Foreigner' lacks something of the polish and cohesiveness of the Samwell-Smith productions.
The first half of the album (the original LP side 1) is occupied by the 18 minute 'Foreigner suite', which is one continuous musical piece essentially comprising variations on three undistinguished songs, with short musical interludes. The title 'Foreigner' seems to have no relevance to the lyrical content of the suite, and the whole concept is in reality much more lightweight than its title and length suggest. However, it gives Stevens the opportunity to experiment with more meandering arrangements, incorporating strings, brass and various keyboards and synthesizers, than was possible within the confines of his previous shorter pop songs (of his earlier pieces, '18th avenue' from the 'Catch bull at four' album, with its contrasting moods and extended instrumental section, probably comes closest to the style of the 'Foreigner suite'). The suite is a bit of a challenge to listen to because of its length, but with repeated listening its appeal does grow and it probably contains just enough variety to keep a committed Cat fan interested.
If the second half of 'Foreigner' had contrasted strongly with the lengthy Suite and contained more immediately appealing music, the album might have been counted as a complete success; however, the second half remains relatively undistinguished and uncommercial. The opening track 'The hurt' is a pleasant, mid-tempo, sparsely arranged song in the classic Cat Stevens style, though based round the electric piano rather than acoustic guitars. Despite being a minor hit in summer 1973, this track has undeservedly always been omitted from Cat's compilation albums, and is in my opinion the best song on 'Foreigner'. It is followed by 'How many times', a painfully slow ballad with at times anguished vocals, which has a few appealing touches. But by this point little of what really made Stevens a hit artist at the start of the 70s has evaporated, and the closing two tracks are little more than uninspired 'filler'.
So whilst this album certainly marks a stylistic departure for Cat Stevens, and undoubtedly has some reasonable musical moments, it can't be regarded as one of his most memorable recordings. It is unfortunate to have to say that the beautiful colour photo of the beach on the back cover is one of the most appealing aspects of this album.
on 1 September 2003
Dare To change a successful formula...
...Well Cat Stevens did just that. He'd lived with his acoustic style of music for three years, and through four albums, Mona Bone, Teaser, Tillerman and Catchbull. So, Can you blame him for wanting a complete change. The last thing a (creative) musician wants to do is tie themselves down to a particular style of music, which is where 'Foreigner' comes in.
'Foreigner' to me is Cat Stevens best album, for three reasons, firstly it was he most personal, he said this himself, and you can hear it in his wails and cries in the epic 18 minutes opening track. Secondly he dared to go against the grain, do something completely new to him, with new musicians and an a new frame of mind, an open mind. And last but not least, it was musically challenging, to him at least. This was Cat Stevens turning point. Foreigner told the world 'You don't know me'. And at the same time it exposed him more than ever.
on 21 July 2013
The music just sweeps over you, the heartfelt lyrics, excellent musical arrangements, wonderful melodies all linked perfectly. Love it.
The rest of the album doesn't do much for me but I see this song as the pinnacle of Cat Stevens song writing. I notice he even used the main theme on one of his more recent Yusuf albums, so it seems still works for him too.
Like all great enduring music it needs listening to a fair few times, try it, it will grow on you.
on 11 February 2014
I top rate this work of art because I think that it is the best album by this particular artist. It is different to his better known works, not so folksy, and is perhaps more mature musically.
I bought this when it first came out. If you are thinking of getting it and have a deck then get it on vinyl, it sounds even better.