Foreigner is the seventh studio album released by English singer-songwriter, Cat Stevens in July 1973. In addition to the minor hit “The Hurt”, which received a moderate amount of airplay, Foreigner also included such songs as “100 I Dream” and the 18-minute-long “Foreigner Suite”, which took up the entirety of side one.
It is the first album written and produced solely by Stevens.
At the pinnacle of Stevens’ success with four consecutive platinum and gold albums: Mona Bone Jakon, Tea for the Tillerman, Teaser and the Firecat, and Catch Bull at Four, Stevens had a dedicated audience and fan base who wanted more. However, he himself thought his music too predictable, leaving him in a creative rut. He decided to write and produce his next album himself, surprising many others, given that Alun Davies, his close friend and first guitar in his backing band, and his producer, Paul Samwell-Smith in particular, were instrumental in assisting Stevens to form the definitive signature sound that had brought Stevens to the height of his stardom. Seeking an alternative, he focused on the kinds of music that had begun to inspire him, which he heard on the radio: R&B music.
Bands that moved him included The Blue Notes and Stevie Wonder. Stevens came to realise that the music that he had always loved originated not as rock and roll, but what he had been introduced to as “black music”. Lead Belly instantly came to mind, who had been one of his favourites. In his mind, he’d learned about “black music” almost through the back door, while also being moved toward both musicals and acoustic folk music. In deciding to drop all the musical influences in his band, he hoped to foster those early soulful sounds himself. In an interview with Circus Magazine, Stevens said: “If black music was happening, I decided to just get down to it. And because I was a stranger in the world of black sounds, I called the album Foreigner.”
Stevens additionally named the album Foreigner, because he took up residency in Brazil as a tax exile. He recorded Foreigner in Jamaica. On 9 November 1973, Stevens performed the song on ABC’s In Concert, a 90-minute program they named the Moon & Star, including the full 18-minute “Foreigner Suite” without commercial interruption.
Although Foreigner sold well, with the album reaching No. 3 on both sides of the Atlantic, it was not favourably reviewed, and its release was not followed by a tour.
In 2009, Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam) entered into legal proceedings alongside Joe Satriani in a lawsuit (filed in 2004 by Satriani) against the band Coldplay, alleging that they had (at least unintentionally) plagiarised respective works by both artists (“If I Could Fly” by Satriani and Stevens’ “Foreigner Suite”) for the melody to Coldplay’s “Viva
la Vida” from their Grammy Award winning album, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. Yusuf added that he has forgiven Coldplay and would love to sit down and have a cup of tea with them. The section that resembles “Viva la Vida” begins at about 14:30 until the end of the 18-minute song.
Likewise, the same song segment may have unintentionally been sourced for “Hold Me until the Morning Comes,” a 1983 song from Paul Anka and Peter Cetera. (by wikipedia)
Between 1970 and 1972, Cat Stevens recorded four albums in the same manner, using the same producer and many of the same musicians, painting the album covers, and assigning the records ponderous titles. Things changed with his next album, Foreigner. The recording itself had been produced by Stevens, and while a couple of Stevens’ usual backup musicians had been retained, New York session musicians appeared, and second guitarist Alun Davies was gone. With him went the acoustic guitar interplay that had been the core of Stevens’ sound, replaced by more elaborate keyboard-based arrangements complete with strings, brass, and a female vocal trio featuring Patti Austin. It’s easy to look at the 18-plus minute “Foreigner Suite” that took up the first side and accuse Stevens of excess and indulgence. What should be kept in mind, however, is that his peers in 1973 were acts like Jethro Tull and Yes, who in turn were taking their cue from the Beatles’ Abbey Road and the Who’s Tommy.
The single “The Hurt” from all over the world …
Call Foreigner ambitious, then, rather than indulgent. Actually, the suite is full of compelling melodic sections and typically emotive singing that could have made for an album side’s worth of terrific four-minute Cat Stevens songs, if only he had composed them that way. As it is, the suite is a collection of tantalizing fragments. But the album’s second side, featuring the Top 40 hit “The Hurt,” demonstrates that, even in the four-minute range, his songwriting and arranging were becoming overly busy. On the whole, Foreigner marked a slight fall-off in quality from Catch Bull at Four, which itself had marked a slight fall-off from Teaser and the Firecat. The decline seemed more extreme, though, because Foreigner clearly was intended to be better than its predecessors. That’s the risk of ambition. (by William Ruhlmann)
Paul Martinez (bass)
Bernard Purdie (drums, percussion)
Jean Roussel (keyboards)
Cat Stevens (vocals, guitar, keyboards, synthesizer, clavinet)
Phil Upchurch (guitar)
Gerry Conway (drums, percussion on 01.)
Herbie Flowers (bass on 03.)
Tower Of Power (horns)
Patti Austin – Barbara Massey – Tasha Thomas
01. Foreigner Suite 18,21
02. The Hurt 4.20
03. How Many Times 4.30
04. Later 4.46
05. 100 I Dream 4.11
All songs written by Cat Stevens