Lou Gramm - Ready or Not

Lou Gramm
Ready or Not

Released 1987 on Atlantic
Reviewed by Lawrence, 04/06/2013ce

So alot of people here on Head Heritage are probably wondering why I've been fixating on ex-Foreigner singer Lou Gramm these days. Honestly it's not necessarily that he hails from my town of Rochester New York -- he's certainly not the underground cult-hero like Armand Schaubroeck or Lydia Lunch (who also come from the same city), but so what? He's one person from Rochester who made it really huge out of pure luck, but combined with the raw talent of his voice. He still commands respect in the local scene to this very day.

I pretty much didn't realize what the big deal about him was until I saw him live though. This was ten years ago when there was a memorial concert for a popular DJ and musician around town who got shot to death -- a pretty sad story that doesn't need to be recounted here. A bunch of local bands played but also Gramm would make a short appearance with his momentarily-reformed pre-Foreigner band Black Sheep to do an impromptu version of "Blue Morning Blue Day." Honestly I wasn't expecting much -- I've heard lots of Foreigner songs, owned a couple of the albums at one point. But man! When he started singing I realized I forgot was a great song that was, what a great singer Gramm was. And that performance blew the studio version right out of the water!

A more recent performance I saw that was also a book-signing event Lou did one of my personal favorites of his -- "Midnight Blue". I've liked it more than even some of the better Foreigner hits only because it sounds a bit more loose, like it wasn't trying too hard to be a rocker. Had a really great riff and really cool lyrics. Definitely something that John Cougar should've done around the same time instead of going Zydeco... So I thought maybe I should find the album the song's from -- Gramm's recent book described it as something that would seem worth checking out...

And sure enough, Ready or Not isn't bad at all. It does have all the trappings of 80's production but you could easily pretend most of it was recorded in the 60's. It's certainly not a grueling, lucid avant-rock piece like the Velvet Underground, nor is it a bonkers outsider-psychedelic statement in the style of Julian Cope (of course...) It's just ten love songs with Lou's incredible deep Blue-Eyed Soul intonations as only he can. And it gets pretty deep too. There's a nervy desperateness to "She's Got To Know" you don't usually hear from Foreigner. It even gets a little dark on the last track, "Lover Come Back", probably the closest Lou would ever get to Joy Division, with an almost Television-style intense guitar solo.

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