Into the Ear of Madness: Week 31 — Foster Freeze

Written by Into the Ear of Madness, Music

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Over the next year Terje Fjelde has agreed to listen to nothing but David Foster on his iPod. He’s loaded the thing with over 1,200 songs produced, arranged, composed, and/or played by David Foster. A deal with the devil? He keeps wondering.

I’ve been on a break for a couple of weeks, but you probably haven’t noticed — David Foster is everywhere these days. In a sense, I feel I’ve reached the point where I can say: Good job, Terje. Mission Accomplished and all that. Jason and Jeff couldn’t keep their big, fat hands off him during their grim ride throughout the frothbolous wonders of Mellowmas, could they? They even managed to insult me and my rare, exotic name. Fuckers. I have to say, guys, you really outdid yourselves during Mellowmas this year. I have blocked my RSS reader from displaying any content with the word “mellowmas” in it, and I will never, ever listen to a Christmas song again, at least as long as I’m legally competent and the undisputed master of my faculties. (We intend to make sure Terje’s legal competence is called into question well before Week 52. –Ed.)

PBS wasted a whole week on Foster’s Vegas concert, the one I reviewed back in November. I’m located elsewhere, but I have my sources, and I’m under the distinct impression that most Americans gathered around their TV sets that week to enjoy the company of Foster and Friends. Don’t deny it, I know you watched it, too. It’s something in your food, isn’t it? I’m so over that concert, by the way. Thank you.

In fact, I wasn’t at all that sure I wanted to keep doing this series for yet another 180 days. We’ve reached the glorious year of 1986 in the course of my loose chronological order, true, but it also means that the best years of David Foster’s career, at least as far as I’m concerned, are behind him and I will spend the next 20 posts writing about music that I basically don’t give a damn about — at all. I spent my Christmas vacation concocting all kinds of elaborate plans to opt out of my deal: Sorry guys — just got this new gig, really demanding job, too busy to continue writing… Serious health issues, marital distress, moving into a tent with no Internet connection — all options were explored.

But in the end I was too proud. A promise is a promise, and I need to keep my part of the deal to fuel the notion of the man I aspire to be. I can’t wait until June, though, when Jeff, the evil mastermind who gave birth to this painful series in the first place, has to keep his part of the deal. You know, he agreed to do anything I asked of him. Really. Anything. Use your imagination, guys and gals — be as mean as you can be and hit me — no, sorry — hit Jeff with your evil schemes in the comment section.

So what do we have in store in the weeks to come? Well, it’s like this: Between 1987 and 1990, Foster was in an artistic and commercial slump. Then he had a pep talk with Quincy Jones, rethought his strategy, and came out stronger than ever, commercially speaking, in 1991. In his book, he refers to this as his “comeback.” Artistically, though, he never recovered. With very few exceptions, Foster has concentrated on three songs as a composer and a producer since 1990:

1) The e-piano and/or Steinway-driven ballad “I Love You and/or I Miss You, Never Mind That, Just Listen to My Voice, It’s Sensational And Just When You Think We Can’t Take Things Any Further We’ll Go One Step Further. Boom!” It is usually written by Foster or Diane Warren. Michael Thompson plays electric guitar, Dean Parks plays the Spanish guitar, Simon Franglen plays the Synclavier, and Foster does the rest.

2) The trad-pop tune “I Love You and/or I Miss You, Never Mind That, Just Listen to My Voice, It’s Faabulous And Don’t You Dig All Those Lush Strings and Horns We Have Rented, We Almost Kill the Swing! Why on Earth Didn’t Frank Sinatra Think of That In the First Place?” This tune is usually written at least 40 years ago, the orchestra counts 100+ musicians, and Jeremy Lubbock, longtime Foster collaborator, is the arranger. It’s often wrapped up as a duet between basically decent dead guys and female nothingness disguised by a sheen of ornamentatious quasi-significance utilizing silly ad-libs.

3) Another ballad, the menacing “If You Listen To This All the Way Through, I’ll Drown You With My Italian Vibrato Until You Die, You Fucking Moron.” It involves all of the above-mentioned elements and then some. It is usually written by Foster, his wife, one or several of his kids, Carole Bayer Sager, Diane Warren, a couple of long-time-dead composers from the 1940s and some Italian guy. Michael Thompson plays two electric guitars simultaneously whereas Dean Parks treats his multiple Spanish guitars with the hands as he rips mandolin with his teeth. Simon Franglen burns his two Synclaviers into the stratosphere, toots his horn with a big fat drone, and all the while he’s blowing sweet synthmonica sounds with his ass. The orchestra counts 150+ musicians, there’s a fierce Baptist gospel choir to the left, a limp Minnesotean Lutheran Evangelical Protestant choir of Norwegian heritage to the right. Jeremy Lubbock, Jerry Hey, Johnny Mandel, Jorge Calandrelli and another stiff punch out arrangements in a sequential manner using optimally planned logistics to create a finished product much faster than with handcrafting-type methods. Sometimes they use crying babies for impact. Foster does the rest, and it’s Faabulousensational.

I think you’re really going to enjoy this.

Who said that? What?

Foster Frees – David Foster (well, Skylark, actually, but it’s Foster, really — and I don’t care if he says he’s never been on drugs, because there’s no way anyone can come up with something like this unless they’re doped up on Mommy’s Special Syrup) from Skylark 2 (1974)