Urban Noise Music
While watching reruns of Night Court on one of those retro TV stations, I started to wonder, “Whatever happened to Ellen Foley?” She played the spunky public defender during the second season, and she provided vocals on the legendary Bat Out Of Hell album by Meat Loaf. I remember an argument with my friend Jeff over that, where he assured me it couldn’t be the same Ellen Foley, because he had seen the concert video and it was definitely a different woman. He was right about the video. Foley was not available, so Karla DeVito lip synced to Foley’s vocal track. In pre-Google days, we didn’t have a way to check that. Imagine my surprise when this new album crossed my desk. Ellen Foley is back with Fighting Words, and Karla DeVito joins her on the first single, “I’m Just Happy to Be Here.”
Foley has constructed a varied album, featuring a collection of original songs written by Paul Foglino along with a couple of new takes on classic songs by Wilson Pickett and Jim Steinman. Her vocals evoke timeless singers, from rockers like Chrissie Hynde/Patti Smith (album opener “Are You Good Enough” and penultimate track “Leave Him Janie”), country crooners like Patsy Cline (“I Call My Pain By Your Name”), bluesy Melissa Etheridge (“Be Nice”), and girl group lead Lesley Gore (the Pickett-penned “I Found A Love”). The duet with DeVito (“I’m Just Happy to Be Here”) is an upbeat song of survival, of making it through all of the challenges these women have faced and come out more determined than ever. Closing out the album is Foley’s take on Jim Steinman’s “Heaven Can Wait”. Already a Meat Loaf classic, Foley makes it her own here, and it serves as a nice tribute after losing Steinman so recently.
At first, I was going to point out that the varied styles within Fighting Words make for an uneven album. It never feels like a cohesive whole. However, maybe Foley and her team understand the current music space better than I do. With streaming services, perhaps she has a better chance to attract more listeners with several different songs hitting different algorithms. Very few dinosaurs like me listen to entire albums these days. So, if like me, you have ever wondered, “Whatever happened to Ellen Foley?” just take a listen to Fighting Words and you are probably going to find something you like.