From her new solo album, ‘Fighting Words,’ with songs written by Paul Foglino.
American Songwriter is proud to share this premiere of “Are You Good Enough?” from Ellen Foley’s 5th solo album Fighting Words. This and all songs on the album were written by the great Paul Foglino, former bassist-member of Five Chinese Brothers.
When I received an advance of this album, I knew some but not all of the Ellen Foley story. A story unlike any other. Yet it didn’t matter. “Are You Good Enough?,” which opens the album, so rocks right out of the gate that it is thrilling. And this thrill expanded even more as I listened to it the first time. And also the next thousand-plus times. It is the kind of rock and roll we’ve missed: essential and pure, beautifully written by Paul Foglino, real-time and true, and embodied totally by Ellen Foley like nobody else could.
It is, as she proclaimed with a laugh, one of the great “no fucks given” songs. It’s not a song about shallow needs or flimsy fancies. It’s way beyond that. It gets down to the essentials. The single question at the core is simple and unshakable: Are you good enough? Are you? At loving me?
Usually when an album opens with a song this good, the ones that follow rarely measure up. Yet this entire song cycle makes no promises it doesn’t keep throughout; Foglino crafted perfect songs for Ellen; songs of swagger and strength that rocket past any and all potential fluff to get to the crucial core, such as the infectious yet insistent “Be Nice.” All are songs Paul molded to fit Foley’s expansive rock and roll spirit like a perfect suit. The one exception is the beautiful “Fill Your Cup,” which the songwriter wrote for himself, and not for this project. It’sa folk song, as Paul said, yet so beautiful and timelessly tender that she included it as a slight detour. But they didn’t put it in a different frame. It’s a moment of beautiful folk wisdom in the calm of the hurricane eye.
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“’Are You Good Enough,’ written by a man, is “a fierce feminist statement,” said Ellen. “It reminds me of Shania Twain — very country but also very rock ‘n’ roll.”
“Our intention was for the song to land somewhere between AC/DC and Brownsville Station,” said Paul Foglino. “It’s a love song for people who know better — they’ve been through the wringer, either together or individually, and they’ve emerged on the other side.”
Fighting Words was recorded in New York during the lockdown. Though it sounds like Ellen sang it live in a studio with a Rolling Stones-like band, she actually recorded her pointed and incendiary vocals right there in her apartment. “I would go over with my laptop,” said Foglino, “and a good mic. And she’d bring it.”
The result is one of the greatest and most passionately true rock albums in recent times. Ellen Foley is a remarkable singer of multitudes: the only one in history to star in a Sondheim musical and also sing with The Clash and Meat Loaf. Into The Woods was the musical in which she first created the role of, as she said, “Sondheim’s favorite witch.” She is the only woman ever to sing lead on a song by The Clash (she sings lead with her then-boyfriend Mick Jones singing soft unison on the classic Motown coming cross the pond anthem, “Hitsville UK” from Sandanista), and also was Meat Loaf’s passionate partner on Bat Out of Hell.
That she’s a powerful singer-actress of multitudes is undeniable, and this album unites all those parts with powerfully empowered, soulful, funny and focused Foley force. This Foley-Foglino collaboration is powerful; Paul Foglino came from the New York folk world, sang on Fast Folk, a devotee and student of the legendary Dave Van Ronk, and this folkie created real rock for the ages. And it all starts with this essential rocker: brand-new, brash, funny, true and timeless.
“I don’t care about the hearts that you used to break
I don’t care about the drugs that you used to take
I don’t want to hear your stories all about your life of crime
Don’t waste my time”
Ellen and Paul assembled a stellar array of players to propel these Fighting Words, including bassist C.P. Roth (Ozzy Osbourne, Rick Derringer, Edgar Winter), drummer Steve Goulding (Graham Parker & the Rumour, The Mekons), and the great backing vocalist Ula Hedwig (Darlene Love, Bette Midler) .
“Are You Good Enough” is out today digitally with the full-length Fighting Words following August 6; Autographed copies available for pre-order here.
Much more on both Foley and Foglino to come. But first this. It’s time to rock.