Friday, February 7, 2014

Foghat Revisited

It was 14 years ago that we lost Dave Peverett to cancer and a long standing career with Foghat, perhaps one of most maligned bands in the rock and roll era.  Amazingly the lineup of original member Roger Earl, longtime bass player to the boogie years Craig Mcgregor, former Ted Nugent/Humble Pie lead singer Charlie Huhn and Bryan Bassett (Wild Cherry, Molly Hatchet, Root Boy Slim) holding down the lead guitar that the late Rod Price used to do, this version of Foghat continues to do what they do best, boogie blues and rock.  They have spent almost four years touting their last album Last Train Home  and if it pales in comparison to the Price/Peverett years it makes up with honest effort.

It all begins on Savoy Brown  Looking In, although Lonesome Dave, Roger Earl and Tony Stevens were part of the Savoy Brown band in the early years, they branched out after Looking In and started up their own band, adding Rod Price to the mix and Dave Edmunds produced their first album.  And it starts up with the remarkable I Just Want To Make Love To You and somehow Edmunds' production of distorted vocals, rampant wah wah guitars and smashing cymbals makes it work.   The difference between Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown and Foghat was that Foghat had a more rocking sound, than the total blues of Looking In.  Not that its a bad album, it's good in its own way, but I doubt if Kim Simmonds would ever signed off on all those wild wah wahs on IJWTMLTY.  And a more uptempo sound. And more Chuck Berry too.

For whatever reason, Dave Edmunds and Foghat parted ways on the second album (the rock and roll album) and Tom Dawes (The Cyrkles' Red Rubber Ball band) produced it.  It's a more dense and polished sound than the first, and it had a minor hit with the only song that Rod Price ever sang lead on (What A Shame) plus FM classic tracks A Long Way To Go, Ride Ride Ride and It's Too Late.  Energized, had more boogie than actual blues and give us more FM hits like Honey Hush, Home In My Hand and a cover of Buddy Holly's That Will Be The Day, to which the single version had the complete ending while the album has it fading away.  There's even double drums tracking on Wild Cherry and Nothing I Won't Do. Later in the year Rock And Roll Outlaws came out and this time relied more on covers of the title track and a killer version of Howard Tate's Eight Days On The Road.  Tony Stevens left, Nick Jameson replaced him and than their best known album Fool For The City came out with their top ten hit Slow Ride which continues to be in regular rotation on the classic rock channels.

Perhaps the best lineup came to be when Jameson decided to do other things in production (he later became a actor and had a hand in the 1994 Fox Cartoon The Critic) and for a solo career and Craig MacGregor replaced him.  Dan Hartman produced the darker sounding Night Shift and they had another FM hit with Drivin Wheel and the pounding Don't Run Me Down.  Their last true boogie rock album Stone Blue came out in 1978, and was produced with Eddie Kramer (which the band misspelled his name on the album title, not too excited with the end result) but the record itself is striped down rock and roll although Midnight Madness on record really sounded distorted on vinyl.

Lonesome Dave begin to alter the formula, and adding more pop and new wave into the music and the albums begin to show that.  Boogie Motel gave them their other big hit with Third Time Lucky (First time i was a fool) and a cover of Somebody's been sleeping in my bed. Lonesome Dave was not much of a lyricist and basically recycled the same old love cliche over and over, on the blah Love In Motion, the first true POS song he wrote. Even though it hints at new wave pop, the boogie is still there on the title track of Boogie Motel and Nervous Release.  Tight Shoes, is their new wave jump and fans didn't know what to think of it.  They still played the single from time to time Stranger In My Home Town but outside of that, all the songs have a same sound and the same beat over and over.  Not one of their best but and Rod Price left the band, replaced by Erik Cartright.   The 1981 Girls To Chat and Boys To Bounce outside of Wide Boys and the odd ball Live Now Pay Later was another waste of time.  MacGregor left, Jameson returned for the 1982 covers In the Mood For Something Rude which spared the world of Lonesome Dave's one dimensional songwriting for some nice covers of Slipped Tripped Fell In Love, Love Rustler and Ain't Living Long Like This.  The final Foghat album, Zig Zag Walk is where they finally became the New Wave band that Peverett dreamed they would be and for myself I actually liked it, it's better than Boys To Chat and perhaps Tight Shoes and Boogie Motel and maybe Dave was years early on the swingtime revival of the 90s with a nice version of Louis Jordan Choo Choo ChaBoogie and Seven Day Weekend, but the Huey Lewis influenced That's What Love Can Do went nowhere on the charts.  And then they broke up.

In the late 80s and early 90s both Roger Earl and Dave Peverett had their own versions of Foghat, Earl holding on the Craig MacGregor and Erik Carthright (this may have been the band that I saw in Oklahoma City in 1989), Peverett's band coming through Cedar Rapids in 1990 or 1991 and featured Riff West and Bryan Bassett fresh from leaving Molly Hatchet.  Neither band recorded anything till a chance meeting with Rick Rubin got them back in the studio with the original members intact (Bassett returned to Molly Hatchet for their last good effort Devil's Canyon, which would be the last album to feature the late great Danny Joe Brown) but Rubin skipped out of producing their 1994 comeback Return Of The Boogie Men, so Nick Jameson came back on board to produce (and on the acoustic sides Tom Dawes) but while it was a good album, the unplugged version tended to drag down the Jameson' produced electric sides.   But it would be the last studio album they would do, they would do two studio takes on the Road Cases live album and Peverett would succumb to cancer in 2000.  Rod Price five years later would suffer a heart attack and falling downstairs and his slide would be silenced.

Instead of calling it a day, Earl and Tony Stevens with Bryan Bassett back in for good tapped Charlie Huhn to do the vocals and Family Joules came out in 2002.  It's a silly album of sorts but it does lay claim to the spirit of Lonesome Dave and Bassett remains one of the more underrated guitar players nobody's ever heard of.  He was the guitarist for Wild Cherry's Play That Funky Music and produced and played on Root 6 from the late great Root Boy Slim.  Huhn came from the late 70s Ted Nugent band of Weekend Warriors and State Of Shock, the last two good album Nugent ever did.  And MacGregor replaced the departing Stevens once and for all in 2005.  And basically this has been the Foghat that continues to tour day in and day out. And remain the perfect tribute band.  Certainly Foghat Stages or Live Volume 2 are worthy but the best way to hear Foghat live back then is the original Bearsville Live album and companion King Biscuit Time CD, although the latter album is more rougher around the edges.  The extended I Just Want To Make Love To You has been many of a bar band's cornerstone (I should know) but the speed metal version of Honey Hush gives visions of Anthrax or Metallica in the future without them knowing that.

But the mare mention of Foghat brings out gaffaws and LOL's from the kiddies today, whose ears are deafen by autotuner rapper who never realized that this music got us through the hardtimes, that Foghat remained true to their love of old rock and roll and the blues and even Louis Jordan which places them high in my heart.  Even if Last Train Home does anything, what it does is celebrate the blues and keeps the blues alive if nothing else.  And Foghat remains to this day, a band for its fans and they love the fans too.  Even though they're now regulated to the casinos and state fairs and festivals, Foghat still does this for the fans.  And somewhere in the great beyond, Lonesome Dave and Rod Price are smiling with approval.

So take a slow ride.......

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