Music Over 40: a look back at Foghat Live
Down and dirty barroom boogie
The 1970's. The golden age of the rock and roll live album, These were heady days when many bands did not think they could capture their essence on a studio release with the equipment available. Many pedestrian recordings came screaming out of their grooves when captured in a live setting. Clunky and unwieldy selections became explosive when sampled from a live record.
Kiss: Alive, Deep Purple: Made in Japan, Peter Frampton: Frampton Comes Alive, Thin Lizzy: Live And Dangerous, Queen: Live Killers and Cheap Trick: Live at Budokan are all considered classics of the period. These releases took these bands to the next level as showcases for great songs and even greater performances.
Enter Foghat. This British blues and boogie band, with a quintessential American sound, was born out of the ashes of British blues rockers, Savoy Brown, in the early 70's. Through the course of five albums they built a steady and growing following in America. Then came 1977 and the release of Foghat Live.
This double platinum record, Foghat's biggest seller, is a classic sampler of good old fashioned pedal to the floor rock and roll. It merits are both in its musical muscle and its format. Making a rather subtle decision to stick to one record, six songs and a 38 minute run time, it does not suffer from some of the overindulgences of many of the double live albums of the period.
Ultimately, it is the music and the men who make it that stand up. Lonesome Dave Peverett is strong rock vocalist, and a sturdy second guitarist to boot. Rod Price is a master of the slide guitar, dobro and lead guitar and adds backing vocals to the mix. Craig Macgregor and Roger Earl are a solid backline, adding all the bluesy boogie, hard rock thump and even a bit of funky rhythm necessary to propel the songs forward.
Don't forget the songs. Opening number Fool For The City, one of their most popular numbers and an attention grabbing show starter sets the template for what is to come. A thumping groove carries a great verse and chorus hook. Rod Price adds some flashy soloing on the outro. Home In My Hand is next, bringing another sing along chorus with solid backing vocals, the first appearance of Price's slide guitar on the solo and some creative bass lines from Macgregor.
Willie Dixon's I Just Wanna Make Love To You is one of the sets show stoppers. From Lonesome Daves vocal interplay with the band on the intro, the snakey bass riff and the sinister twin guitar lines the songs rumbles forward with some extending jamming and even a little bit of funkiness for good measure. Road Fever follows. This is a straight ahead rocker, maybe a bit pedestrian at times, but saved in the end by the back and forth guitar leads from Price and Peverett that really smokes. The uptempo thunder of Honey Hush steps things up a notch. Though the song is eerily similar to the Aerosmith/Yardbirds versions of Train Kept A Rollin, the song really stands out with the most aggressive drumming on the record and some absolutely searing slide guitar.
Bringing it all home is the coup de grace. Slow Ride, a classic rock staple, comes to life in this version that makes its studio counterpart seem tame by comparison. The grinding rhythm guitar, the slow and steady stomp of the drums and the at times galloping and at other times funky bass keep bringing the song forward. Rod Price add flourishes with slide guitar thoughout until the songs heads for a jaw dropping climax. The drums march, the bass pounds and the slide guitar screams as to tempo goes to warp speed over the last 3 minutes to a furious crescendo.
This is a great listen. A perfect record for driving fast or a beer blast. The sonics are fantastic and the performances are tight. Sadly, Foghat would never reach these heights again but revisiting this classic will put their importance to the 70's rock scene in perspective and may remind some of a fun, sometimes misspent, youth. Highly recommended