Like so many bands of the Seventies and Eighties, Foghat soldier on to this day, currently under the aegis of drummer Roger Earl. Celebrating the fortieth anniversary of their original concert album this year with the release of a document of the current alignment in the form of Live At The Belly Up. Earl and company are unlike so many other bands whose lineups contain scant connection to their origins: the group maintains the foundation in the blues on which the original quartet based their style
When three members of Savoy Brown left their collaboration with that band’s founder, Kim Simmonds, to go their own way (which that guitarist continues to do so vigorously to this day). guitarist Lonesome Dave Peverett, bassist Tone Stevens, and drummer Roger Earl enlisted slide guitarist Rod Price to stretched the boundaries of the blues genre into hard rock and pop territory. It was a somewhat adventuresome approach, further cultivated but nonetheless grounded by the early production of Dave Edmunds, a roots-minded musician in his own right.
Foghat’s The Complete Bearsville Album Collection is as stripped-down to the essentials as the band who made the music, most of it with the self-renewing alignment of just two guitars, bass, and drums. While not every one of the thirteen CD’s in this clam-shell box is perfectly durable, a handful (plus the woefully underrated Rock and Roll Outlaws) deserve recognition and it’s interesting to note those select few were released both before and after Fool For The City, the record that includes the band’s sole but well-earned hit and signature song “Slow Ride. Without the benefit of historical perspective via historical essay or extensive recording info as is usually included in such sets, the music stands on its own terms as a reflection of the confidence Foghat showed in themselves when they were at their best.
Foghat (eponymous): Adopting their band name by serendipity, this good-humored quartet’s quest to reconfigure the blues with discernible hard rock overtones (and a dash of pop) is exactly what the quartet did on their eponymous debut. The Willie Dixon/Etta James/Muddy Waters classic “I Just Want to Make Love to You” sounds altogether different with so much emphasis on the bridge of the song and elsewhere Foghat eschew merely riffing to good effect–see “Leaving Today”– albeit not nearly so ingeniously as on subsequent albums. With acoustic and electric piano the only additional instruments and that stalwart of authenticity, Dave Edmunds, as producer, Foghat managed to remain true to their roots even as the band set a course to move beyond them.
Rock and Roll: Foghat’s second eponymous album represented a simultaneous retrenchment and an expansion based on the firm foundation of their debut. Plus, the band sowed the seeds of the dynamic live presentation that would eventually win them an audience they could not with more commercial, almost MOR pop material like “Couldn’t Make Her Stay.” Acoustic guitars fill that tune and even more variety appears in the form of horns on “What A Shame” and background vocalists for “Ride Ride Ride.” In between lie tracks such as “Feel So Bad,” on which Foghat hew much closer to their blues roots, the sum total of which is a much more diversified an effort than the deceptively plain cover image (a rock and a roll) would suggest.
Energized: The beige-dominated color schemes of the first two Foghat albums give way to the sharp contrast of electric green, blue and black for Energized and the music enclosed reflects the cover. With the guitars beefed up, thereby muffling Lonesome Dave Peverett’s voice even further on “Step Outside,” Foghat effectively completed construction on the arena rock sound some three years before their live album documented it. There are no acoustic guitars discernible in the din here, the r& b flavor of previous records returns in the form of a corps of vocalists during Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day: ” those singers are as pungent an addition to this highly electrified mix as the hard blowing horn section on “Home In My Hand.”
Night Shift: Having proven his mettle as songwriter, player and producer with The Edgar Winter Group, Dan Hartman assumed the duties of producer for Night Shift and aided in no small part to transpose to a record the excitement of the Foghat stage show. In doing so, he essentially performed two functions by hardening the instrumental sound of the foursome an astute move which, in turn, sharpened the clarity of the material: percussion and electric piano hint at Foghat’s blues-roots during “Take Me to the River”), while the extended guitar conclusion of “I’ll Be Standing By” reaffirms the bands innate strengths as a cohesive unit. And on this title tune, appropriately enough, structure highlights hooks as much as the sound of Foghat itself.
Stone Blue: Foghat finally got the hit they deserved an album (Rock and Roll Outlaws) late, then retrenched on Stone Blue, reclaiming its roots with three blues covers (“Sweet Home Chicago,” “It Hurts Me Too” and “Chevrolet”) even as self-composed material like “Midnight Madness” and “Stay With Me” proved what they’d learned as recording artists in the interim since their debut. The high-powered dynamic contrast comes through loud and clear thanks to the engineering expertise of co-producer Eddie Kramer–who by this time had experience with Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin–as well as Bob Ludwig, whose skills in mastering insured the sonics were as potent as the musicianship and songwriting.