Album Review: Foghat – Slow Ride: Live in Concert

Too often, Foghat gets a bad rap. They’re unfairly lumped in with faceless boogie bands of the 1970s. They deserve better. An offshoot of Savoy Brown, Foghat were at their best as purveyors of British blues, picking up and running with a tradition that began decades before. There was Alexis Korner, then the Yardbirds, then Cream, Savoy Brown. And then we got Led Zeppelin, who started with the blues but took it someplace else. Foghat had no such pretensions; they stuck with the bluesy format, and worked it to good effect. It’s easy now to dismiss their best-known work as rote classic rock, but when they were firing on all cylinders, they were great. And even though tunes like “Slow Ride” feel cliché today, in the ‘70s they were the stuff.

One might have expected Foghat’s brand of blooze-rock to have been well past its sell-by date in 1999, but if that was the case, the word didn’t get through to Lonesome Dave Peverett, Tony Stevens, Bryan Bassett and Roger Earl. All but Bassett had been members of the earliest Foghat lineup in 1971 – eighteen years before the dates from which this live compilation is drawn. The group had splintered and re-formed some years before, but one listen to this set and you’ll be transported right back to prime-era Foghat. Spirited vocals, rock-solid rhythm and searing slide guitar (from Bassett, who had played with Molly Hatchet, of all things) are all right here.

Originals sit nicely along well-chosen covers. And not just blues: the funk stomper “Somebody’s Been Sleepin’ in My Bed” is delivered here with rock ‘n’ roll fire and fury. That’s all the more amazing when one realizes that at the time of these live shows (September 1999), Peverett was a mere four months from succumbing to cancer. Here he sounds as vital as he had in ’72. The band crashes through readings of their rock material (“Stone Blue”), blues classics (Elmore James’ “It Hurts Me Too,” Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago”) and of course the monster hits (a fist-pumping “Fool for the City,” a smoldering twin-lead-guitar take on Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You” and the inevitable and wonderfully lumbering “Slow Ride”).

These guys play it like they mean it, sounding every bit at the top of their game. Potential listeners are always advised to be wary of live sets from late-period lineups of their classic favorites, but –perhaps against all odds – Foghat circa 1999 delivered the goods. The greats, even. Yes, this release marks something like the ninth Foghat live album, but it’s a corker. Recommended.

(In addition to top-notch audio fidelity on the CD, this release includes a DVD of the same material, so you can witness the band looking like they stole Duran Duran’s wardrobe as they take you back to a time when rock giants roamed the Earth. And some backstage banter shows that the band was – as the saying goes – having a good time all the time.)

You may also enjoy my interview with Foghat’s drummer (and keeper of the flame) Roger Earl.