If I Could Only Take One

My desert island tune by Foghat

Once again it’s time to pack my suitcases and head for that imaginary desert island in the sun. However, prior to my departure, I have to make an existential decision. If I could only take one tune by an artist I haven’t covered yet or only given marginal attention, what would be my pick?

More specifically, I’m up to the letter “F” in my online music library. Some of the options I didn’t select include Jose Feliciano, Fleetwood Mac, John Fogerty, The Four Tops and Peter Frampton. In the end, I decided to go with Foghat who sound like they should be right up my alley, yet until now I had not dedicated a post to this English rock band.

Admittedly, my knowledge of Foghat is, well, a bit foggy! While I had been aware of the name for many years, I could only name three of their songs. Perhaps not surprisingly, these are their most popular tunes: Slow Ride, I Just Want to Make Love to You and Fool for the City – all great songs! A look in Spotify revealed another gem I had heard before: Drivin’ Wheel.

And my pick is Slow Ride. Yes, selecting what has been called the group’s signature tune is a predictable choice, but I just love this song! Penned by Foghat co-founder and first guitarist Dave Peverett, Slow Ride first appeared on the group’s fifth studio album Fool for the City released in September 1975.

A shortened version of the 8:14-minute album track also appeared separately as a single in December that year. In fact, Wikipedia notes there are five versions of the song – looks like they really milked that one!

Slow Ride became Foghat’s biggest hit, riding all the way to no. 20 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100. In Canada, it reached no. 14 on the top 100. The great song remains a staple on classic rock radio to this day. And since it’s so much fun, how about a live version? This is from an August 1977 release ingeniously titled Foghat Live, which happens to be the band’s best-selling album with over two million copies sold as of October 1984.

Let’s take a look at Songfacts for some additional tidbits about the tune:

While the “slow love” theme is common in R&B music where the tempo is more congruent with the lyrics, this is a rare rock song that pulls off the feat. The famous guitar riffs change speed and climax near the end, effectively simulating a lovemaking session. [Jeez, sex in rock & roll – I’m truly shocked, this should have been banned! – CMM] Those who are feeling strong can use the album version, but a single cut down to 3:56 with a fade out ending is also available.

A ’70s classic, this was used in the movie Dazed and Confused, which was set in that era. The song also appeared on The Simpsons, Seinfeld, That ’70s Show and My Name Is EarlDid you know: Foghat got their name when Peverett came up with the word while playing a Scrabble-like game with his brother. Peverett convinced the band to go with it instead of Brandywine [I’ve always wanted to know this but never dared to ask – CMM]

Foghat’s lineup as of 2022 features (from left) Rodney McQuinn (bass), Scott Holt (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Roger Earl (drums) and Brian Bassett (lead guitar)

But, wait, there’s more. Following is a recollection of Foghat co-founder and drummer Roger Earl, the band’s only remaining member who has played in all lineups. This is based on a 2010 interview with Vintagerock.com:

“We took time off to do the Fool For The City album. Nick [Nick Jameson (bass, guitar, keyboards, backing vocals) – CMM] had just joined the bandRod [Rod Price (lead guitar, backing vocals) – CMM] and I had a house out here on Long Island, so Nick and I drove down from Woodstock and we had a basement, which was soundproof somewhat. And the first song to come out of there was “Slow Ride.””

“It was from a jam. We were just jamming. Nick had a cassette player and he would record whatever we played there. As I recall it, the whole song was written— the middle part and the bass part and the ending were all Nick’s ideas. Basically, Nick wrote the song, but we just jammed on it, and Nick cut the stuff up so it made sense as far as the song goes. And then Dave said, “I’ve got some words.” That’s how that came about (laughs).”

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; Vintagerock.com; YouTube

Peter Frampton Releases Covers Album Featuring His Favorite Blues Classics

Peter Frampton these days seems to get the kind of attention I imagine he hasn’t seen since 1976 when he broke through with Frampton Comes Alive!, one of the most acclaimed live rock albums. Unfortunately, the story has been a mixed bag for the 69-year-old rock guitarist. The good news is his new covers album All Blues, which is out via UMe since yesterday. The not so great side of the story: his recently disclosed diagnosis with inclusion body myositis, a progressive autoimmune disease causing muscle inflammation, weakness and atrophy. Since the condition eventually is likely to prevent Frampton from playing guitar, he decided to do a farewell tour and retire from touring thereafter – and ultimately I guess from music altogether.

But let’s focus on the positive. While by its very nature a covers album doesn’t really present anything new, this is a great collection of classic blues tunes, which nicely displays Frampton’s blues chops. And, btw, he’s a pretty decent vocalist as well. The rock guitarist is getting a little from his friends, including Kim Wilson, Larry Carlton, Sonny Landreth and Steve Morse. All Blues was co-produced by Frampton and Chuck Ainlay, and recorded at Frampton’s studio in Nashville, together with his long-time touring band featuring Adam Lester (guitar, vocals), Rob Arthur (keyboards, guitar, vocals) and Dan Wojciechowski (drums).

Peter Frampton

“I have always loved to play the blues,” Frampton explains on his website. “When we formed Humble Pie, the first material we played together was just that. For the last two summers I had been playing a handful of blues numbers every night on stage with Steve Miller Band. I enjoyed this immensely and it gave me the idea of doing an ‘All Blues’ album live in the studio with my band. We started the resulting sessions nine days after coming off the road last year. Over a two-week period, we recorded 23 tracks, all live in the studio. The energy of these tracks is completely different from building a track one instrument at a time…I’m not sure if you can say we had fun playing the blues. But we definitely did.” With that, let’s get to some it!

Here’s the great opener I Just Want To Make Love To You. Written by Willie Dixon in 1954 and first recorded by Muddy Waters, Frampton’s version features great harmonica playing by Kim Wilson, who is best know as the lead vocalist and frontman of The Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Next up: A nice instrumental take of Georgia On My Mind, which was made famous by Ray Charles in 1960. And while as such the tune is mostly associated with Charles, it was actually co-written by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell in 1930 and first recorded that year. A few weeks ago when I first learned about the album, I read somewhere that when the song was proposed to Frampton, he saw no way his voice could give it justice. But since he digs the tune, he decided to cover it as an instrumental – great choice, I really like Frampton’s tone here!

All Blues, the title track, is another beautiful instrumental. It features guitarist extraordinaire Larry Carlton, who has played with artists like Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell, and has been a member of jazz fusion band The Crusaders. All Blues was written by Miles Davis and first appeared on his 1959 album Kind Of Blue. Again, I love the guitar tone on this cover.The smooth jazzy groove is pretty cool as well!

Next up: The Thrill Is Gone, one of my all-time favorite blues tunes I just couldn’t skip. Co-written by Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell in 1951 and first recorded by Hawkins that same year, it became a signature song and major hit for B.B. King in 1970. The thrill is definitely not gone on this great rendition, which features Louisiana blues guitarist Sonny Landreth.

The final track I’d like to call out is Frampton’s cover of I’m A King Bee. In part I decided to select the 1957 Slim Harpo swamp blues classic since it includes what became a distinct feature of Frampton’s sound in the ’70s – a talk box!

Similar to the great new Santana album I reviewed in the previous post (btw, I can’t remember the last Friday that saw the release of two great albums the same day!),  All Blues on some level makes me feel I should see Frampton during his upcoming tour, especially given it looks like it is going to be the last opportunity. But again, it’s the same old dilemma that I simply can’t see everybody I’d like to see, and I’m probably already going beyond what I should do – unfortunately! And while he’s undoubtedly a great guitarist, I’m not sure I’m enough of a Peter Frampton fan to justify buying a ticket.

Frampton’s farewell tour, which has many dates together Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening (sounds like fun to me as well!), kicks off in Tulsa, Olka. on June 18. It won’t be until Sep 13 before they come to New York City’s Madison Square Garden. I guess this means I have some more time to change my mind! 🙂 The current last scheduled show is Oct 12 in Concord, Calif. The full schedule is here.

Sources: Wikipedia, Peter Frampton website, JamBase, YouTube