Foghat Road Fever The Bearsville Recordings CD Box Set Review / Interview

Foghat – Road Fever 6CD Cherry Red

For the unboxing video please watch the video above with Phil Aston

Below is the review by Joe Geesin and interview with Foghat Drummer Robert Earl

Renowned blues/rock band Foghat (a nonsense word made up in a game of scrabble between vocalist/guitarist Dave Peverett and his brother) were formed in 1971 and, although originally a British band, they’ve been rocking the US pretty solidly ever since. Willie Dixon’s I Just Want To Make Love To You was pretty much made their own, and the epic Slow Ride was a big hit Stateside too.
The band had their roots in Savoy Brown, with Peverett, bassist Tony Stevens and drummer Roger Earl playing on several late 60s albums, culminating in 1970’s Looking In (and the subsequent tour that spawned the Just Live album), and were joined by lead / slide guitarist Rod Price, formerly of Black Cat Bones (their Barbed Wire Sandwich album essential listening). The band would also occasionally be supported by pianist Colin (brother of Roger) Earl, he of Mungo Jerry and King Earl Boogie Band.

Much of the Foghat catalogue has already been issued, but has long been out of print, and while some can be found second hand, some albums are hard to find. This set collects together wonderfully the band’s first five albums, each in replica card sleeves, all together in the same place, and a bonus disc of single tracks (mono and stereo edits), some very decent sleevenotes in a excellent booklet, and the usual Cherry Red high standard of package.

Signed to Bearsville, Foghat’s eponymous debut was released in 1972, produced by Dave Edmunds. The music took off where Savoy Brown had left; heavy blues, a bit of rock and some earthy rhythm’n’blues. This album was, in the mid 80s, my intro to the band and I was instantly hooked. The opener is a cover of I Just Want To Make Love To You, a track that has been oft covered. In a similar to Deep Purple and Hush, Nazareth and Love Hurts, Hendrix and All Along The Watchtower, it’s a song that Foghat made their own and perhaps the definitive arrangement. And alcohol would oft be a subject, and in Trouble Trouble that follows, another wonderful bluesy song with that “sung down a telephone line” vocal effect. With Dave Peverett and Rod Price, they had an Angus and Malcolm Young relationship with so much of the song coming from the rhythm guitar, allowing the lead free reign, There’s some fine slide guitar on the album, and the feel of the tracks goes from earth to upbeat and uplifting. Much of the album is self penned, but there is another cover in Maybelline, which is a real rocker, quite blistering, and how the song should have been performed originally. One to enjoy.

Disc 2 is the band’s second eponymous album (aka Rock’n’Roll due to the cover), originally released in 1973. A slightly bigger and less earthy sound. What A Shame and Ride, Ride, Ride are two standout tracks that I listen to regularly.
1974 was a busy year, seeing two studio albums. Firstly Energised, which saw the move into a stadium blues rock band. Tracks like Fly By Night and Home In My Hand are just immense, there’s fantastic covers of Honey Hush and Buddy Holly’s That’ll Be The Day, and some cracking bookie in Wild Cherry.
Follow up, and Disc 4 of this set, is Rock’n’Roll Outlaws. Full blown stadium and US stars, this amazing album features the likes of Eight Days On The Road and Shirley Jean. And another cracking alcohol fueled boogie in Chateau Lafitte’59 Boogie.

The final studio album here was the one that brought the highest sales and acclaim. With bassist Tony Stevens returning to the UK (the constant touring and recording away from home a factor), producer Nick Jameson picked up the 4 string, keyboards too. There’s some classic numbers on album number five; Fool For The City. The opening title track for starters. Then there’s the 8 minute signature tune Slow Ride, and the cover of Robert Johnson’s Terraplane Blues reiterated the strong blues credentials.
All five albums feature some solid rock, blues and boogie, and some of the best slide guitar you’ll ever hear.

The last disc of bonus material collects single As and Bs originally issued in edited mono or stereo form.

The music and package really cannot be faulted. I’ve been a Foghat fan and collector for many years and I think it’s an excellent set, well presented. The single edits are new to CD.
The only downside is that there is nothing previously unreleased included. Not even the rare Umbangi Stomp (previously added to a Best Of). I may be more than the average fan, but there’s scope for the Before Foghat Days (originally released as The World Of Rock’n’Roll) set.
But even so, if you don’t have all the albums, it’s worth getting.
I hope the bonus tracks issue is expanded upon for the Volume 2 (there’s a lot of scope, if you know where to look).

Founder member consistent mainstay, drummer Roger Earl exclusively to Now Spinning about this set.

1. When you, Dave and Tony left Savoy Brown to form Foghat, what did you hope to achieve?
We left Savoy Brown at the beginning of 1971. Kim had fired Tony Stevens and said Dave and I could stay on if we wanted to. Harry Simmonds, the bands manager had just negotiated a new record deal somewhere around $300,000. Big bucks back then!

We were in San Francisco at the time, we had sold out that night and the band was playing great. Headlining most of the time.

We told Harry we would meet him in the morning. Dave, Tony and I went back to my room and we wrote ‘Fools Hall of Fame’. Dave and I were always rockers at heart! In fact at sound checks we would play ‘I Just Want to Make Love to You’ similar to the version on our first album.

All of our influences were Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker. Dave’s taste was very eclectic, so long as it came from the U.S.. (Jazz, Blues, Country, Gospel, Johnny Burnett and the Rock n’ Roll trio). Dave often referred to us as a blues band, but we turned it up to 10! 🙂

“Anything other than three chords has to be viewed with a certain amount of suspicion”.

2. What were the difficulties in Savoy Brown at the time?
Roger: Well for a start we never got paid for any recordings we did. The band in 1970 was getting between $7000 & $15,000 per night and we were paid $100 bucks a week.
Look, we just loved to play and Dave and I got on great with Kim. In fact we did some recording with him back in England until he put his new band together.

Dave and I met Harry for breakfast the next morning and told him we were leaving but we would stay as long as Kim wanted us. With that, Harry told us that we would never work in the States or back home in the UK, EVER. He said, I will put a spoke in your wheel, and what he meant was I will put a ‘spanner in your works’. Harry managed Chicken Shack and Savoy Brown at the time and our agency was Chrysalis Agency. When we got back to England, I went to see Terry Ellis and Chris Wright about working with them. Chris explained that Harry threatened them and told them that if they tried to book some dates for us that he would take Savoy Brown and Chicken Shack somewhere else. He basically blackballed us.

3. Kim Simmonds was a guitar legend. Did you remain friends?
I think we reconnected with Kim around 1975/76. Savoy Brown played at Stony Brook University near where we all lived in New York. I invited Kim back to my place and we all got really plastered and had a great time. Kim might have stayed over, I can’t quite remember. But the sun had come up and was going back down! We stayed in touch and Kim would get up and jam with us any time.

When Kim was inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame, I was asked to introduce him, which I did and then got up and played a few songs with him. It was terrific!

In recent years, we did many shows together. Our manager was able to get Savoy Brown with our agency and we tried to book shows together whenever feasible. It was great! He also was a special guest on our last studio album, ‘Under the Influence’ in 2016 and we had a terrific time at the release party at B.B. Kings in NYC. We remained very good friends.

Kim wrote four new songs for Foghat which will be on our next album. He had promised to play on the new record but unfortunately he became ill and we recently lost him on December 13, 2022.

Yes, Kim was a blues guitar legend and we were good friends until his passing. Kim gave me my shot and I don’t ever recall any harsh words between us. I will miss him.

4. How did you find or choose to work with Rod Price from Black Cat Bones?

Dave, Tony and I were somewhat of a three-wheel Cadillac. I placed an ad in the Melody Maker Magazine looking for a Blues guitarist. I rented a room at a pub in Islington (now the hallowed ground of Highbury). Some pretty decent guitarists turned up. Rod was the last on day two. He was the only one that I recall who played slide. He was fucking brilliant. We went next door to the pub and sealed it with a beer. Rod was MAGIC!

5. What can you remember from the sessions with Dave Edmunds?
Albert Grossman signed us to the Bearsville label. He sent $10,000 to my bank in Wallingford. We had been rehearsing five days a week at a place called Aces High in the Berkshire Downs. Dave and I were both fans of Dave Edmunds recordings and we had heard about his studio in Rockfield in Wales. Dave had the night shift at the studio 12midight – 12 noon and we had the day shift. The sessions crossed over and we would listen to Dave’s songs and he got to hear some of ours. We could play and Kingsley Ward was our engineer. But Dave’s music had this fantastic sound coming out of the studio speakers. Whereas our songs sounded rather ordinary.

Foghat were not producers or great engineers, so we asked our manager at the time to ask Dave Edmunds if he would produce our record. He agreed as soon as he had finished his own songs. Once Dave took over the task of producing us, everything changed and it really was a ton of fun working with him. I know that without Dave Edmunds at the helm, our first recordings would not have been nearly as successful as they were.

‘I Just Want to Make Love to You’ was just Rock n’ Roll MAGIC!

6. You pretty much made ‘I Just Want to Make Love to You’ your own, how do you feel about it now?

A good friend of mine (a photographer) who goes to the Chicago Blues Festival every time it’s on, told me that many of the bands play our version of ‘I Just Want to Make Love to You’ and YES I look forward to playing it every night!!

7. Was the shift from earthy rhythm n’ blues to a more stadium blues rock sound deliberate?
It’s the same band, just bigger rooms and the amps on TEN. One of the things working and playing with Lonesome Dave I take with me, is that he always gave everything he had every time he hit the stage even when he was ill 100 + 10%.

8. How did you cope with the pressures of recording and touring?
“PRESSURE!?” Dave and I coped very well both with recording and touring. We loved it. Rod had some problems. Touring relentlessly isn’t for everyone, and although Rod loved to play, the travel got to him sometimes. He liked being home and we were on the road constantly. He was also a perfectionist and recording could sometimes be difficult for him. It took him awhile to get his solos the way he wanted them.

Recording can be really exciting and a lot of work. It really helps if you have the arrangements down before you start recording. But having said that, once you start the recording process sometimes it can flow like we really know what we are doing, and other times its working the song as you are playing it, and you hear parts and things that you have to try.

I have been really fortunate to work with great producers and engineers. Dave Edmunds, of course, Nick Jameson, Tom Dawes, Mike Vernon, Roy Baker, Tom Hambridge and Bryan Bassett.

As far as touring and playing live, we always joked that we go paid for traveling because we loved to play so much we would do it for free.

I was always comfortable traveling. I loved to play and still do. Come on, I play drums in a rock n’ roll band. How bad can that be??? (Be careful what you wish for). I thrive on the road. It’s when I have too much time off that I tend to get into trouble. I mean how much fishing can one do. Hold on, that’s another story!

9. How do you feel about these albums now?
I think these five albums hold up really well. Actually the only time I listen to them is when we start touring at the beginning of each year and we try out five or six songs we haven’t played in awhile to put in the set. We have five or six songs that the fans expect to hear and we will play until the day I depart this earth and that’s true with me.

10. What are your Highlights from these albums?

1. Foghat – Rockfield Studios
Once we had Dave Edmunds on board producing everything really started to click. We had a lot of help on this album. Todd Rundgren played some guitar and piano and my brother Colin played piano on Maybellene.

2. Rock and Roll – Road Fever. My favorite song. We still play it in every set because it’s who we are.

3. Energized – Honey Hush was my favorite. Tom Dawes really brought a lot to this record and one of my all time favorite drummers played with me on two songs. Dave and I were in Tom;s apartment. I think it was the first time I was introduced to Russian frozen Vodka. We were talking about great drummers. Bernard Purdy’s name came up. Tom said he uses him on a lot of his sessions. Dave and I asked if he could get him to play with us.
The band was set up live in the studio. Amps and singer facing the two drum kits. I’m talking to Bernard. Tom had written out the score for Bernard, the band already had rehearsed and knew the song. Bernard gave me some advice that day that I have carried with me to this day. “We will play the song three times. Once to learn the arrangement, second time to get the song right and the third time just for fun!

4. Rock n’ Roll Outlaws

I got to met Felix Cavaliere (The Young Rascals) who wrote the title track. We were at Todd Rundgren’s studio in NY.

5. Fool for the City

This was the only time, other than the first album that we took all the time off until the record was finished. We were recording at Suntreader Studios in Sharon Vermont on top of a mountain. The power went out for a couple of weeks while we were there. I believe it was a large Moose that got tangled up and took out the power! Of course, working with Nick Jameson who was producing the record and also playing bass was just great. It’s one of my favorite times.

11. The photo of your manhole cover fishing on the sleeve of Fool for the City is quite iconic. Was it fun to do?
Yeah, it was a lot of fun to do. Nick Jameson came up with the idea. He was aware of my penchant for fishing. We arrived early one Sunday morning downtown NYC (St. Mark’s Place). I was still awake from the night before. We pulled the manhole cover off and started the shoot. A couple of NYPD finest came by in a cruiser. They rolled down their windows and said “You got a license”? With that we said, O Shit! Then they said, “You got a fishing license”. These great guys controlled traffic until we were done. NY cops are the best! They were cool!

12. Is there scope for a volume two? And for a rarities set (I’m thinking Ubangi Stomp, Before Foghat Days, etc.)
Actually there was six or seven songs we record in 1983-84 with Eddie Offord producing at his theater studio in Atlanta. Jason Peverett may have access to these songs. It was Dave, me, Erik Cartwright, and Kenny Aronson on Bass.

Yes, of course, these should all be on volume two. Hopefully, someone will care to release it!!
Keep on Rockin’

Joe Geesin | Now Spinning Magazine

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