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+ {Warren Phillips And The Rockets}

A breakaway boogie-blues band that absorbed a mighty large following Stateside, 70s combo FOGHAT were virtually ignored on home-soil in much the same way as lineal forerunners SAVOY BROWN. And what the group lacked in creative originality, they made up with a hard workin’, hard rockin’ ethos that never shied from the limelight. If there were two songs that defined FOGHAT’s interpretation of the blues, then big hitters `Slow Ride’ and `I Just Want To Make Love To You’ (a rendition of a WILLIE DIXON number), fitted the bill.
Apart from the obvious SAVOY BROWN correlation, one could trace the band’s roots back to an often forgotten extracurricular effort under the pseudonymous WARREN PHILLIPS AND THE ROCKETS trio. Released for Decca Records at the tail-end of 1969, THE WORLD OF ROCK AND ROLL {*5}, was an album of covers, as said on the tin; it was re-issued in America a few years on as “Rocked Out!”.
FOGHAT formed in London, England, early 1971; SAVOY BROWN defectors “Lonesome” Dave Peverett (vocals/rhythm guitar), Tony “Tone” Stevens (bass) and Roger Earl (drums) reining in lead/slide guitarist Rod Price (from BLACK CAT BONES) to put the bite into their hard-edged boogie. And aimed squarely at the burgeoning blues market when the likes of FLEETWOOD MAC had turned a different corner, the bold 4-piece signed to Albert Grossman’s Bearsville Records (home to TODD RUNDGREN and SPARKS), and relocated to New York.
In July 1972, the label dispatched the band’s eponymous debut album, FOGHAT {*6}, a DAVE EDMUNDS-produced effort that opened with aforementioned Hot 100 entry, `I Just Want To Make Love To You’, and also further roots-y covers of CHUCK BERRY’s `Maybelline’ and Deadric Malone’s `Gotta Get To Know You’.
Not quite in the tradition of LED ZEPPELIN, who’d at least numbered their LPs up to now (“Houses Of The Holy” was about to contradict that fact), March 1973 saw the release of second helping, FOGHAT {*5}; though the set soon became known as “Rock And Roll” by fans in order to distinguish it from its predecessor. With only one cover version in sight, this time around (CHUCK WILLIS’ `I Feel So Bad’), moderate reviews were waived when the LP breached the Top 75 on the back of a minor hit, `What A Shame’.
FOGHAT’s third album, ENERGIZED (1974) {*6}, became the first of seven consecutive sets to make the Top 40 grade. The band’s back-to-basic, no-frills-attached approach and steadfast dependability also furnished them as a major live draw in the States, though their single version of `That’ll Be The Day’, and opening cut, `Honey Hush’ (from the pen of BIG JOE TURNER; interpolating Tiny Bradshaw’s `Train Kept A-Rollin’), fell short of necessary street appeal.
Taking the title from a Felix Cavaliere song, ROCK AND ROLL OUTLAWS (1974) {*5} continued in their formulaic fashion, though it was hard for some reviewers to see the merits of `Eight Days On The Road’ (authored by Michael Gayle and Jerry Ragovoy) and retrospective rockers like `Chateau Lafitte ’59 Boogie’; and everything in between.
Then, spinning out of the big blues divide, FOOL FOR THE CITY (1975) {*7} proved the doubters partially wrong with an attendant smash hit by way of Peverett’s classic cut, `Slow Ride’. Whether this was down to newbie on the block, Nick Jameson (ex-AMERICAN DREAM multi-instrumentalist/producer); who replaced Stevens (later to MIDNIGHT FLYER), that was anybody’s guess, but the breezy set did however unleash readings of ROBERT JOHNSON’s `Terraplane Blues’ and The RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS’ `My Babe’.
By the time of the DAN HARTMAN-produced NIGHT SHIFT (1976) {*6}, Jameson had made way for Connecticut-born bassist Craig MacGregor. Big ticket items `Drivin’ Wheel’ (a Top 40 entry) and `I’ll Be Standing By’, confirmed FOGHAT had staying power, even though a watered-down re-tread of AL GREEN’s `Take Me To The River’, fell foul of the critics.
If “Frampton Comes Alive” and “Kiss Alive” were anything to go by in success terms, it was a different kettle of fish for the near-Top 10 breaking concert set, FOGHAT LIVE (1977) {*7}. Featuring a rousing rendition of `I Just Want To Make Love To You’ (that now cracked the US Top 40), the one-disc wonder bookended the show with hard-rock versions of `Fool For The City’ and `Slow Ride’. Yes, they’d hit a creative and commercial peak of sorts in the mid-70s, but even the advent of punk/new wave was not going to ruffle the feathers of FOGHAT.
Opting for a slicker approach on STONE BLUE (1978) {*5}; featuring the hit title track and covers of ROBERT JOHNSON’s `Sweet Home Chicago’ and ELMORE JAMES’ `It Hurts Me Too’, and BOOGIE MOTEL (1979) {*4}; starring Peverett’s `Third Time Lucky (First Time I Was A Fool)’, the fearsome FOGHAT were still something of a head-scratching conundrum back in Britain. Just how were they doing it… and not STATUS QUO?
At the turn of the decade, 1980’s TIGHT SHOES {*5} finally answered some of the questions, when the set – and attendant 45, `Stranger In My Home Town’ – failed to emulate their past triumphs. Ditto 1981’s GIRLS TO CHAT & BOYS TO BOUNCE {*5}, which introduced fresh guitarist Erik Cartwright to replace Price.
Nick Jameson returned to supersede MacGregor for IN THE MOOD FOR SOMETHING RUDE (1982) {*5} and the new wave-meets-rock’n’roll ZIG-ZAG WALK (1983) {*4}, however it was obvious FOGHAT had sold the jerseys, or indeed any other headwear blocking the ventilation to their thought process. They split in 1984 after Kenny Aaronson (ex-STORIES) replaced Jameson. A few years later, Erik, Craig and Roger enlisted Dave Peverett’s replacement, Eric Burgeson; MacGregor would then make way for Brett Cartwright, who would be superseded by Jeff Howell, until MacGregor returned in 1991.
That should’ve been the end of the matter, but inevitably, 1993 saw the original line-up of Peverett, Price, Stevens and Earl re-form for a US reunion tour, which, in turn, led to the release of part-covers set, RETURN OF THE BOOGIE MEN (1994) {*5}. Further live adventures came by way of 1998’s ROAD CASES {*5}, recorded at Roseland Theater, Portland, Oregon on October 25 & 26, 1996.
In 1999, a worthy substitute for Price came w/ Bryan Bassett (ex-WILD CHERRY, ex-MOLLY HATCHET), but one man they found harder to supersede was legend “Lonesome” Dave Peverett, who sadly passed away from cancer complications in an Orlando hospital on February 7, 2000; Rod Price, too, passed away – March 22, 2005 – after suffering a heart attack and falling down stairs at his Stateside abode in Wilton, New Hampshire.
But just when one thought FOGHAT had ghosted into the distance, up popped seasoned campaigner Charlie Huhn (ex-TED NUGENT, ex-GARY MOORE etc.) to fill Dave’s boots. 2003’s FAMILY JOULES {*5} might not have captured the band of old, but they were now moving with the times and reflecting on the past; if one could do such a thing whilst embedded within the bricks of the blues.
The returning Craig MacGregor was on hand when Stevens decided to form his own breakaway act, Slow Ride. Meanwhile, double-disc LIVE II (2007) {*5} – recorded at the Sycuan Theatre in El Cajon, Ca. in July ’05 – spread the FOGHAT word further. Another old ‘Hat, Jeff Howell, joined up with Earl, Huhn and Bassett for yet another in-concert piece, LIVE AT THE BLUES WAREHOUSE (2009) {*5} – recorded for EKO radio on 27th June 2007 (and belatedly released in Old Blighty as “NOT Live at the BBC”).
Adding Eddie Kirkland (guitar, vocals), the tracks were rolling in again via 2010’s LAST TRAIN HOME {*5}, though as six years passed by without much ado (now without Howell and Kirkland), two self-financed sets came along in quick succession a la UNDER THE INFLUENCE (2016) {*5} and the all-encompassing LIVE AT THE BELLY UP (2017) {*5}.
© MC Strong 1994-2000/GRD // rev-up MCS Aug2019

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