Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November 30: Foghat, "Slow Ride"

Artist: Foghat
Song: "Slow Ride"
Album: Fool For The City
Year: 1975

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

While one can make the case that one of the greatest achievements an artist can reach is to create a truly original sound that stands in defiance to everything being created around them, there is also something to be said for perfecting a mainstream sound.  The reality is, there is almost always a reason why a certain sound catches on, and there are usually a handful of artists that deploy this style with a power and mood that is far beyond a majority of their peers.  In fact, one can find a number of instances where even when the music in question was nothing stunning, due to the time during which the song was released, as well as the overall spirit of the performance, it still manage to reach an iconic status.  Though there are a number of bands that fit this description, few do so as perfectly as one finds within the catalog of the 1970's blues-rock band, Foghat.  Bringing a harder edge to the blues-based rock and roll sound that had been developing for a few years, Foghat possesses a tone that cannot be mistaken, and it is also their rather unsubtle lyrics which quickly endeared them to fans.  Even nearly three decades after the release of their most commercially successful recordings, the reality remains that their songs are still just as good today as they were then, and there may be no more essential a blues-rock recording than what one can hear on Foghat's classic 1975 single, "Slow Ride."

Truth be told, there are few song openings from any point in history that can rival that of "Slow Ride," as the stomp which quickly gives way to the guitar riff is one of the few that never "gets old."  The way that the guitars from Rod Price and Dave Peverett ring across the track instantly grabs the listener, and the slightly dirty distortion perfectly fits the overall mood of the song.  It is within this element of the song where one can hear traces of heavy metal, as the band certainly brings a similar amount of volume.  However, it is the almost "Southern" feel to the riff that sets it far apart from any other recording, and one cannot help but get caught up in the fantastic mood that the guitars create.  Yet it is also the brilliant work of the rhythm section that has enabled "Slow Ride" to stand out even as the decades have passed.  The bassline from Nick Jameson brings a groove and funk that has rarely been matched, and one can hear traces of this sound in a number of bands and styles that followed.  There are moments where "Slow Ride" has an almost "go-go" style of swing, and this is a rare occurrence anywhere within the hard rock world.  This distinctive tone is perfectly matched by the sound of drummer Roger Earl, and it is the fact that his playing is so far forward in the mix that makes "Slow Ride" a song that once heard, can never be forgotten.

However, while one can argue that it is the musical arrangement which has vaulted "Slow Ride" to such a status, the vocal performance from Dave Peverett cannot be overlooked.  Not only does Peverett have a vocal range that is on par with his finest peers, but the tone and style with which he sings is completely distinctive.  Matching the music over which he performers to perfection, it is the high-spirited tone in his voice that helped "Slow Ride" to quickly climb the charts on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.  Whether he is keeping a more focused pace and pitch during the verses, or letting the mood of the song dictate his pace and word placement during other parts of the song, Peverett is easily as good as any other blues-rock singer of his era.  Yet it is also the fact that the lyrics found on "Slow Ride" can be interpreted on a number of different levels, some suggesting rather unsubtle thoughts, which has kept the song relevant as the decades have passed.  While some may say that the song is about a relaxed drive, there are many that will argue that the rather frank sexual implications that one can derive from the words are the far more obvious choice for the songs' meaning and intent.  However, the fact of the matter is that due to the spirit with which these words are sung, the meaning becomes slightly second nature, and one can find similar examples of this reality all across a number of bands that followed Foghat.

Though most are unaware, there are actually five different versions of Foghat's "Slow Ride" that one can easily find on various records.  The original studio version clocks in at nearly nine minutes, and this take on the song is rarely heard, as it is a far cry from a length that radio stations will permit.  With this in mind, the band edited the song down to just under four minutes for radio airplay, and this version of the song is certainly the most well known.  Yet there are also a few live versions of "Slow Ride" that have been "officially" released, and all of these are longer than the original studio version, yet have an energy and drive that is just as enjoyable to experience.  However, when one breaks the song down to its core elements, one can make the case that it is slightly more in the punk rock world than it is in the "hard rock" arena.  The reality is that the song is based around a powerful three-chord progression, and many people argue that this style is the "basis" of the punk rock sound.  When one adds in the overall crunch and drive that in many ways defines "Slow Ride," this idea is made even stronger, and yet most completely dismiss the track as anything more than a hard rock classic.  Regardless of how one defines the song, there is no denying the fact that it has endured the decades far better than nearly any other song of the era, and there has rarely been another track that can compare to the sound and strut that one can find on Foghat's unforgettable 1975 single, "Slow Ride."

1 comment:

Psota said...

Great post. Right up there with your Molly Hatchet post in giving respectful treatment to a band that simply never receives it.

Also, "Stone Blue" is a great Foghat
deep track.