KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Forty Year Friday – ROD STEWART “FOOT LOOSE & FANCY FREE”

Artist: ROD STEWART
Album: FOOT LOOSE & FANCY FREE

[Welcome to Forty Year Friday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1977]

My introduction to the raw, raspy & rockin’ vocals of Rod Stewart came via his 1976 #1 hit, “Tonight’s The Night,” when I was 10 years old. At the time I was unaware of his groundbreaking work with the original Jeff Beck Group (whose debut album Truth was highlighted in Part 4 of my Great Out Of The Gate series), The Faces or the string of classic solo albums he released during the first half of the ‘70s. Eventually those would form the core of my favorite Rod Stewart recordings, but for a few years I was only aware of his 7th & 8th solo releases, 1976’s A Night On The Town and 1977’s Foot Loose & Fancy Free. Each record followed a similar template, featuring straight-up rockers and tender ballads with folk influences throughout, all beautifully produced by studio whiz Tom Dowd. There were, however, two crucial differences: The former LP split the ballads & rockers into a “Slow Side” and “Fast Side” while the latter mixed up the pacing but, more importantly, Foot Loose & Fancy Free was the first of several albums to feature a core band (guitarists Jim Cregan & Gary Grainger, bassist Phil Chen and drumming legend Carmine Appice, who was best known as a founding member of Vanilla Fudge & later played with Jeff Beck) rather than a collection of studio musicians. This resulted in a more cohesive sound, although song-for-song it’s a toss-up as to which album is stronger. Since this is a look back at my favorite albums of 1977, I’ll save A Night On The Town for another time and focus on Foot Loose & Fancy Free.

Things get off to a sizzling start with “Hot Legs,” a thumping slab of Rolling Stones-inspired rock ‘n’ roll with Appice’s huge John Bonham-esque drum sound, a great guitar riff and Stewart memorably wailing “I love ya honey” at the end of each chorus. He veers into funkier Stones territory on “You’re Insane,” which is driven by a bass-heavy groove (courtesy of co-writer Chen). I love the staggered rhythm following the last line of the choruses: “This whole mad town thinks you’re insane.” Two ballads are among his most beloved songs. “You’re In My Heart (The Final Acclaim)” was a Top 5 hit in the U.S. This slow shuffle is a declaration of love to his girlfriend at the time (“You’re a rhapsody, a comedy, you’re a symphony and a play. You’re every love song ever written but honey what do you see in me?”), yet he admits “there have been many affairs & many times I’ve thought to leave.” Until recently I hadn’t noticed the vocal similarity to Steve Forbert, whose debut was released the following year. Album closer “I Was Only Joking” finds him in full storytelling mode, featuring stunning melodies, a mostly acoustic arrangement (that’s interrupted by a stinging minute-long electric guitar solo at 3:45) and a peppy chorus with hints of the folkiness that made earlier hits “Maggie May” & “You Wear It Well” so endearing. His 7-1/2 minute version of The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” was inspired by Appice’s old band Vanilla Fudge, who recorded a similarly slowed-down rendition a decade earlier. This one doesn’t quite match that earlier recording but Stewart’s voice is fantastic, the arrangement is tight & rockin’ and there’s a tasty twin-guitar lead. He delves into deep soul territory with a cover of the 1972 Luther Ingram #1 R&B hit, “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right.” Apparently this song was recorded by The Faces in the early ‘70s but never officially released, so this was Stewart’s opportunity to right that wrong (no pun intended). “You Got A Nerve” is a haunting folk ballad in the vein of Fairport Convention, that’s notable for a sitar-like sound (perhaps courtesy of an actual sitar). The track listing is rounded out by “Born Loose,” another driving Stones-y rocker that’s unnecessarily long & ultimately forgettable, something that can’t be said for the other 7 songs. A year later, with the disco-fied #1 hit “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?,” he alienated many fans, who would argue that Foot Loose & Fancy Free was his final record as a bonafide rock & roller. There was still a lot of great music to come, but I don’t think he ever released another album as consistent as this one. It’s still a thrill to hear it 40 years later.

 

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28 comments on “Forty Year Friday – ROD STEWART “FOOT LOOSE & FANCY FREE”

  1. 80smetalman
    July 7, 2017

    I didn’t realize those three singles were on one album. Thanks for enlightening me.

    Like

  2. DanicaPiche
    July 7, 2017

    Great write up, Rich! I like a lot of his music including the disco detour, but not sure I’ve heard any of his albums in full. Foot Loose & Fancy Free seems like a good place to start.

    Like

    • Thanks, Danica. I really enjoyed revisiting this album for the first time in years. It held up extremely well and would be a nice entry point into his discography if you’re looking for a non-compilation. His Mercury solo recordings, as well as his work with The Faces, is probably more essential, but maybe this will be your gateway.

      Liked by 2 people

      • DanicaPiche
        July 7, 2017

        I seem to remember hearing some of his music with The Faces and I enjoyed it. Maybe the earlier years are a better start?

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      • Most of The Faces albums & his early Mercury solo albums are worth hearing from start to finish but that’s a lot to ingest. There are some good compilations of both so I would recommend seeking those out. I hope that helps.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Alyson
    July 7, 2017

    Well, I wasn’t sure if Mr Stewart would pop up on your list but very much an overlap this week as I was totally smitten with the music of Rod Stewart at this time and had this album and the previous two (Atlantic Crossing possibly my favourite). I did consider a 40-year Friday post myself recently as the double A-side single featuring I Don’t Want to Talk About It/The First Cut is the Deepest topped our charts in the May/June of 1977 and I just associate it with the relief we all felt once our first set of “big” exams were over.

    Learnt a lot from this post however so thanks for that – As you can imagine I have a fair few anecdotes about this album but I will spare you the gory details! Suffice to say I got an archive box down from the loft recently and amongst the memorabilia from this year there was a sheet of paper with the lyrics to I was Only Joking (written out in longhand) – It had been pinned to my bedroom wall. A beautiful song that I have never tired off – Happy memories.

    BUT, strange to think your first intro to Rod, at age 10, was Tonight’s The Night – He was in a relationship with Britt Ekland at the time and it all gets a bit steamy when she adds her lines! To be honest though I was a fair bit older at this time and it kind of all went over my head and its only now I take heed of the lyrics more.

    Still haven’t written about Rod over at my place as after this album he kind of sold out and lost his credibility – Early Rod was fantastic however. You’re In My Heart has kind of become his love song to Celtic Football Club now and when we went to see him a few years ago, all the images on the big screens during this song were Celtic related. He may have sold out but he has taken care of himself and still looks as if he could do his thing for a fair few years to come. Lets hope so.

    Good post for me – thanks and have a good weekend.

    Like

    • As I mentioned last week, I had a feeling this week’s choice would be an Alyson-Rich musical connection, so I’m glad I was right about that. Next week is 50/50. I’m not surprised that you were smitten with Rod’s music…and possibly Rod himself. Did ya think he was sexy? 😀 I always thought that song was underrated. It may be dressed up in disco clothing but the melody, lyrics & vocal performance were all excellent. A lot of people assumed he was singing about himself (which may have been partially true), but the lyrics tell a story about a couple who ask the titular question.

      This is an era when just a few years difference in age could result in vastly differing opinions. Had I been a few years older and already a fan of Rod’s early solo work (and his recordings with Jeff Beck and The Faces), I probably wouldn’t have connected as strongly with these mid-’70s albums. But at 10 years old I was more interested in what was current on the radio, and “Tonight’s The Night” made a big impact on me. I knew it was suggestive but that didn’t away me one way or the other. I just loved the melody and those raspy vocals. I can still remember hearing it for the first time during a long car ride to Connecticut (from Staten Island) with my dad as we were picking up new furniture for my bedroom. Don’t you just love those vivid musical recollections?

      I know he pronounced “Celtic” as “seltic” in “You’re In My Heart,” even though I would later learn that it’s actually “keltic,” but does the soccer (er, football) team pronounce it with the soft C…like the US basketball team?

      As always, thanks for sharing some of your personal connections to this music. I really appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alyson
        July 7, 2017

        Yes – It was great to watch that video clip today of Rod singing I Was Only Joking as not seen it before. I don’t know if I thought he was sexy, but he had the same look (albeit a bit more flamboyant) as all the really “cool” boys we had crushes on at the time, so when he sang the following:

        Me and the boys thought we had it sussed
        Valentinos all of us
        My dad said we looked ridiculous
        But, boy, we broke some hearts

        …. it really hit home. Yes, these boys looked great but boy they broke our hearts!

        As for the Celtic thing, the football team based in Glasgow is pronounced with a soft C, but the ancient Celtic race that ended up settling in the western fringes of Scotland, Ireland, Wales etc is pronounced with a hard C. Rod is very fond of that football team indeed and was caught shedding a few tears, as he sat in the stand, when they won a big game recently.

        And, just realised I can share something here (as it’s so anonymous) that we’ve not been able to tell many people about at all. As I’ve mentioned over at my place my other half is a sculptor-type and we once got a job from a third party to recreate the World Cup – The fabulous looking trophy presented to the winners of the soccer world championships. Turns out it was for Mr Stewart as he has commissioned copies of all the big football trophies. We didn’t ever deal with him direct but we both put a lot of effort into that piece and nice to think it’s now in his cabinet in LA!

        Like

      • That is a great story about you & your hubby recreating the World Cup for Mr. Stewart. So glad you felt comfortable to share it here.

        I felt the same way about the “I Was Only Joking” video, which I don’t think I had ever seen before. Thank you, internet.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. J.
    July 7, 2017

    I have to admit that I don’t know this one too well. Only a cursory listen and bring more familiar with the singles.

    I’ll need to revisit it.

    Like

    • There are probably several albums that are more essential than this one (especially his work with The Faces and his first several solo albums), but this one is nearly as strong and features some stellar album tracks among the classic singles. Well worth revisiting. I hope you’re pleasantly surprised whenever you do.

      Liked by 1 person

      • J.
        July 8, 2017

        Those first bunch of solo albums are pretty incredible and my fondness of them has often drawn some raised eyebrows. I’ll delve back into this one and see if it strikes me more than it did previously.

        Like

      • Anyone who raises an eyebrow regarding your love of those albums clearly hasn’t given them a proper listen. Much like his pal Elton John, I think Rod Stewart’s less-impressive later work often causes people to forget just how great he used to be, and that greatness can still rear its wonderful head from time to time. Like Jack Black’s character said in High Fidelity: “Is it in fact unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins…is it better to burn out or fade away?”

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      • J.
        July 11, 2017

        Completely agree. I’ll forever push Rod’s early stuff on those who raise an eyebrow. Unfortunately, though, I don’t think there’s any chance of that greatness rearing its head these days.

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      • I always hold out hope that any once-great artist can have a late-career return to greatness, but with Mr. Stewart I know it’s a longshot. I can’t tell you the last album of his I bought. It was probably in the late 80s or early 90s. And the last one I really loved was probably in the early 80s. That was a lifetime ago.

        Like

      • J.
        July 11, 2017

        I think the last one I actually cared much for was Vagabond Heart, but I’m not sure if I just like that because it was the new album at the time I started paying attention to my old man’s claims that Rod was great.

        The ‘hits’ set after that is particularly good (Lead Vocalist) and his Unplugged…and Seated album is probably the last great thing he done.

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      • I think I heard Vagabond Heart once when it was released but it didn’t make much of an impact, so the most recent studio album I have is Out Of Order from 1988. Didn’t realize Unplugged…And Seated came out as late as ’93. I remember liking it a lot but haven’t played it in at least 20 years. I have a feeling I’ll really enjoy it the next time I give it a spin.

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      • J.
        July 14, 2017

        Out of Order! Oooft. I don’t blame you for stopping there! My old man isn’t big on Vagabond Heart, but it was the first I paid attention to. Seems like an awfy long time since I listened to it, though. Most of the time I listen to those first bunch of albums (pretty much the ones with the Faces as his band).

        Like

      • I remember liking Out Of Order at the time. It was very much of-its era, but in that era it sounded great. I’m guessing it hasn’t held up very well, unlike that first batch of albums you mentioned. I recently played the 2-CD anthology of those early years, which was released in the early ’90s, and I was amazed at the consistent quality throughout. Hard to believe he also recorded all those classic Faces albums at the same time.

        Speaking of The Faces, last year I got the vinyl box set of all their albums, but I’ve been in limbo without a stereo since I moved nearly two years ago. In about 4 months my renovations will be done and I’ll have a music room again. Needless to say I’m very excited about giving those LPs a spin.

        Hope you’re having a great weekend.

        Like

      • J.
        July 15, 2017

        Yeah, the quality of those albums really is impressive. His originals are pretty inspired (as are the interpretations of traditionals and Dylan numbers!).

        I can imagine that box will sound pretty incredible. Not just cause they’re bound to have done a great job on the release, but because you’ve had to wait a while to drop the needle!

        Hope you’re weekend has been treating you well!

        Like

      • Oh yeah, the needle drop will be a wonderful thing to return to after 2+ years. I also have a ton of music DVDs & blu-rays that I haven’t been able to enjoy, so my surround sound set-up (which I had at my old house) will also be used a lot.

        Hope you had a great weekend and that the week has gotten off to a good start.

        Liked by 1 person

      • J.
        July 17, 2017

        It was a pretty swell weekend and it’s been as good a start to the week as a Monday can be, Rich.

        Hope your weekend was equally smashing and the week is good to ya!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Phillip Helbig
        July 11, 2017

        “Like Jack Black’s character said in High Fidelity”

        Probably alluding to Neil Young.

        Jack Black was also in School of Rock. There is a scene with the evolution of various musical styles written as a chart on the blackboard. It is visible for just a few seconds, but it gets all the details correct.

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      • He was actually referring to Stevie Wonder in that scene but used the Neil Young lyric to make his point. I love School Of Rock and have seen it more times than I care to admit. That chart on the blackboard was spectacular

        Like

  5. keepsmealive
    July 8, 2017

    I have this LP here, but haven’t spun it in ages. You’ve inspired me to do so! Excellent post too, hard to believe it’s been 40 years…

    Like

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