Five Essential Boogie-Rock Albums

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Boogie-rock has probably been derided by critics more times than people have torched a doob while listening to BTO. Intellectual types tend to write it off as guys with feathered bangs, mustaches and shirts open to their navel playing songs about cars, girls and partying (and partying in cars with girls), while overlooking the fact that, if done right, boogie-rock can be totally badass.

What else it is, is hard to say. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, "boogie" crept into American English around 1917 (though other estimates have it even earlier) as a word used to describe African-American rent parties. By the late '20s, it was a common term for the largely Texas-bred barrelhouse piano style popularized by Jelly Roll Morton, Pete Johnson and Dave Alexander, and translated to guitar by Blind Lemon Jefferson and Leadbelly.

From there, it was a short hop into R&B - where John Lee Hooker practically made boogie a proper noun - country and rock and roll. One of the prime boogie-rockers of the past 30 years, George Thorogood, stops by House of Blues tonight after a killer show last year. To mark the occasion, Rocks Off put our heads together and made a list of five albums no self-respecting feathered-bang burnout should ever be without. Chris Gray

5. Humble Pie, Performance Rockin' the Fillmore (1971): An often overlooked but essential live album from the classic lineup that included both Steve Marriott and Peter Frampton on vocals and guitars. Long, lengthy jams on "Stone Cold Fever," "Rollin' Stone" and - of course - "I Don't Need No Doctor" make this record great for groovin' or stuffing some choice smoke in a bowl. Bob Ruggiero

4. Cactus, One Way... or Another (1971): Though they never lived up to the hype of "America's Led Zeppelin," Cactus excelled at meat-and-potatoes boogie-rock with the wild vocal stylings of Rusty Day and the feet-movin' rhythm section of Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice (both ex-Vanilla Fudge). "Rock n' Roll Children," "Big Mama Boogie Pt. 1 & 2," and the incredible title track show that this short-lived "supergroup" should be better known. Thanks to a series of Rhino reissues, Cactus has enjoyed something of a renaissance and reappraisal. B.R.

3. Foghat, Fool For the City (1975): Oh hell brother, my favorite boogie-rock album is Foghat's Fool For the City, which makes me wish I could have graduated with my dad that next year so I could have seen these guys with Judas Priest, when they toured together the next year. You can't deny that chugging, raunchy bassline on "Slow Ride," the spookiness of "Terraplane Blues," and the fuck-and-run of the title track. Craig Hlavaty

2. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Second Helping (1974): Yes, it opens with that bit of Top 40 boogie everybody knows and even Neil Young could love, "Sweet Home Alabama," but the best example doesn't come until the end and the Jacksonville boys' freewheeling cover of J.J. Cale's "Call Me the Breeze." In between are "Workin' For MCA," "Don't Ask Me No Questions," and "Swamp Music," as surly as they are cocksure, and "The Needle and the Spoon," the rare boogie-rocker that addresses the downside of all that merry-making. Even Second Helping's non-boogie tracks, "The Ballad of Curtis Loew" and "I Need You," are some of the best country-blues of the '70s. C.G.

1. ZZ Top, Tres Hombres (1973): What makes this the best boogie-rock album of all time? There's the Hooker-biting "La Grange," the song - or at least the riff - that comes to mind when four out of five people think of the word "boogie." But Tres Hombres goes one better still by proving that boogie-rock can be slow and funky ("Waitin' For the Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago," "Sheik") as well as fast and feverish ("Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers," "Master of Sparks"). Other than that... screw you, they're from Texas. C.G.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

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