Brought up in the electric Chicago blues tradition and cutting his teeth in the legendary Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Elvin Bishop was known variously as a blues and/or Southern rock guitarist and writer. But the sultry, aching "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" is pretty much straight R&B, though certainly a plaintive pedal steel guitar and upright piano riffs add a certain country wistfulness.
It always seems odd when the artist whose name is on a record leaves the singing to another; the pop audience is so used to singer/songwriters. In this case, Bishop -- making like Ted Nugent and Jeff Beck -- leaves the lead vocals to Mickey Thomas, later of Jefferson Starship. The song is almost pure chorus, with just a couple of rounds of the heart-wrenching verse during which Thomas sings soulfully in full command of the lyrics, pausing dramatically during "free (beat), on my own/That's how I used to be/But since you left me baby," and then adding an ad-lib falsetto howl for "hold on me" to finish the line like a bluesman (the result more like "ho-oo-woah-old on meeee"). His background training with gospel singer Gideon Daniels clearly paid off. The song fades with Thomas singing a gospel-informed, circular call-and-response with the backing vocal section. It was Daniels who introduced Thomas to Bishop, and it was subsequently the success of "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" that led to the founders of Jefferson Starship to invite him on board.
We also get great behind-the-beat country piano trills from Philip Aaberg and Bishop's dynamic stalwart rhythm section of Michael Brooks on bass and Donny Baldwin, who joined the later incarnation of Starship, on drums. And of course there is Bishop's crunchy and melodic guitar solo, which is tastefully concise for the guy who gets top billing. Interestingly, the guitarist leaves an audible flub in the seventh bar of the solo, an imperfection that seems to have been left in sacrifice of the overall feel; for this, as well as exercising self-control in the era of 20-minute-long solos, he must be commended. Bill Szymzczyk, who produced and/or engineered some great (and not-so-great) blues and classic rock recordings during the '70s, provides a deep, rich sonic tableau that simply is the sound of the summer of 1976 for many who were around then (perhaps even the perfect prom theme for the real geriatrics). Indeed, "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" was used effectively to evoke that era when it was a number three hit in Paul Thomas Anderson's spot-on film Boogie Nights, and it can be found on its Boogie Nights, Vol. 2 soundtrack album.