Toe Fat

Toe Fat

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The late-'60s success of heavy-handed acts like Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Led Zeppelin instigated many British musicians -- young and old -- to grow their hair and start hard rock bands, and London's oddly named Toe Fat were no exception. Formed in June 1969 by veteran singer Cliff Bennett (ex-Rebel Rousers) with multi-talented guitarist and keyboard player Ken Hensley, bassist John Glascock, and drummer Lee Kerslake (all of them ex-Gods), Toe Fat quickly parlayed their respectable résumés into a deal with Parlophone in the U.K. and Rare Earth in the U.S. But their eponymous first album didn't pack nearly as much bombast as the musical titans named above, sounding more like contemporaries Savoy Brown, Status Quo, or Humble Pie (at about 75 percent of Steve Marriott's intensity). If anything, the group's typically midpaced, R&B-steeped fare owed as much to the on-the-wane British blues boom as anything hot and heavy; although at their best, memorable cuts like "That's My Love for You," "But I'm Wrong," "Working Nights," and the driving "You Tried to Take It All" cast out great hooks to match the band's top-notch musicianship and Bennett's emotionally soulful voice. Some controversy remains as to who really played on the record, but if Hensley was truly the man, as credited, he really takes over on "Nobody" (boasting wildly distorted fuzz guitars and extended soloing) and "I Can't Believe" (featuring more forceful guitar work and just as many keyboards), then strums along in suitably controlled fashion on the acoustic-laced "The Wherefors and the Whys." Speaking of dubious performances, largely forgotten Ian Anderson doppelgänger Mox was brought in to add flute to "Just Like All the Rest," which only serves to bring about inevitable Jethro Tull comparisons. But the album's two covers fare quite well, with "Just Like Me" delivering a punchy update on the standard popularized by the Coasters and Hollies, while the album's tough-rocking first single, "Bad Side of the Moon," was actually written by none other than the emerging Elton John/Bernie Taupin team (and would also be covered by Canadians April Wine a short time later). Unfortunately, although it met with widespread critical kudos, Toe Fat's debut was a resounding commercial flop, and may now be best remembered because of its curious, Hipgnosis-designed cover art, featuring toe-headed people lounging on a beach. The group would persist through one more album, but with Hensley and Kerslake already gone to form Uriah Heep (they had left even before Toe Fat's first American tour in support of Derek & the Dominos), that album's greater stylistic inconsistency did the band no favors.

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