The Best Of Little Feat

Little Feat

It is with some surprise that we, at Vintage Rock, recently received a copy of The Best Of Little Feat from Rhino Records. Surprising, not because of the contents of the disc; Little Feat were one of the most creative forces in 70s rock, often soaring to the rarified air occupied by the likes of Frank Zappa, The Band, and Captain Beefheart. The surprise, as it was, was that it took this long for somebody to finally get around to cataloging the most popular material from the group.

Little Feat were formed in Los Angeles in 1970 when, after a brief stint with Zappa, the young singer/guitarist Lowell George grouped with Zappa bassist Roy Estrada, vocalist/keyboardist Bill Payne, and Drummer Richie Hayward. The eclectic group combined the off-beat approach of Zappa and the Mothers infused with blues, R&B, and country sounds. This collection covers material from the group's 16 studio releases and represents the band in all of its assorted incarnations: The original lineup, the revamped Dixie Chicken-era group (featuring the addition of Delaney and Bonnie's Kenny Gradney and Sam Clayton on bass and percussion and rhythm guitarist Paul Barrere), and the ensemble that regrouped in 1988 — nine years after Lowell George's untimely death.

While the success of Little Feat has always more aptly measured in critical acclaim than with commercial success, they did see their two most influential records — 1973's Dixie Chicken and the outstanding 1978 live recording, Waiting For Columbus — score more than just praise. Each of those records stand among the best of the decade and six of the 17 tracks in this collection come from those recordings, including the 'Feat staples "Dixie Chicken," "Roll 'Um Easy," "Fat Man In The Bathtub," and the sizzling "Oh, Atlanta."

The inclusion of tracks like "Cold, Cold, Cold," "Tripe Face Boogie," and "Willin'" (a song considered by Frank Zappa to be too prurient to include with his own material) — all from the band's second release, Sailing Shoes — boldly display the idiosyncratic and imaginative writing style of Lowell George. He was the driving force behind the group throughout the 70s.

After informal jams in the late 80s, the surviving members of the group reunited and continue to write and display the tight arrangements and superior musicianship that defined their Lowell-era work. This collection includes four tracks from the six recordings they've released since rejoining, including the title track to their comeback release Let It Roll and the moderate hit "Rad Gumbo" from their underrated 1990 follow-up Representing The Mambo. All in all, it's great to see an influential group such as Little Feat finally getting the treatment they deserve. The release of The Best Of Little Feat represents a nice introduction and summary of the band's body of work. It may have taken 36 years for it to arrive, but the end result appears to have been worth the wait.

~ Andrew Todd

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