A Timely Reminder What a Great Band Little Feat Was
Little Feat's Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett play Houston's Last Concert Cafe Thursday night.
Photo courtesy of Havin' a Ball Productions
Little Feat: Live in Holland 1976 Eagle Vision (CD/DVD), 54 min., $17.98.
Is there any other band in classic rock who maintained a larger gulf between their studio and live work than Little Feat?
Don't get me wrong, albums like Sailin' Shoes, Dixie Chicken, Feats Don't Fail Me Now and Time Loves a Hero have a lot of quality material from the critically-popular act. But it's no fluke that their most commercially successful record, and the one to have if you only have one, is 1977's double live disc Waiting for Columbus.
Onstage, the sextet's potent gumbo of rock, blues, country and jazz was at its peak simply incendiary and ass-shaking. A tribute to both the skill of the individual players -- singer/guitarists Lowell George and Paul Barrere, keyboardist Billy Payne, bassist Kenny Gradney, and drummer/percussionists Richie Hayward and Sam Clayton -- as well as their cohesiveness as a unit.
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Unfortunately, leader George estrangement from the band and descent into substance abuse would lead to his death in 1979. But this set from the 1976 PinkPop Festival shows the band in its prime with an engaged and commanding George as a bearded, cowboy-hatted ringmaster.
In fact, the difference in both his sound and performance quality between this show and Eagle Vision's previous DVD Skin It Back - from a show just the next year - is telling.
This concert's nine songs include prime takes on "Skin it Back" and "Dixie Chicken," both with Barrere's fiery shredding, while George's own guitar rings powerfully on the heavily-grooving "Tripe Face Boogie." The last including a line paying tribute to the "Houston Welcoming Committee" of groupies who, um, warmly welcome the band on early tours.
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"Cold, Cold, Cold" and "Rock and Roll Doctor," are also standouts, with the band behind the amiable, stage-sharing singer/guitarists working as a combustive unit. The CD features a couple of tunes not on the DVD for some reason, "One Love Stand" and "Oh Atlanta."
Little Feat would eventually reunite in the '80s post-George, and with a fairly stable lineup has produced decent legacy-extending music since then with two other singers.
And while the group has been on indefinite hiatus since the 2010 death of Hayward, Barrere and guitarist Fred Tackett have maintained a schedule as a duo, and play Houston's Last Concert Cafe Thursday night. Payne has guested with jam bands like Leftover Salmon.
But Live in Holland 1976 is another one of those wonderful, unexpected new releases from classic-rock bands from those vast European stage and studio vaults previously available only has bootlegs.
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