Little Feat

Little Feat

Warner Brothers Records, 1971

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The first time I ever heard of Little Feat was courtesy of the Van Halen single "Black And Blue", which featured a b-side of the band covering "A Apolitical Blues". (Somewhere, I still have that 45.) Once I discovered which band originally recorded the song, I made the pilgrimage to the used record store to try and locate anything by Little Feat. That day, all they had was their 1971 debut album, but that was fine for me, as I headed home with my new toy.

But when I put the record on my stereo, I quickly snapped back into reality. What the hell was this noise that I was listening to, and why didn't it sound anything like the raucous, raunchy blues that I had heard Van Halen covering? To the shelves of the Pierce Memorial Archive it went, never to be touched again for about 10 years. (I later took another chance with Little Feat, and was pleasantly surprised.)

After about ten years removed from this record, you'd think that my opinion of Little Feat would change. If it has, it hasn't changed much. This record shows little of the brilliance that Lowell George and crew had, and set the pace for the band's career, which would feature many musical highs and lows.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Originally, Little Feat started life as a four-piece, with George on guitar and vocals, Bill Payne on keyboards and vocals, Richie Hayward on drums and former Mothers Of Invention member Roy Estrada on bass. Celebrated guest musicians on Little Feat include appearances by Ry Cooder and Sneaky Pete.

From the sound of the lineup, you'd think that you'd be in for a different sort of musical treat. And, well, it's different, no question about that. I think the first thing that struck me about this album was that the verses often featured lines that didn't rhyme, something that I hadn't grown to appreciate yet. (I was only about 17 when I first bought this album, and my palate still had a long way to go towards maturity.) Today, the lack of rhymes doesn't bother me.

What does bother me about Little Feat is the poor songwriting that abounds throughout the album. The first song that gets my attention doesn't come until well into the first side, with "Truck Stop Girl" - and, unfortunately, it turned out to be the only song I really liked. An early version of "Willing", a song that was to become a Little Feat classic, is heard here, but it sounds rushed and out of focus. George and crew would get it right when they reprised this song one album later, on Sailin' Shoes, providing a more laid-back, harmony vocal-encased version. This one sounds like a half-assed demo.

While I'm not complaining about the overall musicianship of Little Feat, many of the songs sound like demos that were never really meant for public consumption. "Hamburger Midnight" is one such track, a song that could have been turned into a grit-coated classic had there been more work applied on the overall song. Other tracks like "Takin' My Time," "Snakes On Everything," "Crazy Captain Gunboat Willie" and "Strawberry Flats" all just fail to inspire the listener.

Granted, Little Feat is the kind of band that you have to acquire a taste for. But even after a decade of owning Little Feat, I cannot listen to it and begin to find the point which suggests that this band was capable of so much more. Maybe there's a slight hint of it in "Truck Stop Girl," but any hopes one had are quickly squashed like so many bugs on the interstate.

Little Feat is an album that should be approached with extreme caution. If you're a die-hard fan who absolutely has to hear how the band got its start, then pick it up. But if you, like me, wanted to find the inspiration behind the songs, this isn't the place to start, 'cause it may cause you to lose hope of ever picking up the trail.

Rating: D

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.