By Phil Santala
Little Feat is the best band you have heard, but don't know. For a group that has produced hits that have been pounded into our ears both by classic rock stations and a plethora of jambands, Little Feat seems to go relatively un-noticed. That's nothing new to this group of rockers, who consistently produce great hits you listen to, but have never heard. Since Little Feat's inception as a band in 1971, they have been cursed as a consistently under-rated band. Their album Dixie Chicken (1973) was horribly unsuccessful, and the title cut was later listed in Rock and Roll's "500 songs that shaped rock and roll."
But enough about history, at least the written kind. After all it is Rhino's release of The Best of Little Feat that has my shoes sailing right now. Rhino, the same company that recently took control of the Grateful Dead's enormous vault, does a good job with the material. The liner notes are informative and expansive. And the tracks selected are representative of the band as a whole, with tracks coming from releases from 1971 through 1998.
The familiar rocking stylings of the band are here, including "Dixie Chicken," "Fat Man in the Bathtub," and "Down on the Farm," to name a few. The album has slow ballads like "Willin'" (the song that got founding member Lowell George ousted from Frank Zappa's band) and "Roll Um Easy." Also live cuts off the commercial success Waiting for Columbus (1979) include "All That You Dream" and "Oh Atlanta."
The curse of any "Best of" album is here. Track cuts often seem short, especially the two live cuts, both of which clock in at around four-and-a-half minuets each - even shorter when compared to some of the more expansive live cuts off of both Waiting for Columbus and Live at the Ram's Head. Noticeably absent from this release are the Little Feat tunes "Sailin' Shoes," "Spanish Moon," and the prophetic "Calling the Children Home." Perhaps those songs are being held back for a second greatest hits release.
Some hardcore fans of Little Feat may be apt to turn their noses up at this release, despite the fact that Rhino has done a good job of representing all the Little Feat eras. Songs from before and after the passing of founder Lowell George and the subsequent 9 year hiatus are here. This album is a solid purchase for those looking to expand the Little Feat base without purchasing the four, or so, albums it would take to do so. While you're at it, go and check out a live show. After all, it's not that often that inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame play a show at your local theater for 30 dollars a ticket.
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