Now this is a very interesting reissue, and one which is in some ways a contradiction in terms. Little Feat, as everyone surely knows, originally split at the end of the 1970s when their leader, founder and general talisman Lowell George died unexpectedly. They reconvened a few days later with reasonable if not spectacular success, and this particular album dates from 1995, being particularly notable notable for being their first with a female lead vocalist, with previous guest singer Shaun Murphy stepping into the full-time frontwoman role following the departure of Craig Fuller. From this, you would expect the verdict of any given review to be along the lines of ‘okay, but not to be compared with the golden era of the ‘70s with Lowell George’. And that’s quite right, yet conversely it is also wrong, depending on the listener.
Allow me to illustrate this using another example. I am what one might call a casual fan of Little Feat, in that I enjoy their music, and believe albums such as the live Waiting For Columbus to be exceptional. However, I don’t own all of their material and there are many of their tracks I couldn’t pick out of a line-up. Thus, my experience of this album will be very different to an aficionado. Now, take Black Sabbath as an example: someone who is a hardcore fan might listen to an album from the Tony Martin years of the ‘80s and ‘90s and come away dissatisfied, missing the jazzy swing of Bill Ward’s drumming, the inventive basslines of Geezer Butler and the often unexpected vocal melodies that Ozzy would come up with. On the other hand, someone who owns a couple of compilations and perhaps Paranoid would in all likelihood listen to the same album, hear Tony Iommi’s imperious riffs, some powerful drumming and some good singing and pronounce it to be top class heavy metal cut from the same cloth.
Thus it is with this album. I can’t speak for the particular rhythmic intricacies and indefinable groove of the classic era, because I don’t know it that deeply. What I can say it that this record is a very well executed blues-rock album chock full of good songs and great playing. I don’t find myself frustrated looking for things I don’t really miss. And while that obviously makes my opinion less informed, it also makes it a useful viewpoint for large numbers of people in a similar bracket to myself. This is a good album, in fact a very good album. No, it was never going to become another revered Feats Don’t Fail Me Now or Dixie Chicken, but the band knew that full well when they were making it. What they did was to make the best Little Feat album they could, and for that this does its job splendidly.
Shaun Murphy is actually a great fit for the band. Possessed of a great, powerful and expressive bluesy voice, very similar to, say, Deborah Bonham, she fits in like a glove and gives tracks such as Romance Without Finance and Drivin’ Blind a real swagger. Admittedly there is a quality about prime Feat records which could give the whole album an infectious groove which would creep up on you over the course of the whole thing, and this doesn’t quite have that uniform whole. On the other hand, I often struggle to pick out individual highlights from those early records, and this one has definite peaks.
They ain’t had enough fun at this time. Join them and have some more.