Little Feat will be the subject of a series of posts, where I ramble on about the remarkable and often criminally overlooked (partial) discography of what most of the relative few who are already acquainted consider one of the very best bands of the 1970s. So says Jimmy Page!
Lowell George was fired from Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention in 1970, allegedly for writing a song which referenced ”the recreational use of certain stimulants.” “and if you give me weed, whites, and wine”, I’ll be willin”.
Clearly Mr. Zappa could not handle this intolerably sleazy slide guitarist in the incredibly efficient workforce that was the Mothers, so Lowell skedaddled, followed by fellow Zapp-ite Roy Estrada. Add keyboardist Bill Payne and drummer Ritchie Hayward, and the initial iteration of Little Feat is formed.
The LP kicks off with the Southern-fried Snakes on Everything, reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd and other Southern rock groups of the era, but is also one of the earliest showcases of the Feat’s style of songwriting, melding, as Robert Christgau put it in his capsule review of Steely Dan’s Can’t Buy a Thrill, “chord changes that defy our primitive subconscious expectations” and (unique to the early albums) a loose style of instrumentation. The sense of urgency makes me think of George playing slide guitar while hopping barefoot on the red-hot California sand of the album cover. Rarely performed live, like many songs on their debut, it’s a fantastic rocker, an ideal kick-off. Continuing this thread of molten roots rock is Strawberry Flats, a paranoid, desperate track chronicling a man’s quest to find a place to lay his head, following repeated refusal from uptight friends, (“Not in our house, nope!”). Is it autobiographical? Who knows? One of the most enjoyable tracks on the album. Echoes of this track are heard on Crack in Your Door, and the piano-led I’ve Been the One, the most country-influenced song on the record, (the band must have taken couple of pages out of the Flying Burrito book, and in fact ”Sneaky Pete” Kleinow, previously of the brothers plays slide on the track). The weakest point on this brilliant album, for me, is Fourty Four Blues, which is coupled with another Blues standard, How Many More Years. This debut album is to be commended as it’s led by predominantly original material, unlike many debuts of the 70s, and this track serves not as filler, but as an insight into the band’s roots. Still, it takes its time, and although it’s thoroughly entertaining to hear Lowell George sing like a pre-pubescent Howlin’ Wolf, it’s not needed. This is a band who had already found their feat. Ha!
Choice Cut – Crack in Your Door
Best line: “Just give me a hole to recline in.”
9 Truck Stop Girls out of 10,
– Underrated Gem