LIVE from Your Speakers: Little Feat, WAITING FOR COLUMBUS

Thursday, March 7, 2019

For a while in the '70s, everybody seemed to want to be Little Feat. Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Robert Palmer (who enrolled members of the band to back him on his first solo records) .. heck, even the Grateful Dead (who hired Feat guitarist and singer Lowell George to produce their SHAKEDOWN STREET album) wanted to be Little Feat, or at least Feat-like. Featy. Featish.


Toward the end of the decade, Little Feat themselves didn't seem to know what they were – a jazzy, countryish blues band; a countryish, bluesy jazz band; or just a bunch of rock 'n' roll lifers. Fortunately, thanks to 1978's classic live album WAITING FOR COLUMBUS, there exists proof that they were all those things, and more. Recorded at two multiple-show stands in London and Washington, DC, in August of '77, COLUMBUS finds the band in top form, armed with some of the hands-down coolest tunes you could want to hear in any setting.


If being told such a thing isn't sufficient proof, drop the needle on Side One, sit back and behold the back-to-back (to-back-to-back) salvo of "Fat Man in the Bathtub,""All That You Dream," "Oh Atlanta" and "Old Folks' Boogie." In four songs, you have a distillation of everything that's cool about Little Feat – Bill Payne's barrelhouse boogie, Paul Barrere's jazzy funk and Lowell George's smooth blues, not to mention a kickin' rhythm section and guest shots from the Tower of Power horns. If you score the deluxe CD reissue (or stream the album on your favorite service), the next thing you hear is a nine-minute "Dixie Chicken" (part of a resequencing to better reflect the actual order in which the songs were played). Nine minutes – enough for the song and three segments of jamming that just make the whole enterprise that much better.


And if that doesn't make your barbeque hotter, there's still a crackin' "Mercenary Territory," where the horn section fills very space in the action with soul; a "Tripe Face Boogie" that sends its heavy synthesizer skittering off around the room; there's even a guest shot from Mick Taylor – a Rolling Stone, for cryin' out loud – on "A Apolitical Blues." Every time you think you've had enough coolness, there's more around the corner.


The original vinyl is great, but you need to experience the reissue – there is so much more material, so much more Feat to love. Regardless of format, though, WAITING FOR COLUMBUS is among the finest live albums of the '70s, proving Little Feat to be among the finest bands of the time. Who wouldn't want to be that band?


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