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Little Feat: Live in Holland 1976

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Little Feat
Live in Holland 1976
Eagle Vision

A band that has suffered more than its share of losses over the years—most significantly, group cofounder/primary singer/songwriter Lowell George, when he died of a heart attack in 1979 at the age of 34, but also the more recent passing of drummer Richie Hayward in 2010 at the age of 64, who joined the band for its second recording, Sailin' Shoes (Warner Bros., 1973) and became its hard-grooving heartbeat right through to Join the Band (429 Records, 2008)—it's almost impossible to believe that Little Feat is getting ready to celebrate its 45th anniversary in 2015.

With keyboardist Bill Payne the only remaining member of the group he co-founded with George at the start of the 1970s, Little Feat released its first, eponymous album in 1971 on Warner Bros., which would serve as the group's label through to 1990's Representing the Mambo. But it was only with a significantly revamped lineup and the broadening stylistic purview of 1973's Dixie Chicken that the group began to garner popular acclaim that matched the critical acclaim met by its first two recordings. In addition to recruiting bassist Kenny Gradney—a perfect match for Hayward—and percussionist Sam Clayton, Dixie Chicken also fleshed out the front line with the significant addition of Paul Barrere, the guitarist/vocalist who, despite being born in Burbank, California, brought a stronger New Orleans vibe to the band compositionally, and was the final piece in the puzzle that grew the band from a quartet into a sextet.

It was a winning combination—for awhile, at least, until George began feeling pushed out of his own band compositionally, as Payne and Barrere began to assert a greater interest in jazz fusion that peaked with the release of Time Loves a Hero in 1977. It ultimately led to George disbanding the group after the release of what would become its biggest seller yet, the exhilarating Waiting for Columbus (1978), an album that, with the group expanded even further by the addition of the Tower of Power horns, was a live album on paper only, as George needed to overdub many of his guitar and vocal parts in post-production—the consequence, no doubt, of failing health due to a confluence of circumstances...all bad.

While George had expressed plans, days before his death, to reunite Little Feat without Barrere and Payne, the irony is that, with his passing while on tour to support his first solo album, 1979's Thanks, I'll Eat It Here (Warner Bros.), it was ultimately Payne, Barrere and Hayward who instigated the reformation of the group for 1987's Let It Roll—with Pure Prairie League singer/occasional guitarist Craig Fuller occupying the general space George left vocally when he died and, with guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Fred Tackett added to once again flesh out the front line, turning Little Feat into a septet. Still, that's another story for another day, as the group has continued to record and tour, with Shaun Murphy replacing Fuller in 1993 until her departure in 2009, when the group decided to continue on in the sextet format of its earlier days.

Recent years have seen the release of archival George-era Little Feat footage both on CD and DVD, including 2012's Leftfield Media find from a 1973 radio performance, American Cutie; 2013's release of a 1975 radio broadcast as Hellzapoppin' (All Access); and now, Live in Holland 1976, a CD/DVD combo from Eagle Vision that documents an open air performance at Holland's Pinkpop festival in June, 1976.

If it's a relatively short set—the CD's 63-minute set trimmed down, for reasons unknown, to a 54-minute performance on DVD—it's still a valuable one, catching the group delivering a set of material going as far back as Sailin' Shoes for an incendiary set-closer, "Teenage Nervous Breakdown," in addition to the greasy vibe of "Cold Cold Cold" and more eminently rocking "Tripe Face Boogie"—the latter two songs later revisited as a medley on the group's 1974 studio recording Feats Don't Fail Me Now, from which the buoyant title track is also culled.

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