Little Feat: Chinese Work Songs (2003)
Feats Don't Fail Me Now. I am a druggist by trade and in my studies I was required to take classes in organic chemistry, which when I took the courses prior to pharmacy school, never made a bit of sense to me. However, when I had to take medicinal organic chemistry the synthesis of medications, in applicationorganic chemistry made perfect sense to me. Likewise is my relationship with the music of Little Feat. Prior to 1978, I had bought several Little Feat recordings ( Dixie chicken, Feats don't Fail Me Now, etc.) never really getting what the music was all about. That was of course until late 1978 when the live Waiting for Columbus was released. From the opening Richie Hayward shuffle of "Fatman in the Bathtub" I understood all of Feat's studio music perfectly. I count Waiting for Columbus as my favorite recording of all (6,000) I have owned.
Waiting for Columbus is as fine a recording as it is because it is the finest hour of Lowell George, the erstwhile founder of Little Feat and slide guitarist wunderkind. He infused this band's music with intelligence and tension little found in popular music. On July 29, 1979, my concept of Little Feat was to change with the premature death of George following a Washington, D.C. concert. The band fell apart to reform some ten years later with Pure Prairie League's Craig Fuller in the lead singer roll. When Little Feat's first discs sans Lowell George were released, I was disappointed, until I changed my attitude and began to appreciate the roles Paul Barrere, Bill Payne, and the reminder of the band have played. This is a studio musician-sideman band. The sum of all parts of cannot help but be very fine, and for the most part, all of their recordings after George have been very fine also.
Enter Chinese Work Songs. One difference between Chinese Work Songs and the previous Little Feat offerings is the inclusion of covers. This new disc opens with a scorching cover of The Band's "Rag Mama Rag", a rendition so comfortable that it could have been written by Little Feat. Barrere and Murphy sing this song with the same happy abandon as Levon Helm, Rick Danko, and Richard Manuel on Rock of Ages. There are a couple of other covers, one "Gimme a Stone" that is sung by Richie Hayward. What a ride! All of the Feat-composed songs are vintage post-George Feat (nothing to be afraid of!). There is plenty of that Paul Barrere swampy slide guitar and Bill Payne provides some super honky-tonk piano (check out the only extended solo of Rag Mama Rag. Other critics have already been saying it, and it is true. This is the best Feat release of recent memory.
Track Listing: Rag Mama Rag; Eula; Bed Of Roses; Sample In A Jar; Just Another Sunday; Gimme A Stone; Rio Esperanza; Tattoo Heart; Marginal Creatures; Chinese Work Songs; It Take A Lot To Laugh. (Total Time: 61:30)
Personnel: Paul Barrere: Guitar, Vocals; Sam Clayton; Percussion, Vocals; Kenny Gradney: Bass, Vocals; Shaun Murphy: Percussion, Vocals; Bill Payne: Keyboards; Fred Tackett: Guitar, Vocals.
Style: Fringes of Jazz