Thursday, July 17, 2008

CD: Little Feat - Join The Band

Just bought the latest release of one of my favourite bands, Little Feat. Little Feat used to be fronted by Lowell George, singer, song-writer and slide guitarist extraordinaire. Lowell passed away in the 70's, but Little Feat seems still able to come out with good records. Maybe because the Feats are a collection of great musicians with a diverse taste in music.

Anyway, this is a special recording. The Feat's has invited guest musicians to "join the band" and re-record some of their greatest hits. How bad can that be, considering the back catalogue of this band? Well, I would love to say that it's all great, but it isn't. Right of the bat, there are two bad signals just reading through the cover: 1. The choice of artists and 2. the song selection. The artists on this album vary a lot in quality: Sonny Landreth, the slide wizard, is a great and obvious choice. Jimmy Buffett (the American equivalent of Ole Ivars) is not.

And the song selection, yes, many of their old classics are there, but with the body of work Little Feat has, why on earth do they include covers like This Land is Your Land, See You Later Alligator and The Weight? Not that that's bad songs, but they have no connection to Little Feat or that guest artists. And there are so many original Feat songs that are missing from the CD that could have been recorded rather then some overplayed covers. Where are Apolitical Blues, Roll Um Easy, Two Trains, Cold, Cold, Cold, Feats Don't Fail Me Now and Easy To Slip? The list goes on and on.

The Feat's has rerecorded the classics with "a new take". But unfortunately, in almost every case "new take" means slowing down the tune. Which is a good way of doing a different version of a song, but it starts getting a bit predictable after a while. And not every song gets better just buy slowing it down.

This starts to look like a really bad review, but the CD is not that bad. Most of the songs are OK-ish, but Dave Matthews and Sonny Landreth do Fat Man In The Bathtub justice, and Lowell George's daughter Inara, does a really great, low-key version of Trouble, which is the only song that eclipses or surpasses the original.

7 comments:

Wilhelm said...

Dagnabit!

No love for Jimmy Buffett?

Personally, I can't really envision a scenario in which the presence of Dave Matthews does anything to enhance the music on this album either.

Isn't this more or less exhibit A or "shoo-in musical experiments gone wring" though? If ya like the songs, and the band who wrote the songs participates, and said band decides who participates (within certain limits) and has a say in the final product; how can it be wrong?

Anders said...

No love for Jimmy Buffett?

Sorry, no love for the Buff. But you seem to have a passionate relationship with the man?

Personally, I can't really envision a scenario in which the presence of Dave Matthews does anything to enhance the music on this album either.

Well, he didn't manage to ruin the song. That's more then you could expext from mr. Matthews. Only good thing he's every done, is signing Chris Whitley to his label.

If ya like the songs, and the band who wrote the songs participates, and said band decides who participates (within certain limits) and has a say in the final product; how can it be wrong?

Jimmy Buffett is always wrong. I can think of a single question where Jimmy Buffett is the right answer.

Wilhelm said...

No particular love for J to da B

Anders said...

No particular love for J to da B

No shelter for Mr. Buffett in your elevator?
:-D

Wilhelm said...

..nope.....dude can go back to his double-wide somewhere in Bumf*ck, Missouri for all I care

Scott Hays said...

A little history might help out with this one ...

Jimmy Buffett did an album not too long ago ("License to Chill") that featured a slew of country singers, and gave his always successful career a broad-exposure shot-in-the-arm. He asked Billy Payne, one of the greatest piano players in the world, to help him out with that project. During recording, Jimmy suggested that a similar project might work to the advantage of Little Feat (Payne's band). That was over two years ago. Artists fell all over themselves to be a part of the project, and in February of 2007, about 350 Little Feat fans heard the rough cut of that effort during the annual FeatFan Excursion to Grand Lido Negril, in Jamaica. From that moment on, Feat, Buffett, and the artists involved (some of whom do not appear on the final version) have been "discussing" contractual things at the gut-check level. Little Feat also found new management in the same period, which changed many wrinkles in the project (not the vision ... just the final details). Buffett produced the album, and a good part of his band plays on many of the songs. To top it off, "Champion of the World", a duet performed with Paul Barrere, is one of the tender and truly wonderful ballads on this album. Buffett adds a great touch to it (though if you don't like Buffett, nothing I say about how good the song is will probably change your mind). The version of Spanish Moon on this album ... featuring Sam Clayton and Craig Fuller on vocals (both die-hard core members of the Little Feat family) and Shaun Murphy adding just the right harmonies as background, will knock your socks off! Little Feat plays with so many artists and so many artists cross-pollinate Little Feat that one needs to hear these versions just to get a sense of what the band is up to these days.

Holger said...

What is the sense of our life on earth? I'm convinced its steady learning, changing and going straight ahead.

In this sense I see and listen to Little Feat today and their new release Join The Band. They do it the same way like my firm conviction.

Lowell George was a brilliant guitarist, excellent songwriter and producer. But he's gone and Little Feat was always A BAND of individualists, never Lowell and Little Feat.

For me the new the CD comes along in a similar way like older 70s releases for ex. Last Record Album or Time Loves A Hero, which needed its time to grow in ears and mind.
And its hard to put Little Feat recordings into a category, so as well with this new release.

Its an excellent recording. Some different and outstanding arrangements like in the groovy Fat Man are such a treat after listening more and more. Or for ex.
Something In The Water comes along with such a power, not to speak of
Sailin' Shoes and so on.

Unusual at first there are let say foreign voices on the old songs, while we fans are used
to hear our band singing, but if you listen to Jimmy Buffet, Emmylou Harris
or/and others, the songs are like a fine dinner delivered with a new
taste.

So why shouldn't we go on with Little Feat to new horizons on their further way!?!


Little Feat still learns and changes and goes straight ahead. They do a great and fine step on their way into the
future with Join The Band.