Review: “Join The Band,” Little Feat

If you don’t know Little Feat, you don’t know jack.  All but forgotten in the increasingly moldy museum of Classic Rock Radio and seemingly remembered only by hardcore old-timers, Little Feat was arguably the best band of the 1970s.  In an era when artists aggressively pigeonholed and categorized themselves (Led Zeppelin = Hard Rock; Journey = Arena Rock, etc.) Little Feat staunchly maintained their outsider status throughout the peak of their run.

That run was, of course, the years that the band was led by the brilliant Lowell George.  A great songwriter, singer and (maybe) guitar player as well as a hopeless junkie who flamed out and finally died in 1979, Lowell George was the cracked heart and soul of Little Feat.  The best albums he made with the Feat – Sailin’ Shoes (1972), Dixie Chicken (1973) and Feats Don’t Fail Me Now (1974) – are essential additions to any rock library.

That said, Lowell George and the fabled Little Feat of the 1970s deserve a better epitaph than Join The Band, an all-star cash-in from current band members and a buttload of guests.  Forty years down the road, Billy Payne (piano), Paul Barrere (guitar), Richie Hayward (drums), Kenny Gradney (bass) throw this little party by inviting people like Bob Seger, Emmylou Harris, Dave Matthews, Jimmy Buffett and others to sit in some of their classic songs and a few head-scratchers.

And what a bummer this particular party turns out to be – Emmylou Harris’ turn on “Sailin’ Shoes” and Seger’s husky-voiced version of “Something In The Water” are highlights, but the rest of the album just manages to be mildly interesting at best.  Versions of “The Weight” (from the Band) and “This Land Is Your Land” (Pete Seeger) try to push this project toward some relevancy but even that fails – maybe they need some brighter “stars” than Bela Fleck and Mike Gordon.

If you want to explore the Little Feat legacy, look up the classic albums named in the second paragraph above.  Then you should seek out Live From The North Cafe, an all-acoustic live set from Barrere and Feat collaborator Fred Tackett.  This 2001 concert is way more successful in reinterpreting those Feat classics, showing how sturdy they are after all these years.  This CD can be easily unearthed in the cutout bins or at Relix Records.

So along with the obligatory sample from Join The Band, we give you a taste of North Cafe, and toss in the classic “Fat Man In The Bathtub” from Dixie Chicken.

MP3: “Something In The Water” by Little Feat with Bob Seger

MP3: “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” (live) by Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett

MP3: “Fat Man In The Bathtub” by Little Feat (1973)

Little Feat official website

Bonus: YouTube performance of Little Feat with Lowell George, doing the classic “Dixie Chicken” in 1977.

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