Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., July 4, 2014
Little FeatRad Gumbo: The Complete Warner Bros. Years 1971-1990 (Rhino)
"Texas Twister," all right. For a band born in Hollywood, a Texas-sized portion of the Lone Star state spices this Rad Gumbo, beginning with co-founder Bill Payne's origins in Waco. Arcing from the second song on its eponymous, 1971 debut, "Strawberry Flats" (fleeing Waco satellite Moody) to the aforementioned opener of 12th and final Warner Bros. album Representing the Mambo, whose "Those Feat'll Steer Ya Wrong Sometimes" name checks Austin, Little Feat might as well be Texan. Native Tinseltowner Lowell George apprenticed in Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention (Weasels Ripped My Flesh), then hauled his drawling "Truckstop Girl" and "Willin'" rock & roll ways ("weed, whites, and wine") south into Allman Brothers' territory with his slide guitar and Ry Cooder's on Little Feat. Follow-up Sailin' Shoes recuts the latter ode to "Dallas Alice," rides on out to the "Texas Rose Cafe" ("love to be found in Austin town"), and spanks a "Teenage Nervous Breakdown." Uncontested masterpiece Dixie Chicken (1973) revamped the foot patrol with guitarist Paul Barrere, bassist Kenny Gradney, and percussionist Sam Clayton, still the core of Little Feat. George's shooting star decade of genius (including production of the Grateful Dead's Shakedown Street) peaks on the rich, New Orleans mojo of Dixie Chicken, whose silky guitar leads, river deep rhythms, and soul sister harmonies aspire to the great Allen Toussaint's famed Southern Nights via midnight soaks "Roll Um Easy" and "Fat Man in the Bathtub." Follow-up Feats Don't Fail Me Now arrived as a group effort, with successive works The Last Record Album and Times Loves a Hero (featuring Terry Allen cover "New Delhi Freight Train") delving into electric piano noodling as George recedes until a fatal heart attack in 1979 at the age of 34. That he and that iteration of Little Feat left behind one of era's best live documents on 1978 double disc Waiting for Columbus remains all the tribute necessary. Rad Gumbo: The Complete Warner Bros. Years 1971-1990, 11 albums and a demo/outtakes disc on 13 CDs, also counts posthumous George LP Down on the Farm, scraps collections Hoy-Hoy!, and 80 minutes of Outtakes From Hotcakes, which rival its 4-CD mothership, 2000 box set Hotcakes & Outtakes: 30 Years of Little Feat. The band's rebirth with Pure Prairie League singer Craig Fuller on Let It Roll ("Hate to Lose Your Lovin'") and Representing the Mambo then buoys the backside. In 2012, Rooster Rag teamed Dead/Dylan lyricist Robert Hunter with the group's first new material in nine years, lithe and ample proof that Little Feat still boots, scoots, and boogies with the best of the old gods.