Waiting For Columbus (reissue) – Little Feat
Rhino Records 78274
Some great artists are long gone by the time they're appreciated.
Fortunately for Little Feat, in recent years, there's been a great boom in
interest in their music, thanks in part to kudos from some luminaries on the
jamband scene and an association with the popular Phil Lesh and Friends. So,
with the recent upswing in the band's standing in the public and critical
eye, what better time than now to re-release Waiting For Columbus,
already regarded as one of the best live albums in the rock canon?
While Little Feat's music may have been an afterthought to most younger
jamband fans, that probably has changed in recent years. moe.'s Rob Derhak
credited late Featster Lowell George as the influence for "Stranger Than
Fiction" in the liner notes of their Tin Cans and Car Tires album. In
1998, Phish broke out its version of the Feat's "Time Loves a Hero" in front
of a packed house in Pittsburgh. Little Feat returned the favor with a
unique cover of Phish's "Sample in A Jar" on their Chinese Work Songs
album (their newest studio work), and the group won over more fans when
guitarist Paul Barrere and Bill Payne became members of Phil Lesh and
Friends for a summer 2000 tour.
One listen to Columbus shows that Feat has been an enormous influence
on the above-mentioned bands and beyond. And the sonic quality of the record
is just breathtaking.
After an a capella "Join the Band" – recorded by Warren Dewey as the
band walked from the dressing room to the stage – George's cowbell intro to
"Fatman in the Bathtub" sounds like it's in your room. It's amazing this was
recorded in 1978. "Fatman" is a soaring funk-rock epic, with airtight vocal
harmonies from Payne, Barrere and George, fabulous guitar interplay between
George and Barrere and crystal clear piano and synthesizer work from Payne.
Payne's "O Atlanta" is one of the two-disc set's highlight, vocally and
musically. The thump-thump rhythm of the chorus combined with the infectious
vocals dare the listener to stay seated, probably just like it did at the
Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC. that night. The hit "Dixie Chicken"
follows with a long, rollicking piano solo by Payne. Interestingly, Payne
says in the new, extended liner notes the solo was originally longer – too
long, he felt – so he edited it. That's too bad. Other highlights on the
first disc are "Tripe Face Boogie" and George's "Mercenary Territory".
Disc two continues with five more tracks from the original release,
including red-hot versions of "A Apolitical Blues" and "Sailin' Shoes", as
well as "Don't Bogart that Joint" (which, in addition to "Fat Man in the
Bathtub" and "Dixie Chicken", was part of the O00 Phil and Friends
Some re-releases are just money-making schemes in which the record label
dresses up the original recording with a handful of throwaway bonus tracks
and photos. Not so with the Columbus reissue. On the second disc,
seven previously unreleased live tracks, including "Skin it Back" are
featured, showing that the Feat could've released a three-LP live set in
1978 without any track suffering as the collection went deeper. Three songs – including another version of "Skin It Back" – finish the album. These
three are outtakes that were previously released on "Hoy Hoy".
While Barrere, George and Payne are still regarded as the primary movers and
shakers behind this classic Feat lineup, drummer Richie Hayward, bassist
Kenny Gradney, percussionist Sam Clayton and the Tower of Power Horn Section
deserve credit for adding some spice to this delectable Southern stew.
It's also worth mentioning the liner notes include the original writings as
well as a brand-new 14-page essay by Bud Scoppa with archival photos. The
real treat of Scoppa's essay, though, are the new interviews with band
members and engineers that now are able to look back at the project with a
more mature and balanced perspective. The insight band members give into the
groups contentious relationship – "We just didn't trust each other," Payne
says about the ensuing successful Waiting For Columbus tour – is
candid, revealing, and compelling to long-time Feat fans as well as the
The same can be said for this re-issue in general. It's a great addition to
the collection of the seasoned Feat fanatic and the perfect jumping-off
point for the unfamiliar. Get this album.