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Published: 2014/03/18
by Larson Sutton

Little Feat
Rad Gumbo: The Complete Warner Bros. Years 1971-1990


The first and, for some, the only question of those interested in Little Feat’s Rad Gumbo, the box set of all 11 albums the band issued on Warner Bros., plus a bonus disc of outtakes, is whether or not these discs sound different from the CDs of the same material that have been previously released. The answer, at least anecdotally, is yes, these new editions appear to have benefitted from a boost in volume, and subsequently seem brighter sonically than their counterparts. This is not to say they have been remastered, as Rhino has made no such formal announcement, but these are not simply reissues of the old lot.

Packaged beautifully in a clamshell case, the collection does its part to recreate the glory of their vinyl debuts, all of which featured the surreal cover art imaginings of Neon Park, a mark the band became known for, as well as the restoring the center labels and the back covers of the original LPs. The only hindrance with this otherwise touching choice is that the text and graphics on many of the backsides were intended for a much larger output, that of a 12” album sleeve, and here it is sometimes difficult to decipher them at a third the size. No matter, it’s the music that really counts and most Feat fans would agree the Warner Bros. years were the group’s strongest, particularly the era of nine albums in ten years featuring founder Lowell George. To that end, these discs are delightful reminders of how fantastic Little Feat was throughout that period, as well as fantastically underappreciated commercially despite the praise from so many of its peers like Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.

The most complete summary of Little Feat’s heyday ever assembled, the set, while not offering anything that hasn’t been heard before, delivers the Southern California favorites with renewed clarity. Furthermore, with fresh hindsight on the stories behind the creation of these albums provided by Willin’, the band’s recent biography, there seems no better time to revisit this part of Little Feat’s 45- year history than now, and no better place to start than with Rad Gumbo.

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