Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Little Feat

  • Little Feat [Warner Bros., 1970] B
  • Sailin' Shoes [Warner Bros., 1972] B+
  • Dixie Chicken [Warner Bros., 1973] B+
  • Feats Don't Fail Me Now [Warner Bros., 1974] B
  • The Last Record Album [Warner Bros., 1975] B-
  • Time Loves a Hero [Warner Bros., 1977] B
  • Down on the Farm [Warner Bros., 1979] C+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Little Feat [Warner Bros., 1970]
Lots of "tight" groups are influenced by the Band these days, but these guys could almost pass for them. The sensibility is freakier ("Strawberry Flats" is a weary state-of-the-counterculture song, like Mother Earth's "Then I'll Be Moving On"), and there are shades of the country Stones ("Truck Stop Girl" is a more empathetic "Dead Flowers") as well as a convincing Howlin' Wolf imitation. But the dark instrumental interweave and pained vocals are right off Music From Big Pink. And I've always admired that album from a distance. B

Sailin' Shoes [Warner Bros., 1972]
The first song on side one is about memory loss through marijuana, the first song on side two about cocaine cruising. I mention this because there must be some reason why this substantial but quite mortal American-mythos band hasn't changed my life when they inspire so many others to John-the-Baptist imitations, and dope may be it. They get over on "Teenage Nervous Breakdown," which lives up to my odd belief that rock and roll ought to be fast. Favorite line: "I'm gonna boogie my scruples away." B+

Dixie Chicken [Warner Bros., 1973]
The problem with Lowell George isn't so much that he doesn't write good songs as that he doesn't write great ones. He's immersed in blues--it's his idiom. But his own boast to the contrary, "eloquent profanity" doesn't come easy to him, and it should--in a real blues artist, the secret of a simple trope like "Two Trains" is that it seems spontaneous and conventional both at once, while George's clenched throat and staggering slide bear witness to his creative effort. None of which is to say that these aren't good songs--when George finds the right trope (or when Bill Payne finds a piano part like the one that hooks the title cut) the strain is part of the fun. B+

Feats Don't Fail Me Now [Warner Bros., 1974]
So immersed are they in boogie tradition that they wrote a bunch of touring songs while breaking up. Good ones, of course, but I expect more of the thinking man's bar band than rock and roll doctors, American cities, and the lure of the road. Extra added distraction: a remake of "Tripe Face Boogie" designed for Sam Clayton's pulsating congas and Bill Payne's distended organ. B

The Last Record Album [Warner Bros., 1975]
It's no surprise that as they run out of things to say--all this adds to our insight into interpersonals is a few turns of phrase--they figure out artier ways of saying them. In fact, it's a bore. I'd recommend "Long Distance Love" to Wilson Pickett, though. B-

Time Loves a Hero [Warner Bros., 1977]
Okay, so they're not a rock band or even a boogie band anymore--they're a funk band, praising the gods of rhythm for their black bassist and conga player. But neither Ken Gradney nor Sam Clayton could make the grade in P-Funk or the Crusaders or the Meters, and that's not even mentioning Bill Payne's synthesizers, which recall bad Rufus. And they still go through the motions of writing songs, the wordy kind that get in the way of the beat. In the end, though, that's what saves this--"Old Folks Boogie" beats anything on the last two albums, "Time Loves a Hero" tries, and "Rocket in My Pocket" is a Lowell George readymade like you didn't think he had in him anymore. B

Down on the Farm [Warner Bros., 1979]
Not a bad Doobie Brothers parody, but the harmonies were better last time and the laugh lines are in short supply. Might be funnier if they targeted the Doobies '79 rather than the Doobies '75. C+

Further Notes:

Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies [1990s]