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Archive for March 21st, 2014

Review: Little Feat, “Rad Gumbo: The Complete Warner Bros. Years 1971-1990”

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Little Feat - Complete WB“Well they say that time loves a hero/But only time will tell/If he`s real he`s a legend from heaven/If he ain`t he was sent here from hell…”  Though Little Feat’s singer-songwriter-guitarist Lowell George wasn’t among the writers of the song “Time Loves a Hero” from the band’s 1977 album of the same name, the lyric might well describe him.  Time has, indeed, told: almost 35 years after George’s death in June 1979, his legacy still resonates as does that of the band which he founded.  Yet during its first lifetime, Little Feat never scored a hit record.  One critic, in 1977, noted that the band was “still slogging around the country playing 3,000-seat arenas” despite praise from Led Zeppelin and The Marshall Tucker Band, not to mention The Rolling Stones.  Elton John, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Buffett, Linda Ronstadt and Phish have all celebrated Little Feat.  So why was Little Feat destined to remain a band’s band (as Buffett described them) or even a cult band rather than, say, a people’s band?  One definitive answer will likely remain elusive.  But the journey of discovery has never been as easily accessible as it is now, thanks to Rhino’s release of Rad Gumbo: The Complete Warner Bros. Years 1971-1990.

This new 13-CD box set includes Little Feat’s first ten core albums, the 2002 expanded edition of the acclaimed 1978 live album Waiting for Columbus, and a bonus disc of rarities from the now out-of-print 2000 box set Hotcakes and Outtakes.  It spans the entire original run of Feat (1971-1979) as well as the first two albums from the regrouped unit circa 1988-1990.  Over the years, Feat endured a couple of key personnel changes.  Bassist Roy Estrada, who founded the group with his fellow Mother of Invention alumnus Lowell George as well as drummer Richie Hayward and keyboardist Bill Payne, was featured on just two albums.  The group briefly disbanded after those first two records, but once its members reconvened sans Estrada, the roster remained consistent from 1972-1979, with Hayward, Payne and George joined by bassist Kenny Gradney, guitarist Paul Barrere, and percussionist Sam Clayton.  When Little Feat reformed in 1988, its surviving members Hayward, Payne, Barrere, Gradney and Clayton enlisted vocalist Craig Fuller and guitarist Fred Tackett to round out the line-up.  But what remained the same was the group’s singular brand of good-time boogie.

Southern rock by way of southern California, Little Feat’s sound encompassed rhythm and blues, rock, country, jazz and funk, led by George’s distinctive slide guitar.  Other groups incorporated many of those influences, and the band was sometimes lumped in with the SoCal rock of Jackson Browne, the Eagles or Linda Ronstadt.  The latter was a friend of George’s, and no doubt fattened his bankbook when she included “Willin’” on her chart-topping 1975 album Heart Like a Wheel.  Of course, his truckers’ anthem to the pleasures of “weeds, whites and wine” wasn’t likely to follow “You’re No Good” and “When Will I Be Loved” to the top spots on the Billboard survey.

If George’s edgy, idiosyncratic, somewhat off-kilter lyrics didn’t augur for the band’s commercial fortunes, the group was lucky to have a committed label in the artist-friendly Warner Bros. Records.  The development of, and changes to, Little Feat’s sound becomes apparent on Rad Gumbo.  Showcasing its tight quartet of musicians and the songs of George and Payne (individually and collectively), the 1971 Russ Titelman-produced debut Little Feat established the band’s blue-collar country-rock cred thanks to tracks like “Truck Stop Girl,” “Hamburger Midnight,” “Strawberry Flats” and the first version of future signature song “Willin’.”  Kirby Johnson’s orchestration also showed that the band was, um, willin’ to go out on a musical limb.  The next year’s Sailin’ Shoes continued in the country-rock vein of Little Feat, but George’s amusingly surreal songwriting had become even stronger and more focused.  Producer Ted Templeman smoothed out the rougher musical edges on key tracks like the shoulda-been-a-hit “Easy to Slip” and a definitively re-recorded “Willin’,” plus an assortment of ballads and blues.  George’s title track attracted the attention of another Warner Bros. iconoclast, Van Dyke Parks, who included it on his steel drum-flecked calypso album Discover America.

When the “new” band premiered on 1973’s Dixie Chicken, it was imbued with the rollicking, soulful spirit of New Orleans.  Now also in the producer’s chair, George continued as the dominant writer and lead vocalist in the band.  He album tipped his hat to one of the Crescent City’s finest with a smoking cover of Allen Toussaint’s “On the Way Down,” but Little Feat was on the way up.  The band’s musicianship was tighter than ever, allowing for jams and intricate interplay.  Future full-time member Fred Tackett (also a close collaborator of Jimmy Webb) provided his acoustic guitar on the LP, with background vocals supplied by Bonnie Raitt, Gloria Jones and Bonnie Bramlett.  The fiercely funky title track garnered cover versions from artists ranging from Jack Jones (yes, that Jack Jones) to, years later, Garth Brooks.  Dixie Chicken remains Little Feat’s crowning achievement, but the band continued to hone the style of the album on future releases.

There’s much more Gumbo after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 21, 2014 at 13:49

Posted in Box Sets, Little Feat, Reissues, Reviews

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Return of the Okie from Muskogee: Live Merle Haggard Records Paired for Reissue

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Okie from MuskogeeIf you like livin’ right and free, you’re going to love the recent revelation that Merle Haggard’s famed live album Okie from Muskogee will be reissued next week, paired with a follow-up live record making its CD debut.

Named for the 1969 country chart-topper that’s easily Haggard’s signature song – a tongue-in-cheek lampooning of the liberal values that were taking youth culture by storm at the time – Okie from Muskogee is a perfect distillation of Haggard’s unique voice and sound, a uniquely harmonic, twangy country indicative of the Bakersfield sound fans have come to adore thanks to the likes of Haggard and Buck Owens. It was a significant smash within the genre, winning Haggard three awards from the Academy of Country Music that year: Album of the Year, Single of the Year and Top Male Vocalist.

The success of Haggard’s next big single, a patriotic number called “The Fightin’ Side of Me,” Capitol quickly released another live album with the same name. This set saw Haggard in Philadelphia with a loose, mostly covers-heavy set (including takes on Tommy Collins’ “When Did Right Become Wrong” and Woody Guthrie’s “Philadelphia Lawyer.” A high point of the set finds Haggard, in a medley of popular country tunes by stars including Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash and Buck Owens, performing in passable impersonations of each.

Capitol Nashville’s two-disc set of Okie from Muskogee, released in honor of the album’s 45th anniversary, marks the first time since its original release that The Fightin’ Side of Me will be released anywhere. It hits stores on March 25 and can be pre-ordered after the jump. (A live cut from Fightin’ Side can be streamed at Rolling Stone.)

Okie from Muskogee: 45th Anniversary Special Edition (Capitol Nashville, 2014)

Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Disc 1: Merle Haggard & The Strangers, Okie from Muskogee (Recorded “Live” in Muskogee, Oklahoma) (originally released as Capitol ST-431, 1969)

  1. Introduction by Carlton Haney
  2. Mama Tried
  3. No Hard Times
  4. Silver Wings
  5. Merle Receives Key to Muskogee
  6. Merle’s Introduction to Medley
  7. Swinging Doors
  8. I’m a Lonesome Fugitive
  9. Sing Me Back Home
  10. Branded Man
  11. In the Arms of Love
  12. Workin’ Man Blues
  13. Merle’s Introduction to “Hobo Bill”
  14. Hobo Bill’s Last Ride
  15. Billy Overcame His Size
  16. If I Had Left It Up to You
  17. White Line Fever
  18. Blue Rock
  19. Introduction to Okie from Muskogee
  20. Okie from Muskogee

Disc 2: Merle Haggard & The Strangers with Bonnie Owen, The Fightin’ Side of Me (originally released as Capitol ST-0384, 1970)

  1. Introduction by Carlton Haney
  2. I Take a lot of Pride in What I Am
  3. Corrine, Corrina
  4. Every Fool Has a Rainbow
  5. T.B. Blues
  6. When Did Right Become Wrong
  7. Philadelphia Lawyer
  8. Stealin’ Corn
  9. Harold’s Super Service
  10. Medley of Impersonations: Devil Woman
  11. Medley of Impersonations: I’m Movin’ On
  12. Medley of Impersonations: Folsom Prison Blues
  13. Medley of Impersonations: Jackson
  14. Medley of Impersonations: Orange Blossom Special
  15. Medley of Impersonations: Love’s Gonna Live Here
  16. Today I Started Loving You Again
  17. Okie from Muskogee
  18. The Fightin’ Side of Me

Written by Mike Duquette

March 21, 2014 at 13:00

Lick It Up: “KISS 40” to Include Rare Live Tracks, Unreleased Demo

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KISS in EnglandWith an impending Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, a co-headlining tour with Def Leppard and a vinyl reissue campaign all on the horizon, the time seems right for KISS to remind fans of their four decades of rockin’ and rollin’ all night (and partying every day). On May 27, they’ll do just that with KISS 40, a new two-disc anthology of their hits.

As previously promised, KISS 40 features one track from each of their studio and live albums, as well as tracks from each of the original band members’ 1978 solo albums and compilation cuts (“Strutter ’78” from Double Platinum, “Down on Your Knees” from 1982’s Killers, “Let’s Put the X in Sex” from 1988’s Smashes, Thrashes & Hits and “Nothing Can Keep Me from You” from the KISS-heavy soundtrack to 1999’s Detroit Rock City).

It wouldn’t be a KISS compilation without something for the hardcore fans. In this case, it’s an unreleased demo from 1977, “Reputation,” as well as three hard-to-find live cuts from various non-retail KISS sets between 2004 and 2010.

KISS 40 can be pre-ordered after the jump, where you’ll also find the track list.

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Written by Mike Duquette

March 21, 2014 at 10:05

Posted in Compilations, KISS, News