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Waiting for Columbus
Little Feat

Warner Bros. 2BS 3140
Released: February 1978
Chart Peak: #18
Weeks Charted: 25
Certified Gold: 6/13/79

Sam ClaytonKenny GradneyRichard HaywardPaul BarrereBill PayneLowell GeorgeLittle Feat's brainy virtuosos have never sought (nor had the luck to stumble into) the kind of hit singles Steely Dan keeps racking up. Yet the two groups have the same stripes -- arch, even arrogant wit mixed with playing that pushes toward jazz. The important difference is in the bands' outlooks. Steely Dan is cool, fluid and distant, but its music fits into MOR programming. The Feat are heated up and, uh, willin', even though last year's studio album, Time Loves a Hero, exhibited the group more as players than songwriters.

Waiting for Columbus plunks itself down right between these strains. Little Feat's contrariness emerges as energy, and, though this double live set contains fifteen familiar cuts and two quick novelty numbers, it's anything but a garage sale. The songs really smoke.

Little Feat - Waiting For Columbus
Original album ad art.
Click for larger view.
"Dixie Chicken" might stand as an exemplar of what the Feat are doing right. The song's narrative opens with a vision of a Southern siren and closes with a barroom chorus from some of her many lovers. Everything here is characteristic of the saloon-story hyperbole these urban cowpokes have always been good at, and the Dixieland break from the Tower of Power horn section almost seems to bloom from Lowell George's bemused singing.

Whatever Little Feat may mean by Waiting for Columbus, this band has managed not only to utilize several styles of music (rock & roll, R&B, jazz), but to link these styles to a folk minstrel's grasp of the impulsiveness that American culture inherited from its frontier days.

- Fred Schruers, Rolling Stone, 4/6/78.

Bonus Reviews!

"Someone had arranged for us to be trampled to death!"

- Sherlock Holmes
  The Seven Percent Solution

Feat fanatics don't say "Little Feat" - they call 'em "the Feats." "The Feats" is a two-headed snake that's always slithering in two directions at once. One head is smart, level-headed, and conscientious; the other head is smart, too, but so eccentric and undisciplined that it often neglects to shed its skin, clean up its room, or go to sleep at a decent hour. The eccentric head causes problems for the practical head: there's lots of hiss-trionic confrontations, sidelong glances, and backward slitherings, but somehow it all keeps working out, because the two heads realize they move on common ground and have a common end.

So it's Waiting for Columbus, huh? Get it? -- waiting for America to discover them; right. Welp, pray for heavy weather and big swells in Airplay-Alphaville, gang, cuz Lady Luck pulled "the record" lever on the multi-track just as the ushers were shutting the doors on the stacked heels of a foot-stompa-typa set for the Feats, and this double disc need only be heard to be disbelieved. Unbelievable; right. Roots '66.

This Lowell George is such a character...Hollywood High and the Mothers, can you imagine? Funny Phlegmish beret, Citizen Kane's eyes, the posture of a lounge lizard with eyes for the good life and a credit rating as telltale as the first rays of the a.m. sun. He keeps it going, though. (That's the fantasy, anyway.) See, Lowell's had the good fortune to be dropped into the world in an eon that inordinately indulges -- and even encourages -- individuals of limited means who insist on confronting and then exalting those limits in gallantly foolish ways.

So, there's Lowell -- dumpy and pink-eyed but oozing charisma -- sliding his cylinder over the frets while gazing at the lead sheet he's placed upside down in front of him. And there's Lowell's band in the next room, noodling through some routines of their own while waiting for Lowell to get purposeful with them. Lowell comes around, eventually...he always does, and he's better late than never. The Feats make music -- some of this, some of that -- and they coax their mass of musical tangles into luxuriant strands that curlicue in endlessly familiar waves. When they really get it going, they dispense entirely with the beginnings and endings of songs -- just teasing with those strands until they run out. On these kindsa nights, when something's so right, Lowell and the sidekicks -- smart Billy Payne and earnest Paul Barrerre on top with rocksteady singer Richie Hayward, Kenny Gradney, and Sam Clayton down in the engine room -- turn clandestine bickering into flickering incandescence, tying it all together.

As it is with the Feat's hot nights, so it is with Waiting for Columbus: the thing galumphs along so infectiously, not so much because of the looney tunes, merry melodies, and mythopoeic garlands, but because of the spaces in between. In the spaces -- that's where the action is: That's where the Feats make the hips say "samaba" while the toes insists, "boogie!" That's where they swap day for night and switch the low-beams-to-hi-beam-to-Jobim in ticklish transitions. That's where the metal cylinders slide past the last fret to sighin' wispy trails of slug longing. That's where it's all about.

Thanks to the Tower of Power horns for playing right in the right sections. Thanks to Lady Luck for not running out of tape. Thanks to the boys in the band, not just for working inside the spaces, but for giving the Big Cheese some space to recline in. And thanks to Lowell himself (a Tennessee lamb from Hollywood High) for sacrificing his rest and endangering his health in the completion of his duties as producer and mixer on this project, hereinafter to be referred to as "the first fully form-fitting 'Feats' record album."

- Bud Scoppa, Phonograph Record Magazine, 3/78.

The timing is right for this double live album by the increasingly popular Los Angeles rock'n'roll band. With six albums behind them, Little Feat's fans swell with each release. This set was recorded in part at the Rainbow Theatre in London and the Lisner Auditorium in Washington, D.C. Aided by the Tower Of Power horn section, Little Feat really gets down to some hard-driving boogie rock that captures the essence of the band. Mean slide guitar and overall band unison are highlights along with the gutsy vocals. Best cuts: "Oh Atlanta," "Time Loves A Hero," "Dixie Chicken," "Willin'," "Apolitical Blues," "Feats Don't Fail Me Now."

- Billboard, 1978.

Somehow it all sounds a little pat, which, for a live album from a boogie band known for its looseness and live performances, makes no sense at all. Maybe the fact that it was their first live recording had something to do with it. As the packaging clearly notes, "Don't Bogart that Joint" and "Apolitical Blues," included on the original double LP, are deleted from the CD "to facilitate a single specially priced compact disc." Uh huh. This was their last recording in which Lowell George fully participated, and it isn't bad, particularly for a concert recording. It's just not what those who'd experienced their live performances had hoped for. The recording was taken from several concerts, and some of the tracks boast exceptional live sound, while others suffer from poor vocal mix and a somewhat boxy, thin quality. The fifteen tracks provide a representative overview of the band's career, and there are moments when everything comes together and it really begins to cook. B+

- Bill Shapiro, Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD, 1991.

Excellent double-disc live album. * * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

The live collection Waiting for Columbus is a veritable Little Feat greatest-hits album comprised of energetic live performances. * * * 1/2

- Simon Glickman, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

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