LITTLE FEAT – ” Feats Don’t Fail Me Now ” Classic Albums

Posted: November 10, 2018 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
Tags: , , , , ,

The classic “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” album that was released in August of 1974. It was highly praised..and rightly so!

Feats Don’t Fail Me Now was the fourth, and some say, the best album of Little Feat’s career. Although trying to pick the band’s finest LP would be akin to picking one’s favourite finger. Each Little Feat record from the Lowell George period could be deemed just as important as the one which preceded it or followed afterwards. 1973’s Dixie Chicken may be their most critically celebrated and best remembered (it was the band’s highest charting effort), although no self-respecting fan could do without owning at least the group’s first six studio albums, along with the superb double live LP Waiting For Columbus.

Whether Feats Don’t Fail Me Now is their finest effort or not, now more than forty years after the fact, is irrelevant. What it is however, is a damn fine collection of intelligent tunes, crafted to perfection by Paul Barrére (guitar), Sam Clayton (percussion), Kenny Gradney (bass), Richie Hayward (drums), Bill Payne (keyboards), and of course Lowell George himself on guitar and vocals. Emmylou Harris and Bonnie Raitt also lend a hand on backing vocals, along with Tower Of Power providing horns.

From the sultry, humorous opener of “Rock And Roll Doctor,” to the intricately sprawling “Medley: Cold Cold Cold/Tripe Face Boogie,” which brings the LP to a satisfying finish, practically everything on here is first rate.

The country-funk of “Oh Atlanta” rolls along just nicely, thanks to some stellar slide guitar reminiscent of Mick Taylor on “Silver Train,” while the funky “Skin It Back” is in a class all by itself. Somehow Little Feat managed to tap into the American music well far deeper than many of their contemporaries. The rhythm section stays on the offbeat throughout the bluesy slide-fest of “Down The Road” (not to be confused with the Stephen Stills song of the same name), before Lowell lends his smooth as silk vocals to “Spanish Moon,” the one song which, despite its sheer excellence, inexplicably failed to register on the public radar.

The title track is about as much fun as one can have without frolicking through the hay with the local farmer’s daughter, before the band unleash their considerable jazz-rock-fusion skills via the “The Fan,” where each member crams as much as they can within the space of four minutes. Complex off-beats: . Tricky slide guitar:  Keyboard solo: . Basically this track has it all when it comes to both arrangement and musical dexterity.

What Little Feat proved was that critical acclaim doesn’t necessarily translate into successful sales figures. And if they were frustrated then, imagine how they’d be feeling now, today, when sophisticated music is about as underground as it gets, usurped by the likes of Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and Ed Sheeran.

To say that Feats Don’t Fail Me Now is one of those albums which has improved with age would be an insult to anyone who bought it back in the day. As always the illustration art by Neon Park is delightfully absurd, depicting Marilyn Monroe and George Washington. Priceless, as is the music itself.

“The Fan’

This epitomizes the “cracked mosaic” song construction Payne and George excelled at; they co-wrote it. The music ignites its fractured beats; the lyrics are both mesmerizing and off-putting. What did George see when he looked out from the stage, went back to his hotel where the girls gathered? The ‘tude here recalls the Mothers’ sneering Suzy Creamcheese. But the band soars deep into a richly textured soundscape, with solos as startling as lightning bolts.

“Spanish Moon”

Produced by George’s old pal Van Dyke Parks, this marks an interesting sidepath the band never quite followed farther down a sort of Sly Stone-meets-the-Meters funk with swaggering horns and keyboard squiggles over a muscular bass line, virtually modal as it elides chords. It’s dark and catchy and textured. And it makes you wonder what Allen Toussaint’s horn charts for parts of this album—those were the tapes George left on a train—might’ve sounded like.

“Feats Don’t Fail Me Now”

Road tunes have been a rock staple ever since it melded blues and country, and this ranks high among them. Once more George lifts lyrics from old roots tunes and builds a sardonic apocalypse around them. The psychological feel of roadburn, reflected in how the hammer-down section pauses for breath at the glorious sunrise, is intense, almost ecstatic; the ensemble vocals evoke gospel quartets. Running on the road can be a voyage of discovery as well as escape, with moments of epiphany and even transcendence possible around each bend. Spurred by the limber rhythm section and the razor-sharp interplay between Payne’s piano and George’s slide, this cut reaches for emotional revelation.

“Medley: Cold Cold Cold/Tripe Face Boogie”

An artist’s obsessions can suck for those around him but yield great things. Determined to capture Little Feat’s high-energy stage show in the studio, George pulled together two tunes from ‘Dixie Chicken’, and the group tore into the challenge with a ferocious vengeance. The pacing is exquisite as they nimbly frame Payne’s gripping keyboard breakdown and transition to George’s frenetic but taut solo, building tension to its patented dog-whistle finale—an almost impossible feat without his rig.

‘Feats Don’t Fail Me Now’ remains this band’s outstanding studio achievement. A few of the songs, like this one, were remakes: the obsessive George famously kept redoing songs until they were perfect… but they never were. Which is why some appeared multiple times in Little Feat’s relatively short discography. This album was as close as he’d come to perfection for these tunes.

The band was at a musical peak, but George began undermining it—and himself. Like Zappa, he saw himself as an auteur; by this point, the others, writing as many of the tunes and wanting more input, started to see an out-of-control control freak. Payne, who was George’s songwriting and musical equal, retreated when he asked to co-produce and was snarled at. But the music they made was so extraordinary it still bonded them.

Bill Payne: keyboards and vocals
Richie Hayward: drums and background vocals
Lowell George: guitars, vocals and production
Ken Gradney: bass (do not be decieved or take lightly this bit of musicianship that one describes simply as bass)
Sam Clayton: percussion and vocals
Paul Barrere: guitars, vocals
Gordon Dewitty: clavinet on Spanish Moon
Background Vocals: Emmy Lou Harris, Fran Tate, Bonie Raitt

Feats Don’t Fail Me Now is the fourth studio album by the American rock band Little Feat, released in 1974.


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