Make It a Double: Little Feat, HOY-HOY!
For a time during their ‘70s heyday, Little Feat was one of the coolest bands on the planet. There were artists that sold more records; there were artists that filled bigger concert halls; there were artists with bigger name recognition. If, however, you wanted to hear a potent combo of blues, rock, jazz, R&B and folk—if you needed to hear this salty stew of goodness—there was really only one place to go. Acts as diverse as Chico Hamilton, Robert Palmer and the Grateful Dead took it a step further, and brought in members of the band to play on and/or produce their records, trying to graft a little bit of Little Feat’s boogie onto their own sound.
It all ended too abruptly, as the band’s leader, Lowell George, gradually ratcheted back his contributions to the group before a heart attack in 1979 silenced him forever. And though he wasn’t around to oversee Little Feat’s 1981 outtakes and live tracks compilation HOY-HOY!, his spirit permeates throughout.
George’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor” is presented in an alternative version, with a rougher vocal than on the FEATS DON’T FAIL ME NOW track. The extra edge suits the song well, though, as does the presence of a horn section, which provides a fuller sound. It’s not a better take on the song than the classic album cut; it’s just different, and because it’s Little Feat, it’s still very cool. George’s demo of Hank Williams’ “Lonesome Whistle” gives the country classic a Feat-ized makeover; the track ends with George noting that he uses a Craftsman socket as a guitar slide. There’s also a take on an obscure Lieber and Stoller song, “Framed,” recorded by Little Feat in their original incarnation as a quartet. It’s a thumper of a song, with spoken verses and a refrain—“I never do nothing wrong, but I always get blamed”—that just oozes guilt for something.
The live material on HOY-HOY! is choice. A trio of songs—”Teenage Nervous Breakdown,” “Skin It Back” and “Red Streamliner”—are outtakes from the band’s classic WAITING FOR COLUMBUS, with all the rollicking energy from that album present and accounted for. There’s also a wonderful live take on THE LAST RECORD ALBUM’s “All that You Dream” with Linda Ronstadt on vocals that takes the song to church—a swampy, bluesy inimitably rockin’ church. A 1973 live version of “Two Trains” also resonates; it’s DIXIE CHICKEN-era Little Feat at its finest.
Other songs like “Easy to Slip” and “Strawberry Flats” are presented in their original versions—why mess with perfection?—but the bulk of HOY-HOY! gave listeners a fresh listen to classic Feat, a fine reminder of how indisputably cool the band was.
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