Thursday, April 13, 2017

Feat First: George Town

It's getting time for me to return with a birthday tribute to another one of the giants, gone from us for decades but still beloved and relevant.
He was born in Hollywood and spent the 1960s in various groups until he ended up in Frank Zappa's notorious 1969 Mothers of Invention lineup, sticking around for the monumental Weasels Ripped My Flesh and Burnt Weeny Sandwich opuses. That's him on the former, feigning the German accent in Did You Get Any Onya?
After a tumultuous year with the Mothers -- and far too self-sufficient a talent to spend very long as someone else's sideman -- he was ever-so-subtly nudged in the direction of forming his own band. Utilizing several high school mates, he did precisely that, with the combo he put together becoming one of the greatest in the great decade for music we like to call the 1970s.
Their music was and is thoroughly impossible to categorize, but if I had to describe it I'd say it's Country Funk... like a midpoint betwixt the Nashville skyline and New Orleans' Storyville. They made a half dozen still-revered records with him on board and toured the whole of the Earth, opening for many of the era's top drawer bands and blowing them off the stage on a regular basis. They themselves made a live record that more than a few consider the best concert  LP ever made by anyone.
He led this classic, often-emulated-but-not-as-yet-equaled group as lead vocalist and principal songwriter, also lending an extremely distinctive and unusual slide guitar style -- achieved using 11/18" metal sockets you'd buy in a hardware store -- to the proceedings. Even almost 40 years since his untimely death, which happened just as he found himself on the cusp of solo success, he is still thought of as one of the leading lights of the music of our age.
Today the music of Lowell George -- born this day in 1945 -- and Little Feat have blossomed into a whole genre, but back then the marriage of Country and Soul was still new territory. Professing to loathe the recording process, he always insisted it was a live band first and foremost, and almost all their concert recordings bear this out many times over.
Unfortunately the '70s Courvoisier-n-cocaine diet caught up to him and he passed away from a massive heart attack whilst on tour in 1979, promoting his then-fresh solo outing, Thanks, I'll Eat It Here. But none of the tawdry tales of Seventies excess can diminish his contributions to the pantheon, and his influence remains to this day, which would have been his 72nd birthday. Little Feat carried on in his absence and can still be found on tour occasionally, decades after their heyday.
Which brings us to today's share wares, which comprise two legendary bootlegs recorded at the venerated Ultrasonic Studios in Hempstead on Long Island, which hosted a plethora of live-in-the-studio concert broadcasts for the old WLIR-FM in Garden City, itself often considered the greatest radio station in human history and the subject of the brand new documentary currently premiering across the US, Dare to Be Different. These shows were taped 18 months apart and document the emergence of Little Feat into what would become their 1970s period of well-deserved dominance.
Little Feat
Ultrasonic Studios
Hempstead, NY

01 introduction
02 Apolitical Blues
03 Got No Shadow
04 Willin'
05 On Your Way Down
06 Walkin' All Night
07 Lowell George interview/band introductions
08 Two Trains
09 Fat Man In the Bathtub
10 Sailin' Shoes
11 tuning
12 Cold, Cold, Cold
13 Dixie Chicken
14 Tripe Face Boogie
15 Teenage Nervous Breakdown

Total time: 58:48

Lowell George - vocals, slide guitar
Paul Barrere - guitar, vocals
Bill Payne - keyboards
Kenny Gradney - bass
Richie Hayward - drums
Sam Clayton - percussion

sounds like an FM master reel

Little Feat
Ultrasonic Studios
Hempstead, NY

01 Rock 'n' Roll Doctor
02 Two Trains
03 The Fan
04 On Your Way Down
05 Spanish Moon 
06 Skin It Back
07 Fat Man In the Bathtub
08 Oh Atlanta
09 Willin'
10 Cold, Cold, Cold
11 Dixie Chicken
12 Tripe Face Boogie

Total time: 57:58

Lowell George - vocals, slide guitar
Paul Barrere - guitar, vocals
Bill Payne - keyboards
Kenny Gradney - bass
Richie Hayward - drums
Sam Clayton - percussion

composite of a pre-FM reel (Tracks 01-09) & a 1st gen FM reel (Tracks 10-14) from WLIR-FM in Garden City, NY
Tracks 10-14 slightly remastered by EN to match Tracks 01-09

both shows zipped together
I slightly tweaked the 1974 set so the pre-FM portion and the off-air part were more of a sonic match, but these are legendary boots for a reason as they are both impeccably captured and testimony to the unvarnished power of this equally-as-legendary group. Hence, they required a bare minimum of audio alteration, which is always the best way to go in that realm anyway.
Pull them down and be willin' to let them funk you with a generous helping of crispy Dixie Chicken, as today's birthday boy would surely have wanted them to. And as you do, remember to raise a glass or vessel of your intoxicant of choice to one Lowell Thomas George, born this very day in 1945 and in little danger of fading from the musical consciousness of our world.--J.
4.13.1945 - 6.29.1979

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