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Tag: Little Feat

I’ve Been From Tucson to Tucumcari

lowellgeorge

Songs in my head, songs in my head. Always a song in my head. Sometimes it’s an evil infestation – take the song “Cheerleader” for example – where I’m just screwed, especially if it’s the middle of the night and I’m lying in bed. But other times, and most often in my case, it’s a quality tune that I’ve had in regular rotation.

Latest case in point: Little Feat’s “Willin’,” which I just can’t get out of my head lately. Such a great singalong chorus:

I’ve been from Tucson to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonapah
Driven every kind of rig that’s ever been made
Driven the back roads so I wouldn’t get weighed
And if you give me, weed, whites, and wine
And you show me a sign
I’ll be willin’, to be movin’

The simplicity of “Alice….Dallas Alice…”; The imagery it conjures up with its tale of driving the open roads, being “kicked by the wind, robbed by the sleet,” and smuggling “smokes and folks from Mexico.”

“Willin'” was written by Lowell George while he was a member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention in the late 60’s. When Lowell went off with Bill Payne and Richie Hayward to form Little Feat, Zappa was instrumental in matching the new band up with Warner Brothers.

“Willin'” has the distinction of showing up not only on Little’s Feat’s 1971 debut album, but also their second one, 1972’s Sailin’ Shoes. They’re vastly different versions. The Sailin’ Shoes version is the one most people are familiar with, and has Lowell’s spoken word verses:

The debut version has Lowell singing the verses (vs. the spoken style), and features Ry Cooder on slide guitar:

Any way you cut it, “Willin'” is one of Lowell George’s masterpieces, and ushered in a flood of funky, soulful, and quintessentially American rock n’ roll music with Little Feat’s 70’s output. The Lowell George Little Feat era sadly ended with Lowell’s untimely death in 1979 at the age of only 34 (a heart attack likely brought on by obesity, drugs and the wear of an unhealthy touring lifestyle).

The music, however, lives on. Treat yourself why don’t you and jump into a Little Feat rabbit hole? Immerse yourself for a while in the LF groove. Start with this great live version from 1977’s Rockpalast..

Discovering Robert Palmer

robert_palmer

Excuse me while I become spontaneously obsessed with the music of Robert Palmer. I’d never forayed much into his back catalog. I knew all the songs everyone knows: “Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor),” “I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On,” “Simply Irresistible,” and of course “Addicted To Love.” I’m well familiar with his Power Station days with Roger and Andy Taylor of Duran Duran and Tony Thompson of Chic. I knew about his covers of Allen Toussaint’s “Sneaking Sally Though the Alley” and Little Feat’s “Sailing Shoes” from his ’74 debut album. But I’d never spent any time sitting down and listening to his albums.

Well, that all changed last week when I was surfing through the archives of Rolling Stone magazine (if you’re a subscriber, definitely check it out). I was leafing through September 25th, 1975 article about his then-upcoming second album, Pressure Drop. It mentioned how half was recorded in Baltimore with Little Feat as the backing band, and the other half in Los Angeles with a couple of Little Feat members and a Motown session legend on bass, “Funk Brother” James Jamerson.

Then I started clicking around his discography during those early years, and I noticed the names of some of his collaborators: names like Lowell George, Allen Toussaint, the Meters (his backing band on his debut album), Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Gary Numan, Andy Fraser (of Free), and Chris Frantz (Talking Heads).

So as I’ve sat and listened to these first several Palmer albums, I’ve been floored by the soulful, laid back, funky R&B vibe that permeates them. Of course, with Lowell George as produce of the first record, and Little Feat backing him on Pressure Drop, some tunes are right out of the classic Little Feat playbook (“Here With You Tonight,” for one). But there’s elements of reggae, rock, soul – a nice healthy mixture of different styles.

Palmer broke out commercially in 1979 with “Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor), ” from his 5th album Secrets.  But it’s those first four albums I’ve been spending time with over the last week. Here are some of my favorites from his first funky four:

 “Sailin’ Shoes”, “Hey Julia,” “Sneakin’ Sally through the Alley” (Album 1: Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley – 1974)

The first three tunes from Palmer’s debut album work together as a trilogy – the groove seamlessly flowing from one song to the next. As brilliant of an opening trio as it is for Palmer, it really speaks to the genius of the Meters, who were at the top of their game at this point. With Art Neville on keys, George Porter, Jr. on bass, Leo Nocentelli on guitar, and Joseph Modeliste on drums, the funk smokes through this first nine plus minutes of Robert Palmer’s solo career.

“Fine Time” (Album 2: Pressure Drop– 1975)

Palmer really lets it rip with his vocals, soulfully shrieking into the higher registers. He gets raw with it while Little Feat lays down one of their signature grooves.

“Man Smart (Woman Smarter)” (Album 3: Some People Can Do What They Like– 1976)

Palmer didn’t shy away from covering tunes (his breakout hit “Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)” was a cover, after all), and his third record brought about a great cover of “Man Smart (Woman Smarter)”, which has been performed by the likes of Harry Belafonte and the Grateful Dead (a live staple of theirs from 1981 onward, and how I first heard the tune).  Once again, there’s a Little Feat connection, with the melodic flourishes of piano man Bill Payne on full display.

“Every Kinda People” (Album 4: Double Fun– 1978)

Palmer self-produced his fourth record, which kicks off with “Every Kinda People,” written by Free’s Andy Fraser. It’s got a “What’s Going On?”-era Marvin Gaye vibe to it – smooth and easygoing, a steel drum accentuating the chorus.

Unity, harmony, love for one another… It seems like such a simple concept to most of us, doesn’t it?

So I’m off to listen to more of these new/old treats. That’s the wonder of music – there’s always new avenues to explore, new and old, wherever you turn. We lost Robert Palmer all the way back in 2003, but his music lives on.

2:28

A lot can be accomplished musically in two minutes and twenty eight seconds. What brought this to mind was a Little Feat tune I heard on my way to work recently: “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now”. It funks and it rocks & rolls and grooves…makes me wanna strut down a crowded street with a sweet hat and some big fat shades – a grin on my face. “GIT the hell outta my way people, I’m coming THROUGH!”

I sorted my iTunes by Time, and found 37 tunes in my online collection that clock in at 2:28 (three of ’em by Jim Croce, go figure). Here’s that sweet-ass Little Feat tune and eight other nuggets of under 2:28 goodness…

If you’ve got a spare 22:12, listen to ’em all now…

Little Feat – Feats Don’t Fail Me Now (mp3) – from Feats Don’t Fail Me Now

Steve Earle – South Nashville Blues (mp3) – from I Feel Alright

Reverend Horton Heat – Baddest of the Bad (mp3) – from Liquor in the Front

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Who’ll Stop the Rain (mp3) – from Cosmo’s Factory

Old 97’s – Coahuila (mp3) – from Drag It Up

The Byrds – I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better (mp3) – from Mr. Tambourine Man

Calexico – Sunken Waltz (mp3) – from Feast of Wire

Jim Croce – Time in a Bottle (mp3) – from The Definitive Collection

Paul Weller – Spring (At Last) [mp3] – from Illumination [Limited Edition w/ Bonus DVD]

Ickmix 2

ickmix 2

I used to really enjoy creating mixes for friends and – well – especially girlfriends. Inspiration would smack me like a freight train, and I’d dig into my collection and weave together tapestries of musical brilliance (at least I thought so!) and what I thought to be clever proclamations of affection. Well, the girlfriends are no more (my wife would kill me), but I have to get my mix fix in every now and then. So indulge me, my internet friends, and take in my new Ickmix.

It’s a fairly mellow mix. I’m a mellow fellow. I hope you enjoy. If you do, let me know. It may give me a kick in the pants to make more.

Ickmix 2 (mp3 – 63MB – 46:00)

Playlist after the jump: