Waiting For Columbus

Little Feat

Warner Brothers Records, 1978

http://www.littlefeat.net

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/24/1997

Live albums are always difficult things to produce -- how does one capture the power and charisma of a band's stage performance on a slab or two of vinyl?

For Lowell George and Little Feat, their first live effort Waiting For Columbus was even more difficult for the band. For the better part of two years, George and the band had been involved in a power struggle, with George often on the losing end of the battles. The trippiness of Little Feat's earlier efforts was often pushed aside for more tuneful crafts - and I don't know if that was necessarily for the better.

So one could understand if it sounded like George's heart wasn't really into the performances captured on this double album. (Actually, there wasn't much power left in George's heart; he died one year later of a heart attack while touring behind his solo album.) And while some of the performances on Waiting For Columbus do flash back to the band's glory days, more often than not it falls into the same traps that snag more live albums than I care to count.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

George helps to kick off a festive mood early on with numbers like "Fat Man In The Bathtub" and "Old Folks Boogie," which show off how good Little Feat could be by mixing slight irreverence with New Orleans-laced blues-funk. But more often than not I found George's guitar work hidden in the mix -- and more and more guitarist Paul Barerre seemed to come forward as the new de facto leader of the band.

The addition of the Tower Of Power Horns definitely expands the band's sound on this one -- it almost makes it sound like a studio effort at times. (I guess a little more audience in the mix would have helped.) But the problem with Waiting For Columbus -- as with many live albums - is that it's more gauged for the long-time fan, and not the casual browser who may stumble on this one as an impulse buy. I consider myself to somewhat be a Little Feat fan, but I don't recognize numbers like "Oh Atlanta" and "Mercenary Territory" that well. (It's also been some time since I dusted off anything by Little Feat from the Pierce Archives.)

The overall feel that I get from Waiting For Columbus is that George should still have been the leader of the group. It's not that I have any problems with Barerre -- cuts like "Time Loves A Hero" do shine -- but the feel just isn't right. On the other hand, when George steps up to the microphone for numbers like "A Apolitical Blues" and "Willin'," he makes the most of his time in the spotlight. (I also found it interesting that the loudest audience reactions came from drug references on side four, especially from "Don't Bogart That Joint.") The second record of this set contains some of the more exciting performances from this set - not surprisingly, George is iften leading the band on these.

It sometimes is sad to listen to this album when you realize that it was George's swansong with the band. Little Feat was left to finish Down On The Farm after George left the band and subsequently died; they broke up following completion of that album (only to reunite in 1988). Little Feat was a band that deserved a better fate than they were dealt in the '70s, had we only listened when we had a chance.

Waiting For Columbus is a picture of a band locked in a fatal power struggle, though that struggle results in some lively performances. Long-time fans will enjoy this one. But, if you're just starting to get your feet wet with Little Feat, you may wish to check out some of their studio work before tackling this one.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.