Smokin' / All Access (SMCD930)
Rock ‘N Roll Doctor, Two Trains, The Fan, On Your Way Down, Spanish Moon, Skin It Back, Fat Man In The Bathtub, Oh Atlanta, Willin’, Cold, Cold, Cold, Dixie Chicken and Tripe Face Boogie.
Another release in the ever-growing series of previously unavailable live radio broadcasts from prime-period Little Feat (being the early-mid 1970s when Lowell George ruled the roost). Being a sucker for anything that involves Lowell, his voice, his songs or his gorgeous slide guitar, I can’t ever get enough of these but if you only want one, then this is very much the one to get.
Even if you know nothing of this 1974 recording, there are some clear reasons for recommending this as being the first among equals. For starters, it was captured at the time the band were at their unarguable peak and that it has an excellent sound quality featuring many of the band’s best known and best-loved numbers. Then there is the notoriety and mythology of this session - prior to this CD (the first legitimate incarnation of its existence), this has long featured among the most revered and sought-after bootlegs in rock history. This status is no doubt enhanced by the unverified rumours that Lowell himself was involved in the mixing and production work. This possibility is not even referenced in the notes and promotions that come with this CD so there may indeed be no truth in it. But still...
Whatever the truth (if any) of Lowell’s involvement, it is a fabulous document and maybe truest representation of the band live at their peak. From the sumptuous double-whammy of the openers, Rock ’N Roll Doctor and Two Trains, right through to the closing holy trinity of Cold, Cold, Cold, Dixie Chicken and Tripe Face Boogie, the band are smoking, rocking and irresistibly funky throughout, a combination they pull off better than most any other band on the planet, before or since. In between these, there is perhaps the best ever live version of Lowell’s masterpiece, Willin’, plus a near-definitive version of Alan Toussaint’s On Your Way Down, where they offer a barely-needed reminder that while (mostly) a band raised in California, they invoked the spirit of New Orleans better than most.
With other classics given a real party-time feel, this CD is a very welcome addition to the legitimate history of a much loved and respected band. A must for fans and a great place to start for the curious.
Review Date: October 2014