Waiting For Columbus is the first live album by the band Little Feat, formed by ex-Mother of Invention George Lowell, and was recorded during seven performances in 1977. The first four shows were held at the Rainbow Theatre in London on August 1–4, 1977. The final three shows were recorded the following week at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium in Washington, D.C. on August 8–10. The band were backed by the Tower of Power horn section with whom they had recorded for their 1974 album Feats Don’t Fail Me Now. The result was one of their biggest selling albums.
The excellent cover art, by the great Neon Park (who created the artwork for the Mother’s Weasels Ripped My Flesh album), depicts items from the Americas unknown to Europeans before Columbus: an anthropomorphic tomato on a hammock in front of a backdrop of American native foliage and cactus.
Another band that shows up my ignorance! I’d always thought Little Feat were a country rock outfit a la Poco, Flying Burrito Brothers, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band type group but I was very pleasantly surprised at how wrong I was. For the fellow uninitiated out there (you must be out there, right? It’s not just me is it?) Little Feat play a glorious mixture of swampy blues rock, R&B, country and a sprinkling of jazz fusion for good measure and once again my backside is sore from kicking myself for sleeping on this group. In defence of my ignorance, what little (ha!) I music I’d heard was from studio albums, where the late Lowell George’s influence had been damped down in the studio, deferring to his bandmates’ writing and singing, but Columbus is a different kettle of salmon altogether. Waiting is dominated by George’s gruff, lyrical vocal presence and the mercurial tang of his indelible slide guitar. Many of their more well-known songs were either re-worked or extended: for instance, one of their signature songs, Dixie Chicken, was heavily extended to include a lengthy piano solo by keyboardist Bill Payne, a Dixieland horn arrangement and finally a dual guitar jam between the band’s two guitarists, Lowell George and Paul Barrère. With the addition of the Tower of Power Horns the songs on here are injected with razor-sharp horn work, which romps through the Feat songbook of southern-fried rock with aplomb.
The first three sides of this album are great, perfect for summer listening or to crank out on a sunny day somewhere: Oh Atlanta, Old Folks’ Boogie, Time Loves a Hero Day or Night, Mercenary Territory and the aforementioned Dixie Chicken, showcase the uptempo delight of the band’s music but, and you knew there would be a but coming, side four brings the album down for me. Except for the last track, the wonderfully titled Feats Don’t Fail Me Now, side four lacks the energy and vigour of what came before it and the songs failed to connect with me or make me care about them.
In summary, this is a very good live album; the production is super crisp and you believe you are actually at the concert. The songs are great, maybe give side four a body swerve, the playing is excellent and overall I really enjoyed listening to this album. No drum solos (praise Jubus, praise Odin, praise Miriam!) and there are no long songs on here, just great swampy blues-rock numbers with lashings of horns. 8/10, definitely recommend and definitely worth several re-listenings.
As we start approaching the end game of this series (we’re at 1978 already!), the final few albums will be live albums from bands I’ve heard of AND that I actually owned! Will miracles never cease? But until those momentous occasions occur, TTFN!