Warner Bros. 2686
Released: February 1973
Like their much more famous cousins, the Rolling Stones and Van Morrison, Little Feat are eclectic in a vertical rather than a horizontal way. They are past the point of wanting to make stylistic distinctions in their music. And if they had come along two or three years earlier, when radio programmers and record buyers alike were still willing to take chances, I'm sure they would have gotten plenty of recognition by now.
Little Feat don't do things like other bands. While other slide players, for example, tend to slide up the guitar neck, Lowell George, Little Feat's guitarist (among other things) has developed a distinctive style out of sliding down. The group's music has always been pervaded by that throaty, plaintive, downshifting squeal. George also avoids the obvious, and in the process comes up with titles like "Kiss It Off," "Dixie Chicken" and "Fat Man in the Bathtub" that one doesn't expect to see on any album this side of Captain Beefheart's. He makes these seemingly dadaistic elements work for him in much the same way Van Morrison uses the guttural vocal sound -- to scrape the preconceptions and the standard expectations from the listener's mind, to force him to take the song on its own terms.
I keep wanting to compare the group to the Stones, because the music of each is so thoroughly black and white at the same time, and because you have to become aware of and accept the peculiar universe of each group before you can settle down and enjoy what's going on. There's even a rumor, possibly dreamed up by some lonely Little Feat fanatic, that as soon as Mick Jagger got to Los Angeles last year to put together Exile on Main Street, he requested a set of Little Feat LPs for which he expressed a particular fondness. There are, in fact, several tracks on Exile, such as "Shine A Light," "Loving Cup," "Let It Loose," and "Soul Survivor," that have that dense, careening, nearly out-of-control feeling that distinguishes much of Little Feat's music.
On Dixie Chicken, the group seems to have returned the favor, using a number of elements also found on the last Stones LP. They've thickened their sound further, for example, with a female chorus fronted by Bonnie Bramlett, and it works as well as the voices on Exile did. Both groups understand that in order for a device like this to add to rather than detract from their basic music, they have to involve the singers in the sense of the music (Bonnie in particular is great) and assimilate them into the overall sound. This Little Feat do dramatically on the album's first two tracks, "Dixie Chicken" (in which the boys and girls join forces on the chorus -- "If you'll be my dixie chicken, I'll be your Tennessee lamb/And we can walk together down in dixieland") and "Two Trains" (on which Bonnie is absolutely inspired).
Dixie Chicken has a peculiarity not shared by the two earlier albums: Each side starts with the throttle wide open, then gradually winds down to a quiet, moody ending. So instead of the anticipated big finish, the album practically tiptoes away on a slide-dominated instrumental, "Lafayette Railroad." Little Feat never fail to turn the chances they've taken into smooth successes. We don't really need any more audacious, ingenious bands like Little Feat; we just have to support the ones that exist. I hope this band gets the support they need to stay together for a long time.
- Bud Scoppa, Rolling Stone, 4/12/73.
One of the finest LP's of the young year, moving from hard rock to ballads and featuring top-notch vocals and instruments on all of the cuts. This band manages to sound just right no matter what the material. Best cuts: "Roll 'Um Easy," "Kiss It Off" and "Juliette." The group is also blessed with a songwriter of major talent in Lowell George, and his ability to produce material suitable for both AM and FM audiences should provide a boost.
- Billboard, 1973.
A reconfigured group adds greater depth to the percussion, along with a rhythm guitarist who frees Lowell George to slide his way to heaven, and the songs -- especially the title track, "Two Trains," and "Fat Man in the Bathtub" -- are among George's best. * * * * *
- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
Dixie Chicken is a superb introduction to Little Feat's smart, high-spirited rock stew, boasting delicious melodies and hip-shaking grooves. An instant party. * * * *
- Simon Glickman, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
Main Page | The Classic 500 | Readers' Favorites | Other Seventies Discs | Search The RockSite/The Web