Waiting for Columbus
Warner Bros. 2BS 3140
Released: February 1978
Chart Peak: #18
Weeks Charted: 25
Certified Gold: 6/13/79
Feat fanatics don't say "Little Feat" - they call 'em "the Feats." "The Feats" is a two-headed snake that's always slithering in two directions at once. One head is smart, level-headed, and conscientious; the other head is smart, too, but so eccentric and undisciplined that it often neglects to shed its skin, clean up its room, or go to sleep at a decent hour. The eccentric head causes problems for the practical head: there's lots of hiss-trionic confrontations, sidelong glances, and backward slitherings, but somehow it all keeps working out, because the two heads realize they move on common ground and have a common end.
So it's Waiting for Columbus, huh? Get it? -- waiting for America to discover them; right. Welp, pray for heavy weather and big swells in Airplay-Alphaville, gang, cuz Lady Luck pulled "the record" lever on the multi-track just as the ushers were shutting the doors on the stacked heels of a foot-stompa-typa set for the Feats, and this double disc need only be heard to be disbelieved. Unbelievable; right. Roots '66.
So, there's Lowell -- dumpy and pink-eyed but oozing charisma -- sliding his cylinder over the frets while gazing at the lead sheet he's placed upside down in front of him. And there's Lowell's band in the next room, noodling through some routines of their own while waiting for Lowell to get purposeful with them. Lowell comes around, eventually...he always does, and he's better late than never. The Feats make music -- some of this, some of that -- and they coax their mass of musical tangles into luxuriant strands that curlicue in endlessly familiar waves. When they really get it going, they dispense entirely with the beginnings and endings of songs -- just teasing with those strands until they run out. On these kindsa nights, when something's so right, Lowell and the sidekicks -- smart Billy Payne and earnest Paul Barrerre on top with rocksteady singer Richie Hayward, Kenny Gradney, and Sam Clayton down in the engine room -- turn clandestine bickering into flickering incandescence, tying it all together.
Thanks to the Tower of Power horns for playing right in the right sections. Thanks to Lady Luck for not running out of tape. Thanks to the boys in the band, not just for working inside the spaces, but for giving the Big Cheese some space to recline in. And thanks to Lowell himself (a Tennessee lamb from Hollywood High) for sacrificing his rest and endangering his health in the completion of his duties as producer and mixer on this project, hereinafter to be referred to as "the first fully form-fitting 'Feats' record album."
- Bud Scoppa, Phonograph Record Magazine, 3/78.
Little Feat's brainy virtuosos have never sought (nor had the luck to stumble into) the kind of hit singles Steely Dan keeps racking up. Yet the two groups have the same stripes -- arch, even arrogant wit mixed with playing that pushes toward jazz. The important difference is in the bands' outlooks. Steely Dan is cool, fluid and distant, but its music fits into MOR programming. The Feat are heated up and, uh, willin', even though last year's studio album, Time Loves a Hero, exhibited the group more as players than songwriters.
Waiting for Columbus plunks itself down right between these strains. Little Feat's contrariness emerges as energy, and, though this double live set contains fifteen familiar cuts and two quick novelty numbers, it's anything but a garage sale. The songs really smoke.
"Dixie Chicken" might stand as an exemplar of what the Feat are doing right. The song's narrative opens with a vision of a Southern siren and closes with a barroom chorus from some of her many lovers. Everything here is characteristic of the saloon-story hyperbole these urban cowpokes have always been good at, and the Dixieland break from the Tower of Power horn section almost seems to bloom from Lowell George's bemused singing.
Whatever Little Feat may mean by Waiting for Columbus, this band has managed not only to utilize several styles of music (rock & roll, R&B, jazz), but to link these styles to a folk minstrel's grasp of the impulsiveness that American culture inherited from its frontier days.
- Fred Schruers, Rolling Stone, 4/6/78.
Something beyond technique and cleverness makes people like Little Feat so much. The band is, when you think of it, a very rare thing, a rock band of what we used to call the progressive persuasion that has made it, commercially and critically, in the last few years. But the band is also likable, and its albums, including this live one, seem to sense when to let your mind alone. I think people like Little Feat because they can sense the band members are being themselves when they play. There's a just-folks affability about the sound, although the more you listen the more you respect Little Feat's attention to details. Waiting for Columbus, like virtually all two-disc albums, runs a little long, but still it's one of your livelier, more spontaneous, and better-sounding live albums. Side four, where Mick Taylor finally puts in an appearance, has the most good stuff, but side one is pretty strong too, and the rest isn't all padding. I mentioned spontaneity: the performances, like the quality of the recording, are crisp, with precisely the kind of moments live albums should catch and usually don't. It was worth all the sound trucks that Lowell George's liner notes seem to suggest they sort of broke before they got it all in the can.
- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 7/78.
The timing is right for this double live album by the increasingly popular Los Angeles rock'n'roll band. With six albums behind them, Little Feat's fans swell with each release. This set was recorded in part at the Rainbow Theatre in London and the Lisner Auditorium in Washington, D.C. Aided by the Tower Of Power horn section, Little Feat really gets down to some hard-driving boogie rock that captures the essence of the band. Mean slide guitar and overall band unison are highlights along with the gutsy vocals. Best cuts: "Oh Atlanta," "Time Loves A Hero," "Dixie Chicken," "Willin'," "Apolitical Blues," "Feats Don't Fail Me Now."
- Billboard, 1978.
Somehow it all sounds a little pat, which, for a live album from a boogie band known for its looseness and live performances, makes no sense at all. Maybe the fact that it was their first live recording had something to do with it. As the packaging clearly notes, "Don't Bogart that Joint" and "Apolitical Blues," included on the original double LP, are deleted from the CD "to facilitate a single specially priced compact disc." Uh huh. This was their last recording in which Lowell George fully participated, and it isn't bad, particularly for a concert recording. It's just not what those who'd experienced their live performances had hoped for. The recording was taken from several concerts, and some of the tracks boast exceptional live sound, while others suffer from poor vocal mix and a somewhat boxy, thin quality. The fifteen tracks provide a representative overview of the band's career, and there are moments when everything comes together and it really begins to cook. B+
- Bill Shapiro, Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD, 1991.
Excellent double-disc live album. * * * *
- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
The live collection Waiting for Columbus is a veritable Little Feat greatest-hits album comprised of energetic live performances. * * * 1/2
- Simon Glickman, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
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