Monday, 24 February 2014

"Rad Gumbo: The Complete Warner Bros. Years 1971 to 1990" by LITTLE FEAT – A Review Of The 13CD Mini Box Set Released February 2014.

This review is part of my Series "SOUNDS GOOD: Exceptional CD Remasters 1970s Rock And Pop" Download Book available to buy on Amazon to either your PC or Mac (it will download the Kindle software to read the book for free to your toolbar). Click on the link below to go my Author's Page for this and other related publications:


"…All That You Dream…"

Taking its title from a New Orleans bopper on 1990’s "Representing The Mambo" – "Rad Gumbo: The Complete Warner Bros. Years 1971 to 1990" is a 13CD Mini Box Set that many fans will say has been a long-time coming. As usual it’s a mixture of highs and lows (with way more ups than downs thankfully). Here’s the weed, whites and wine…

UK released Monday 24 February 2014 (4 March 2014 in the USA) – Rhino/Warner Brothers 8122796057 breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 is "Little Feat" (1971) - 10 tracks, 33:16 minutes
Disc 2 is "Sailin' Shoes" (1972) – 11 tracks, 37:56 minutes
Disc 3 is "Dixie Chicken" (1973) – 10 tracks, 36:46 minutes
Disc 4 is "Feats Don't Fail Me Now" (1974) – 8 tracks, 34:24 minutes
Disc 5 is "The Last Record Album" (1975) – 8 tracks, 34:35 minutes
Disc 6 is “Time Loves A Hero” (1977) – 9 tracks, 35:36 minutes
Discs 7 and 8 are the 1978 live double “Waiting For Columbus” (the 2CD Expanded Edition).
[Tracks 1 to 12 on Disc 1 (60:19 minutes) and Tracks 1 to 5 on Disc 2 (78:02 minutes) make up the original 2LP set - the rest are all previously unreleased.]
Disc 9 is “Down On The Farm” (1979) – 9 tracks, 37:42 minutes
Disc 10 is “Hoy-Hoy!” (1981 2LP Outtakes Set on 1CD) – 19 tracks, 69:45 minutes
Disc 11 is “Let It Roll” (1988) – 10 tracks, 50:16 minutes
Disc 12 is “Representing The Mambo” (1990) – 11 tracks, 50:59 minutes
Disc 13 is a 24-Track BONUS DISC entitled “Outtakes From Hotcakes” which features all the previously unreleased versions from the much-loved and long deleted 4CD Rhino Box Set “Hotcakes & Outtakes…” issued in 2000 (78:29 minutes):

1. Jazz Thing In 10
2. Rat Faced Dog (“Little Feat” Outtake)
3. Doglines (as per 2)
4. Wait Till The Shit Hits The Fan (as per 2)
5. Easy To Fall (Easy To Slip) (Demo Made For The Doobie Brothers)
6. Texas Rose Café (as per 5)
7. Doriville (“Salin' Shoes” Outtake)
8. Boogie (became “Tripe Face Boogie”) (as per 7)
9. Two Trains (Lowell George Demo)
10. Roto/Tone (as per 6)
11. Ace In The Hole (later became “Hi Roller”) (“Dixie Chicken” Outtake)
12. Eldorado Slim (as per 11)
13. Feats Don’t Fail Me Now (“Feat Don’t Fail Me Now” Outtake)
14. Brickyard Blues (as per 13)
15. All That You Dream [Outtake featuring Linda Ronstadt]
16. Spanish Moon [7” Single Version]
17. Down Below The Borderline (Lowell George Demo)
18. Rockin’ Shoes I & II (Lowell George Demo)
19. Front Page News (“The Last Record Album” Outtake)
20. High Roller (as per 17)
21. All That You Dream [with Linda Ronstadt] – 7” Single Version
22. Roll ‘Em Easy (“Thanks I’ll Eat It Here” Lowell George Solo LP Outtake)
23. Boogie Wigwam (Short Jazz Piece) (“PZM” Pressure Mic Demo)
24. Teenage Nervous Breakdown (Previously Unreleased Live Version)

Fans will know that the Expanded Edition of “Waiting For Columbus” and the “Hotcakes & Outtakes…” tracks are remasters from the 00’s and the last two “Let It Roll” and “Representing The Mambo” were well recorded anyway. It’s the Seventies output that has need upgrading for years and the Big News is that although there’s no mention of mastering anywhere on the box or on the discs – some of these are REMASTERS and they sound glorious. Fans should also notice the subtle timing differences between these CDs and the ones in the disappointing “Original Album Classics” 5CD set from 2010 which simply repackaged crap Eighties sounding CDs. They’re all different.

The first two albums are fantastic – full of power and presence and the clarity fans have longed for years. The remaster on “Cold, Cold, Cold” and “Trouble” from “Sailin’ Shoes” for instance are incredible – wonderful clarity. If I’m to be truthful – I’d say “Dixie Chicken” is a teensy weensy bit of a letdown. Don’t get me wrong - it does sound clean and clear and all (the truly beautiful ‘Roll Um Easy” and the dainty piano lead into “Juliette” both sound lovely) - but again it just lacks that tiny bit of muscle that would have thrilled rather than pleased.

When you play the opening duo of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor” and “Oh Atlanta” from “Feats Don’t Fail me Now” – you’re back to the sonic power of the first two albums – wow! “The Last Record Album” sees the three live tracks tagged onto the Eighties CD removed at last but the same ‘good’ rather-than-great sound afflicts it. It’s clean but lacks that remaster punch. Back to fabulous sonic wallop with both “Time Loves A Hero” and the posthumous Lowell George album “Down On The Farm” – sounds like Rhino have used the Edsel remaster I reviewed. And how good is it to hear “Hoy-Hoy!” rocking at last - I love that gatefold card repro sleeve (even if the booklet’s not there). And for the uninitiated the mixed bag that is Disc 13 will be an eye-opener – even their outtakes had magic in them.

There’s no booklet (mores the pity) and zero credits apart from the track listings on the rear of the box. The gatefold sleeves for “Sailin' Shoes”, “Waiting For Columbus” and “Hoy-Hoy!” are all superbly reproduced as are the original Tan Warner Brothers labels for 1, 2 and 3 with Burbank Labels for 4 to 9, cream Warners for 10 and so on (a nice attention to detail that). It’s also lovely to see Rhino use the original American Back covers (they changed across the years over here in Blighty with reissues). But a let down is that Inner Sleeves don’t appear at all and “Hoy-Hoy!” hasn’t got its gorgeous and info jam-packed 12-page booklet.

You could look at this box set in two ways – it’s exploitive of fans who already have this stuff – and once they hear that remasters are available of those beloved Seventies gems – they’ll have to own it. And it’s disappointing that both “Dixie Chicken” and especially “The Last Record Album” seem to permanently remain in sonic limbo - but as a newcomer to the band – or someone who maybe only owns one or two CDs – there’s a truckload of goodies on here for not a lot of your greenbacks. And most of it sounds as enticing as a waitress with a great singing voice and a knack for marrying punters…

I say dig in people and enjoy.

And God Bless you Lowell George wherever you are… 

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