My previous post looked at the 1993 Buddy Guy album Feels Like Rain, which happened to feature Little Feat’s Bill Payne and Richie Hayward. This, in turn, took me back another five years for a revisit to Little Feat’s own album – Let It Roll.
If ever you wanted an example of late 1980s popular music production at its best, Let it Roll by Little Feat would surely be on your shortlist. Whilst the hi-fi was powered up for this tape I also played Whitney Houston’s Whitney album from the same era. Whitney is obviously a very professional job, carried out by a serious production team – but the Little Feat album is slicker. If you recall what a task it was to turn out a glossy yet vital and ‘live’-sounding recording in 1988, you’ll be mightily impressed with the job George Massenburg, Bill Payne and their crew did on Let It Roll.
Let It Roll is also a fine example of song creation and performance. A great mix of more traditional (Hammond organ for instance) and 1980s instruments creates a commercial sound that very much continues to stand up as exciting and totally valid today.
In fact, some of the band’s equipment brands are listed on the inlay. Here’s some of what they used…
- Pearl drums, Sabian cymbals, Select snares and Pro-Mark sticks
- Danny Ferrington and Kramer guitars
- Dean Markley amplifiers
- Yamaha digital musical instruments
- B&K microphones
I’m guessing that most if not all of this was cited as part of a promo deal, as brands of other instruments used (like the organ, the acoustic piano and the accordion) were not mentioned.
This of course is the audio cassette version of the album, supplied on a bright-sounding but noisy ferric tape. With the Dolby Noise Reduction set in effect, the roaring hiss is heavily dampened, but compared with the quiet CrO2 tape used for the Buddy Guy album, this one does prompt me to ask if it was really necessary to cut such an obvious corner.
The album was Little Feat’s first since the passing of their famous original vocalist Lowell George in the late 1970s. There’s a dedication to Lowell George on the inlay.
Craig Fuller had recently become lead vocalist and a major contributor to the songwriting, and whilst the band were flawless in their delivery, Fuller has surely to take an extra bow for his part in the album’s great success. His vocals also evoked the spirit of Lowell George, which reinforced the new lineup’s identity for existing fans. The characteristic slide guitar is there, the assortment of rhythmic tangents and shades of New Orleans – it’s classic Little Feat. There are also some more generic ‘80s-sounding elements, but tracks such as Let It Roll, Hate To Lose Your Lovin’, One Clear Moment, Business as Usual and Cajun Girl encapsulate what any fan of the band would be looking for.
The additional vocalists list highlights the esteem in which the band were held, including such names as Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Seger and Marilyn Martin. Not that any namedropping would be required to substantiate Little Feat’s importance in American music history though. You won’t have to listen to many interviews with musicians who really know their stuff, before you’ll hear this band’s name quoted in reverent tones.