"I've got mysterious wisteria hanging in the air"
One of the things that is most often remembered about Lowell George’s only solo album is the fact that it was released just ten days before the Little Feat frontman’s early death. What is remembered less frequently is that it is very good indeed.
Given that George had slowly been losing creative control over Little Feat for the last five years, Thanks I’ll Eat it Here was a timely reminder about just how well he knew his way around a song. Not just his own songs either, as more than half of the material here were cover versions of well chosen songs, with tunes by Allen Toussaint, Rickie Lee Jones and Jimmy Webb all making the cut. Of particular note if George’s take on Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain”, released a full five years before Tina Turner’s mega-hit cover version. It’s certainly a cover version which caught me off guard the first time I heard it, and you know something, I really quite like it.
Actually I quite like the whole of Thanks I’ll Eat it Here. The assumption that George had lost his mojo and the fact that he wasn’t long for this world might lead you to assume that the album would be a disappointment, but it really isn’t, in fact I actually prefer it to most late 70s Little Feat albums, the rightly celebrated Waiting for Columbus aside. The production and sound of Thanks I’ll Eat it Here is a triumph, with George producing it himself and achieving a rich and full sound that brings to mind other albums of the era by fellow misfits Warren Zevon and Dennis Wilson. George is in fine voice too, which is a real contrast to how he could sound on the last few Little Feat albums he featured on, where he could often sounded oddly disengaged and uninterested in what was going. On Thanks I’ll Eat it Here, he’s giving it his all, and seems utterly determined to demonstrate his range, and he sounds like he’s having an absolute blast too, with a thread of humour and easy going nature weaving throughout the whole thing.
The album closes with “Himmler’s Ring”, the albums jokiest and most disposable moment. It’s not a bad Jimmy Webb song, but the fact it is Thanks I’ll Eat it Here’s closing number does mean the album ends on an odd note, especially when you consider that the penultimate track, the pretty “Find a River” would have been a much more obvious and more suitable closing number, especially as it is the only solo album Lowell George ever released. There has been an attempt to remedy this on subsequent CD reissues, with a bonus track of “Heartache”, but nothing will change the fact that George’s only solo album closed with an unrepresentative novelty number.
At a little over half an hour long, Thanks I’ll Eat it Here, is not an album that outstays it’s welcome, instead its feeling of sonic unity despite its changes in pace ensures that it is one of those albums that leaves you wanting more every time. It’s an engaging and good time listen that deserves rediscovery, and as an album it leaves you wondering quite what else Lowell George might have achieved in his solo career if he hadn’t passed away at such a young age.