With a career that had already seen them perfect a spicy blend of southern rock, blues, country and soulful funk elements, by 1975’s The Last Record Album, Little Feat were well established as one of the most interesting American rock acts of the 70s. However, band leader Lowell George had already started to surrender a little more creative control, resulting in 1974’s Feats Don’t Fail Me Now seeing increased input from keyboard player Bill Payne and guitarist Paul Barrere, resulting in the increased assimilation of a jazzy sound.
Like any Little Feat release from the 1970s, you can’t fault the musicianship on The Last Record Album, and drummer Richie Hayward in particular is at the top his game throughout. The thing is, with George no longer in charge of the creative direction, it means that the songwriting can be a little patchy from song to song, though he does contribute the album’s highpoint, “Long Distance Love”, which is one of the finest songs he ever wrote. There are regular reminders that, as a band, Little Feat could match many acts that are considered incomparable legends, particularly when they all get in the same groove and hit the sweet spot, the trouble is, there are too many other places where some numbers get far too bogged-down in the ‘these guys can really play!’ approach at the expense of the songs themselves. This is a real shame, as individually the band were great musicians, and more than capable of penning brilliant tunes, however the desire of some members to achieve a more sophisticated sound actually just resulted in them getting distracted from just writing the great tunes their audiences had grown to expect.
Where the more sophisticated musical approach does intersect neatly with great songwriting, such as the aforementioned “Long Distance Love” and closer “Mercenary Territory”, The Last Record Album really comes into its own, the trouble is, it just doesn’t happen as often as it should. While Little Feat remained a great live act until they disbanded following George’s sad death in 1979 (1978’s Waiting for Columbus is more than enough proof of this), their studio albums became ever more patchy as Barrere and Payne led the band deeper into the murky world of jazz rock and George started to increasingly struggle with personal problems. The Last Record Album is worthy of rediscovery as it was the point that Little Feat consolidated a significant change in direction and was effectively the last of their albums that Lowell George had much in the way of creative input into.