Happy Feat: 'Hotcakes and Outtakes' is a four-CD overview of one of Phish's favorite bands

By Tom Sinclair
September 22, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

At a time when the boxed-set craze is way over the top (three CDs of Stevie Nicks solo material?), it’s supremely gratifying to see the great, almost-forgotten Little Feat finally getting their due with a gala four-CD overview, Hotcakes and Outtakes: 30 Years of Little Feat. Founded in 1969 by the late Lowell George, the L.A.-based band reached mid-level rock stardom in the ’70s with critically lauded albums like Dixie Chicken. After George died of a heart attack in 1979, Feat gradually fell off the radar, although a latter-day version of the group still tours and releases records.

Feat’s signature sound is a skewed mix of funk, blues, country, and slide-guitar-inflected boogie heard on tunes like ”Cold, Cold, Cold” and ”Fat Man in the Bathtub.” But there were many other sides to the band. Hotcakes includes a disc of ”studio artifacts” that showcases its roots in weirdness (both George and original Feat bassist Roy Estrada were graduates of Frank Zappa’s ultra-bizarro Mothers of Invention). ”I don’t even know how you would describe some of that early stuff,” admits Feat keyboardist Bill Payne.

Try ”inspired,” ”tasty,” and ”revelatory” for starters. Feat’s musical stink continues to influence younger bands — like those Mothers-lovers, Phish, who’ve been known to cover Feat classics ”Skin It Back” and ”Time Loves a Hero” in concert. ”They [had] one of the tightest and funkiest rhythm sections out there,” enthuses Phish bassist Mike Gordon, who counts Waiting for Columbus as ”one of my all-time favorite live albums.” We bet he’s already added Hotcakes to his list of all-time fave boxed sets, just like us.