Electrif Lycanthrope was the first Little Feat bootleg LP that I ever saw, and I quickly snatched up a copy at a Detroit record show around 1980. The original vinyl version, released by The Amazing Kornyfone Record Label sometime in the late 1970s, featured nine songs taken from a live September 1974 radio broadcast on WLIR-FM in New York City, with the band performing at The Ultrasonic Studios in Hampstead NY, a common venue for these live-to-radio performances. Electrif Lycanthrope wasn’t Kornyfone’s first Little Feat bootleg – they released a number of other Little Feat titles, including Beak Positive (a fine 1975 show) and Aurora Backseat (documenting a 1973 show) – but it’s widely considered by the Feat faithful to be the best of the band’s handful of bootleg albums.
Little Feat’s Electrif Lycanthrope
Aside from its original vinyl release by TAKRL, Electrif Lycanthrope was available for a short time during the 1990s as a dodgy “European import.” This new CD reissue of the album includes three additional “bonus tracks” for a total of a dozen red-hot performances, and while I can’t speak as to the legality of this particular release, it seems to be part of a series of live recordings trickling out of either WLIR-FM and/or The Ultrasonic Studios (check out the great recent Bonnie Raitt and Lowell George release, Ultrasonic Studios 1972). Regardless of its origin, or how long it may or may not be available to buy, Electrif Lycanthrope offers a simply mesmerizing performance by the band in a casual, laid-back environment that allowed them to stretch out and display their tremendous musical chemistry.
Electrif Lycanthrope features material from 1973’s Dixie Chicken and the following year’s Feats, Don’t Fail Me Now. Kicking off with the band’s classic “Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor,” the rhythm section of bassist Kenny Gradney and drummer Richie Hayward establish a fat groove from the beginning, frontman Lowell George’s thick Southern drawl belying his California birthplace. George’s fretwork here is stunning, full of texture and great tone. “Two Trains” is slightly more up-tempo, with Bill Payne’s funky keyboards leading the charge, a loping rhythm dancing behind George’s soulful vocals. While George’s instrument is busy in the background, threading a subtle but wiry lead between the rhythms, Payne takes center stage with his imaginative and charming keyboard runs.
Fat Man In The Bathtub
“Fat Man In The Bathtub” is another longtime crowd pleaser, and here it offers a look into the band’s evolving New Orleans blues and R&B influences at the time. With a cacophonic instrumental backdrop that incorporates plenty o’ Crescent City funk, the performance provides plenty of foot-shufflin’ moments amidst its seemingly free-form jam. The popularity provided George’s “Willin’” may have become a bit of an albatross around the singer/songwriter’s neck, but this gentle, affecting reading – based around George’s weary voice and acoustic guitar, and Payne’s subtle piano – proves the strength of his lyrics and performance. Of the three additional tracks included on this CD reissue of Electrif Lycanthrope, the band’s signature “Dixie Chicken” fares the best, the song’s ramshackle arrangement providing plenty of space for Payne’s nimble piano-play and George’s rowdy notes.
The Reverend’s Bottom Line
If you’re a hardcore Little Feat fan, you may already own Electrif Lycanthrope in one of several formats, but if you don’t, you really should grab up a copy of this CD while you can. If you’re a newcomer to the band, or simply “Feat curious,” this live recording provides an excellent introduction to one of rock ‘n’ roll’s best – yet criminally unsung – outfits. The recording captures the band at the pinnacle of its chemistry, cranking out songs from what are arguably two of their three best studio albums in front of a token audience, but playing like they’re headlining an arena.
The sound quality here is amazing considering the relatively primitive recording technology of the era, although it does get a little muddier on the last three songs, which may have been taken from a second-generation tape. Many fans prefer Electrif Lycanthrope to the authorized live set Waiting For Columbus, which is widely considered one of the best live rock albums of all time. Why argue over semantics? Get ‘em both and revel in the joy that was one of the era’s most dynamic and electrifying live bands! Grade: A (Smokin’ Production, released 2014)
Buy the CD from Amazon.com: Little Feat's Electrif Lycanthrope