December 2008

Little Feat - Sailin’ Shoes
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDCD 778
Format: CD
Originally released: 1972
Reissue released: 2008

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

While many bands suffer a sophomore slump, Little Feat's second LP was even sharper and more confident than their impressive debut. The songwriting was just a bit tighter and the playing more precise while being at the same time relaxed and natural. By disc two, the band had perfected its unusual blend of rock, country, and R&B, with a hint of New Orleans funk thrown in for good measure. Several Feat standards made their first appearance on Sailin Shoes, including the title track and "Tripe Face Boogie." Lowell George insisted they redo "Willin'," perhaps the band’s best-known tune, because an injury had prevented him from playing slide on the first LP version (Ry Cooder subbed).

Mobile Fidelity’s new release of Sailin’ Shoes was remastered by Shawn Britton, the company’s chief engineer, who also did fine work last year on Little Feat’s first record. I compared this new Sailin’ Shoes to my LP (a mid-'70s pressing) and the Warner Brothers CD currently available. The MoFi CD captured much of the bass-drum slam and bass attack of the LP (the bass was mixed somewhat low on the recording), and George’s vocals are more cleanly focused than in either of the other versions. Subtle details, such as the percussion that closes "Easy to Slip," are easier to pick out and identify on the MoFi, and the guitars ring out with more immediacy and authority.

Britton has remained true to the original recording and hasn’t overemphasized or hot-rodded anything. While I still enjoy the overall warmth and flow of the LP, Mobile Fidelity’s current CD version sounds definitive to me. This limited edition is housed in a miniature LP sleeve. Can a MoFi LP be far behind?