Sunday, 28 February 2010

“Original Album Series” by LITTLE FEAT. A Review of the 2010 5CD Mini Box Set on Rhino.

"…Give Me Missing Persons…They Say…What is It That You Need?...”

Aping the success of Sony’s similarly packaged 5CD box sets, WEA is releasing over FORTY x 5CD “Original Album Series” mini box sets of their own. Issued only in the UK and Europe, the artists featured stretch from rhythm ‘n’ blues icons of the 1950s (Ray Charles and Clyde McPhatter with The Drifters) all the way through to Metal And Indie bands of the 2000s (Dokken and Echo & The Bunnymen). For those interested, I’ve compiled a full listing of titles in the series in the ‘comment’ section attached to this review (some are superb, some are not).

Here’s the detail for the LITTLE FEAT 5CD issue - released Monday 1 March 2010 on Warner Brothers/Rhino 8122 79835 9, “Original Album Series” breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 is “Little Feat” their 11-track debut album released January 1971 in the USA on Warner Brothers WS 1890 and March 1972 in the UK on Warner Brothers K 46072 (33:30 minutes)

Disc 2 is “Sailin’ Shoes” their 11-track 2nd album released May 1972 in the USA on Warner Brothers BS 2600 and in the UK on Warner Brothers K 46156 (38:02 minutes)

Disc 3 is “Dixie Chicken” their 10-track 3rd album released February 1973 in the USA on Warner Brothers BS 2686 and in the UK on Warner Brothers K 46200 (36:48 minutes)

Disc 4 is “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” their 8-track 4th album released September 1974 in the USA on Warner Brothers BS 2784 and in the UK on Warner Brothers K 56030 (34:30 minutes)

Disc 5 is “The Last Record Album” their 8-track 5th album released November 1975 in the USA on Warner Brothers BS 2884 and in the UK on Warner Brothers K 56156. This CD also includes the 9th, 10th and 11th bonus tracks that are on the Eighties CD issue hence the playing time of 39:39 minutes. The tracks are “Bonus Announcement”, “Don’t Bogart That Joint [Live] and “A Apolitical Blues [Live]”.

The five single card sleeves reflect the ‘original’ front and rear US LP artwork (the gatefold of “Sailin’ Shoes” is unfortunately not reproduced). However, there is an odd addition to the way these card sleeves have been presented that seems to go right across the entire series. Each front sleeve is now ‘bordered’ with a colour – in this issue its brown for “Little Feat”, orange for “Sailin’ Shoes” (and so on) and the label on the CD then reflects that colour code. I mention this because Rhino are usually sticklers for detail and would in the past have used the original vinyl label designs like they did in the ‘Encore’ series (a green Warner Brothers label for “Dixie Chicken”, the Burbank Trees label for “The Last Record Album” and so on), but alas not here…

There’s no inserts or booklet either and the outer card box is disappointingly flimsy too (the Sony ones are chunky and glossy – they’re stronger). Worse, there appears to be no site to download track details from (as there is with the Sony issues). Having said all that, the card sleeves still look cool once out of the box and it’s nice to see the original artwork used (it makes a big difference on the Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and Paul Butterfield rear sleeves – beautiful original album artwork). But that’s small compensation, because the really bad news is the opportunity missed in the sound department…

Some CD sites selling these sets seemed to have automatically ‘presumed’ that each is “digitally remastered”, but it categorically does not state that on the outer box or any of the card sleeves or discs – and rather too conveniently - neither website for Rhino USA or UK has any info on the series. But what’s not hard to discern is what your ears are telling you.

Like most fans I have the crappy Eighties CD issues just to have the music and these 2010 versions seem to be pretty much the same. To put this into a song context, when you compare the 2000 “Hotcakes” genuine remasters of say “Two Trains”, “Willin’”, “Roll Um Easy”, “Rock And Roll Doctor” and especially “Long Distance Love” (lyrics above), the sound quality is infinitely better on the Box Set versions – truly gorgeous stuff. The sound quality here is merely good at best (maybe better in some places), but it’s absolutely not the upgrade fans were hoping for on ‘all’ of the albums.

With Rhino announcing redundancies in their reissue departments (everything’s going away from hard copy to digital downloads) and the slightly slapdash feel of these boxes, you can’t help but field a depressing thought – this is a truly great reissue label just chucking stuff at the wall to sell it. A musical maverick going out with a whimper rather than a bang – flogging us what they ‘know’ is more of the same old crud just with a prettier lick of paint. Only a few years ago, Rhino could be relied upon to deliver us superlative reissues every time – with these and the rubbish “Flashback” series - not anymore it seems…

If the Rickie Lee Jones, Chaka Khan, Chris Rea and George Benson titles are the same, then I’ll not bother at all with any more in this series…and that’s just plain depressing.

Three stars out of five – at a pinch. Very, very disappointing…


  1. I take that back.. I see that "Grand Illusion" is coming out remastered, release date on April 20th according to CD Universe. Hooray! I didn't see all of the albums I listed above by Styx coming out Remastered but it's a start.. and I'll take it.

  2. Thank you for shedding some light on the packaging. Personally, I find that this contributes to the (perceived) value, and to some extent, the enjoyment of the purchase. All too often, the majors tend to overlook the importance of 'completeness' - the look and feel of the total product, which contributes to experience. Again, thanks for your detail notes.