La Huitieme Chanson au Paradis
Lowell George - Thanks I'll Eat It Here (Warner, 1979)
Lowell George - 20 Million Things
Just before he himself would push up the pretty lil' daisies, Little Feat's frontman Lowell George would release his first and only album, 'Thanks I'll Eat It Here'. The recording of this lost (and later rediscovered) classic happened during an acrimonious break between Little Feat members with various drug habits escalating and musical differences being espoused regularly. George's well of song was drier than Noel Coward's humour and he was achin' for a little time free reign with his musical friends to work things out. Richie Hayward, Little Feat's drummer, would play on the album and Fred Tackett, member of the Pure Prairie League and future Feats member, would write two cuts but that was the only involvement with the band that George would have during that period.
Lowell George could be said to be a lot like Brian Wilson; both were drugged up, obese, and stone cold geniuses. The one major difference is that Wilson has never made a half-decent solo cut whereas George's album is one of the greatest roots rock albums ever put onto vinyl up there with 'Eat A Peach', 'The Captain and Me', and even the Feats' own 'Sailin' Shoes'. The album includes four standards by peers such as Allen Toussaint, Ann Peebles, Ricki Lee Jones and Jimmy Webb (Webb's song 'Himmler's Ring' should be heard to be believed in all its musky cabaret glory), however, it is a George original that is the album's real highlight. That song is '20 Million Things', the 70s equivalent to Webb's 'Wichita Lineman' with its use of a working man's toil as an astute analogy for the pitfalls inherent to the pursuit of love; the distraction and the folly.
It begins softly with two acoustic guitar working against each other, tangling together like a langorous strain of ivy reaching toward the stars, until that wonderfully familiar creak of the collapsing wood leading into George's muffled curse. Enter a soft piano performing a slow tempo stroll and we're off toward musical heaven as George tries to give him cracked chords a workout but only finding a marked shift toward the melancholy. The guitars continues to shift and strain against their limitations continuing their delightful motif before we reach the chorus' opening call of "It comes from moment to moment/Day to day/Time just slips away" where the piano moves toward an uplifting chord sequence and the heartfelt harmonies provide a splint for George's wounded heart. I believe that the part of the song that will always have me coming back is when George finally reaches the song's core with his plea that "I have 20 million things to do/20 million things/but all I can think about is you". So simplistic yet so undeniably lovely. There are just these touches throughout the song that are so earthed in the human condition that they border on the soulfulness of Cooke, Womack and the Big O. For example, the second verse were the lyric calls for George to utter the line "That rocking chair I was supposed to fix/ well it came undid" manages to cram in so much longing, regret, and grit that I nearly always reach for the dial to move the song back ten seconds so I can hear it all over again. George can joke about his pain though for as we reach the coda's end we hear that same crash of timber accompanied with his mutter of "Oh no I did it again". It realises that such concerns are a cycle with the role of the balladeer never ending. So in honour of that I've had this song on repeat for the last twenty minutes and I'm nowhere near becoming tired of its restless beauty. I can't wait to see how it will hold up when it faces the challenge posed by eternity.
Tomorrow: The Georgian gentleman shows everyone else how to perform the Fab Four.
Buy - Lowell George - Thanks I'll Eat It Here