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Small Faces

I heard that ain't the only thing that's small

Introduction

 

As the Small Faces:

Small Faces

There Are But Four Small Faces

Ogden's Nut Gone Flake

BBC Sessions

Playmates

78 In the Shade

 

As the Faces:

First Step

Long Player

A Nod Is As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse

Ooh La La

Coast to Coast: Overture and Beginners

 


The Lineup Card (1965-1978)

Kenny Jones (drums) also of the Who

Ronnie Lane (bass) until 1973

Steve Marriott (guitars, vocals) 1965-9, 1977-8 also of Humble Pie

Jimmy Winston (keyboards) 1965

Ian McKlagan (keyboards) after 1965 also played with the Rolling Stones and others

Rod Stewart (vocals) 1969-1975 also of the Jeff Beck Group

Ron Wood (guitars) 1969-1975 also of the Jeff Beck Group and Rolling Stones

Tetsu Yamauchi (bass) 1973-5 also of Free

Starting out as Britain's criminally forgotten little brothers to fellow Mod-rockers the Who and the Yardbirds and ending up as hazily remembered little brothers to the Stones, the Small Faces (and later, Faces) were a party band that made up in charm and good fun what they lacked (relatively) in ambition. In the mid-to-late 60's, the Small Faces (which ain't no joke, smoke. Being, like, all of three inches tall including their poofy mod hairdos, they definitely are rivaled by only AC/DC and the early Hanson as the shortest band ever.) played a mixture of hard R&B and hard psychedelia, led by their Brian Jones-twin singer and guitarist Steve Marriott, a little cigar box of thunder and lightning who acted as the charge for this group. Marriott was little pothead bastard, but he slashed at his guitar like Pete Townshend with a crazy hair up his arse and sang with a very Robert Plant-y human-guitar howl mixed with a sort of half Van Morrison hitch but without the range (or whine) of either. The three other boys included the King of Open High Hat Bashing Kenny Jones, closet folkie bassist and all-around chummy guy Ronnie Lane, and their secret weapon, pianist/organist Ian McLagan (how many 60's rock bands had their very own barrelhouse piano player, I ask? Not so many as you'd think, I answer!) The band had success in the UK but never really got over in the States outside of the small hit 'Itchycoo Park', which I swear I have never heard on the radio in 28 years of being alive. The Small Faces recorded three albums, two of them pieces of mid-Sixties semi-ripoff no-similarity-between-UK-and-US-versions catalogue clutter and one bizarre experimental psychedelic thingy called (no joke) Ogden's Nut Gone Flake. Marriott decided he wanted nothing more than to play irritatingly loud blooze rock with Peter Frampton, so he left in 1969 to form Humble Pie, leaving the Small Faces with only a decent, well-dressed rhythm section.

Help came in the form of yet more Mods, the slightly taller Rod Stewart and Ron Wood, freshly freed from the salt mines of the first Jeff Beck Group. They were ready to rock out and reform the renamed Faces into a sort of mini-Stones, or maybe the Chuck Berry Boogie Band, if you will. After the drama and disaster of 1968, all five of the lads just wanted to get googly drunk and play a bunch of good-timey roots rock tunes, and proceeded to do so for the next three or four years. During this time, Rod carried on an increasingly successful parallel solo career (for the most part using the Faces for his backup band) and began to grow into a veritable pinup-boy for Seventies rock.  His visibility, plus the fact that critics were giving his more 'serious' solo work more credibility than the goofy, half-assed records he made with the Faces meant friction within this most chummy of bands as they came into 1972 and '73. Ronnie Lane quit in '73 because of disillusionment, replaced by the same Japanese dude who played in Paul Kossoff's Rodgers-less Free. The band limped onward, kept afloat mostly by Rod Stewart's now universal success as a solo artist, but finally succumbed when Keith-a-like Ron Wood was borrowed by the Rolling Stones to play on their 1975 American tour. As with Ned Flanders' lawn tools, the Stones never felt the need to return him, and the Faces dissolved soon after. Rod Stewart went on to become 1. a disco darling trading on his rocker past, 2. an 80's pop darling trading on his disco past, 3. an Adult Contemporary darling trading on his 80's pop past (and uncredited Bob Dylan covers), and finally, 4. a moldy crooner trading on his Adult Contemporary past and every Gershwin tune he can get his poopy hands on.  As a postscript, following Humble Pie's own boogie meltdown in the mid-70's, the original Small Faces reformed in 1977 for a couple of albums that didn't sell Jack Palance and then broke up again. Kenny Jones became the replacement for Keith Moon in the half-assed latter-day Who, Ian Stewart became a touring keyboardist, Steve Marriott began an unsuccessful solo career, and Ronnie Lane spent thirty years fighting off a horrible disease.

The thing was, despite being a very good band with fine records and fashion sense that rivals Michael Irvin, the Small Faces/Faces weren't really taken all that seriously during their time, especially in America, where they barely made a wrinkle.  They were always compared, inevitably unfavorably, against the bands that they seemed to be partially emulating, from the crash 'n' bash mid-Sixties Who to the early 70's Rolling Stones. First off, they always seemed to be about a year behind the times - Small Faces was raw R&B-based Mod rock released in 1966, which was the year of the cutesy dancehall pop tune ala Between the Buttons or Face to Face, which they emulated on 1967's There Are But Four Small Faces, which came out in the year of Sergeant Pepper, which the Small Faces finally got around to responding to in 1968 when everyone else had moved on to hard rock already. They also were never able to make the same kind of 'statements' that those bands made (As a concept album, Flake is certainly no Tommy, though I'm not sure it's any worse, and Long Player is certainly no Sticky Fingers, no doubt about that), they lacked roots credibility (no Beggar's Banquets here, either), and they sure didn't have quite the same firepower those bands had. But who ever did? The fact remains that the Small Faces made some great singles and albums that aren't nearly as embarrassing in retrospect as some of what the other Mod/R&B competition, the Yardbirds and Animals (gawd...especially the Animals), were doing at the same time. Also, listening to Steve Marriott in 1966 is like hearing Led Zeppelin '69 wrapped up in one little package...some of what Page and Plant stole from the Small Faces is downright criminal. Everyone needs to hear where they got their schtick from, don't they? As for the Faces, they were too drunk and goofy to have much ambition when they weren't recording Rod Stewart albums (which have a striking, rootsy originality), but they still could play their rooster haircuts off and bring their perpetual party to any audience they played for. If I had my choice between the fun Faces and blooze technicians like, say, Albert Lee's Ten Years After, I'll take the Faces every time. They're ten times more rock 'n' roll than some butthole playing 'Going Home' boogie for 15 minutes, I say.


Small Faces - Deram 1966

The Fall Smaces weren't much more than a delightfully loose ass-in-the-wind R&B rock 'n' roll band when they released their debut album in 1966, and the parallel here is clearly the album tracks on Who Sing My Generation...amateurish, pretty sloppy (especially the guitars and drums, which are also the best parts), but somehow tons of fun anyway. And, of course, more derivatives than a Calc 4 textbook, the Sixties rock artist having graduated from releasing albums packed with covers ala 1964-era Rolling Stones onto releasing albums filled with originals that are so close to their source material they may as well be covers (see the Kinks). In terms of covers go, there's only one here, but I like this album's cover of Sam Cooke-by-way-of-Wilson Pickett's 'Shake' more than the Oo's two-track James Brown fetish on their debut. Anyway - the Faces wrote five of the twelve songs on here all by themselves, including 'writing' 'Whatcha Gonna Do About It', which probably took about three minutes and about two brain cells to rewrite from 'Everybody Needs Somebody'. Many of the rest of the originals are also oddly similar to each other as they're all pretty much based on well-used early 60's R&B cliches, especially the ones written by these two producer dudes Jerry Ragovoy and Kenny Lynch, but the chaotic Pickett-y original 'Come On Children' bashes and crashes like the Exxon Valdez on nickel beer night with glorious levels of feedback and random guitar noise, and the instrumental 'Own Up Time' continues on with more of the same fascinatingly overamped garage-blooze as if the boys are just shoving it in our faces that as long as your guitar is THIS FUCKING LOUD and your drummer is THIS FUCKING LOUD, then melodies are for sissies and cancer patients.  What, am I supposed to act like I don't like this loud-ass blooze shit just because the Small Faces are so out of tune they sound like they use their instruments to bang in roofing shingles between gigs? Hell no!

The best track on here is the uncredited Willie Dixon cover of 'You Need Lovin', which you might better know as Led 'Me and Pagey Wrote This, I Swear' Zeppelin 'Whole Lotta Love' without the riff. Dig:

            I ain't FFFFOOOOOLLLAHN! Bay-bah you nyeed COOOOOWWWWLLLIIN'

            I gwana SEEEEYIINNNNDD YEEEUHHHHH back to SCEWWWLLLLINN!!'

 and it goes on:

            "WuhMAN! YYYEEEEWWWW NEEEEED! LOOOOOOOOVVVVVVRRREEE!'

 Holy Jumpin Jesus of Nazareth Hair of the Dogfucker! Robert Plant deserves a brick to the nuts for that little ripoff of his former idol Marriott. I mean, this vocal was copied down to the fucking phrasing by Mr. Band of Joy. I guess Marriott didn't really give much of a Harry Reasoner about what Plant did, rightfully noting that both he and Plant had ripped off Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon without properly crediting them for writing the original I haven't heard.

Okay, not a whole lot more interesting to say about this record except that, believe it or not, the Small Faces wanted this album to be even rawer and louder than it already was, but since they were stuck recording for a division of Decca records, they were stuck using the same lily-eared middle-aged engineers that spent most of their time recording, say, Herman's Hermits or Georgie Fame and His Bedfarts, guys who insisted the Small Faces never play at full volume under threat of permanent boycott. Apparently there's an extended version of this album with a French EP tacked on that shows just how grungey they could really play, but since I've had my doubts about 'Old Yurrup' ever since Old Trusty Donald Rumsfeld opened his reptilian mouth about them crying to mommy about our preplanning of the Sad-damn Ass Kick beach party in Eye-Rack, I haven't bought it. I can imagine, though, that ol' Steve Marriott would come out and be all like 'DOWN ON THE STREET I WAS LOST IN LOVE!' while going 'JUH-JUH JUH JUH JUH! JUH-JUH JUH!' on his guitar and doing all these weird scream like he's breathing in past his vocal chords, making them buzz the wrong way and rubbing peanut butter on his glass bottle before cutting 'My Ass Belongs To David Bowie' across his chest and getting locked in a mental institution where he pain't himself silver and learns to love Grace Jones albums. Or maybe they just play until the tape is so overloaded it just sounds like a bunch of crap anyway.

Actually, I just had a hard enough time locating this Small Faces record, and don't really feel like spending more of my time trying to locate 6 more songs just so I can feel all good about tacking on another sentence confirming that they are, in fact, a loud band. Doncha trust me? I was there! I happened to be living a previous life as a hair louse at the time, living with my wife and 20,000 nits in a split level in Ronnie Lane's asscrack after moving over from a previous domicile located on a 35-year old overweight Blackpool pub waitress with poor bathing habits, but I WAS THERE, MAN!

Capn's Final Word: Eh? Blues by Brits? Whoda thunk it?

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Mike    Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: Steve was using a Gretsch Duo Jet for most of this shit...I have never heard a Gretsch get that grungy before.

Correction. Gretsch Jet Firebird.


There Are But Four Small Faces - Immediate 1967

Ooh, racy! 'Itchycoo Park' was the hit from this US version of the second Small Faces album, which in England was called Small Faces just like the first Small Faces album was called. Small Faces, that is. Except when it's called What The Fuck Kind Of Numbskulls Ran Record Companies In the Nineteen Sixties, Anyway? And the clincher is that it's about going to the park and getting stoned. Hey! It sez so right there in the chorus: 'What didja do there? I GOT HIIIIIIGH!'. And this is supposed to be the band's only US radio hit? Possibly it's just because I've grown up in a time period where the drug culture has so permeated our language, but was this just overlooked back in 1967? Did people really not know what 'getting high' was? Man, even without the offending line, it's still pretty clear these guys were so stoned they could barely stand up when recording this album, their 'transitional' LP that bridges from the hard-butt garage R&B of their debut to the hard-butt psychedelia of Ogden's Nut Gone Flake. I'm a bit underwhelmed by it all, to be honest, as the band's vision of itself seems to me to be pretty muddled at this point. Are they a stately, well-arranged psycho pop band, like on 'Up the Wooden Hills to Bedford', still hard R&B like on 'Talk To You', or a proto hard rock band, like on 'My Way of Giving' (which for the life of me sounds like Humble Pie).  The Small Faces were blessed with a recognizable sound and a singer with a strong personality, but they just seemed never really able to put it together in a way that would make the listener sit up in bed and say THAT is the defining moment of this band - THAT is their reason to exist. This album is generally pleasant enough, but the pop side of the band has tried to smother the harder-edged portions under a pillow of Beatles '66 and loopy background vocals that only sound good when your head is under so much high-altitude THC haze everything sounds like Minnie Mouse anyway (There's no other way to explain the sped-up background chirps on 'I Feel So Much Better', which is so Swinging London it makes my teeth crooked just to think about it).

All this discussion about 'who the Small Faces are' all sounds about as intelligent to me as an average contestant on The Swan explaining why they have bathing habits usually found in catatonics and boxcar hoboes, especially since I'm just not that wild about many of the songs on here anyway. Who cares what kind of band the Beatles were trying to be on The White Album (were they even trying to be a band at all?) when they delivered good songs one after another after 'Honey Pie' after another? The Small Faces aren't as good as all that of course, so their tentative little experiments sound pretty meek, especially considering the world would explode into Dayglo Abortions in a few months with the release of Sgt. Pepper's Sings The Ballad Of The Green Berets. The London druggy proto-hipster coat the Small Faces put on just doesn't fit them too well - What is 'experimental' here is pretty tame - a fake fadeout on 'Feel Much Better'? It'd work better if they were playing something interesting while doing it. Like feedback. Or backgammon. Another wink-wink song about what a nice guy your drug dealer is? Didn't the Stones already do one of those called 'Connection' right around that time, and the Beatles do a (shitty) one called 'Doctor Robert' the year before? Again, if 'Here Come The Nice' had been better, I'd overlook its unoriginality, but it's not and that's that.  And on 'Show Me The Way', it's as if they;d realized they hadn't thrown a harpsichord song on the album yet, and got to whipping one up (recycling the riff to 'Here Come The Nice' in the bargain) so they could still be just like the Stones and Kinks and everybody else who ever put on a green velvet jacket and a faggy poet shirt in 1966. This band was simply not good enough to compromise its main strength (noisy ballsy rock) and rely on its songwriting, the legitimately dramatic 'Tin Soldier' excepted, and so here sounds like they're playing with one ball tied behind their back.

Capn's Final Word: Perhaps it was moving to drug kingpin Andrew 'Loogie' Oldham's label, but they seem to have compromised their main draw to go along with the pill-popping hipster crowd. I thirst for more 'Lovin'.

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darren finizio     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: when one likesd a band its easy to forgive alot of bad decsion-making and like things for what they are -- which is how i classify this lp and "ogdens"...i often hear it said that this is was their chance to really do their "own thing" -- i think the small faces were kinda trendy and just jumped on whatever bandwagon was big at the time -- thing is, the mod-program seemed to have suited them best so the supposedly half-baked decca recordings are (ironically) much stronger...small faces were somehwere to the left of spencer davis group and to the right of the who prior to this album, but most-of-all they rocked hard...your right, most of this stuff shows that they were kinda mediocre as songwriters and not really cut-out for psychedelia -- but if you like the band you can buy the complete immediate compilation "darlings" and use the forward button alot.

 


Ogden's Nut Gone Flake - Immediate 1968.
        

Probably the most 'Small Faces' of any of their albums, which trickily means that it gathers everything from other sources but ends up sounding pretty unique in its own way.  Unfortunately 'that way' is only partially listenable. Apparently along with the ass-kicking bashing hard rock the Small Faces were known for, they also had a love for 'whimsy' in the form of ultra-British dancehall hoohaw, along the lines of the Kinks but much more cartoonish and much, much worse. To be honest, I'm not sure I like this album much at all - this is the Small Faces dabbling in fractured little-kid psychedelia, chaos, Cockneyism, fairy tales, and stoned-out singalongs, and after listening to it probably thirty times in the last two weeks I'm sure of two things: 1) It's definitely not what you'd have expected from the 'Mod' Small Faces, even in 1968, and 2) It does absolutely nothing better than the psychedelic rangers (Beatles, Pink Floyd, Cream) who blazed the lysergic path the year before. Nothing. The album itself (like this review) is something of a mess - after the requisite introduction instrumental, Side 1 is simply a load of unrelated singles, but Side 2 is a Cockney Fairy Tale (!) (?) (!!), narrated by this dude with a voice that can best be described as that of a East End Jed Clampett, (a 'Muswell Hillbilly', as it were) and some fairly irritating attempts to put together something resembling a rock opera. Something about some dude riding a fly to the moon or some such incomprehensible shit that people thought was profound (or hilarious, who knows what their motivations were) back in 1968 when everyone was eating heroin tabs and sucking cocaine off poor frogs' backs. Now it's just campy and dumb, and it doesn't help that instead of spacey, mind-warping acid rock, most of this is set to that geeky folky-drunken kitsch music like what Paul McCartney seems to like so much. This is definitely not an album for the dancehall-intolerant like me - I've grown to despise much of it over the past several days, much like most people will think about 10 seconds or so of bluegrass sounds pretty cool, but even the most hearty mountain man will begin to hate the shit like a hot poker to the pussy if you play it for them all day long. The Small Faces obviously think a lot of what they were doing was 'cute' or 'witty' or 'subversive', but I just see it as fucking about on the form the Kinks had done a bazillion times better the year before. The endless Cockney narrator monologues that plague the second side are just as irritating and frustratingly nonsensical as any randomly chosen Graeme Edge poetry excursion, but the big difference is that this stuff keeps coming back like a bad case of the crabs...this asshole comes back to tell us of more 'faggy fags' and 'mad dogs, what?' and 'cockloads of his heartstrings' (is that what he says?) as if we cared about his stupid glottoral-stop sputterings. If you don't like this sort of bawdy, nearly incomprehensible British folky music, you should treat this album like the unflushed toilet stall at the airport. Just imagine it doesn't exist. Go to the next one.

Luckily, just when you think you'll puke your jeans from too much of this Disney-on-a-gallon-o-Guinness leprechaun bullshit, they let themselves become a rock 'n' roll band for half a second here and there to deliver some very good tracks, rock tracks, catchy, powerful rock tracks like they hadn't much attempted since 1966. 'Song Of A Baker' sounds like early Deep Purple crossed with Big Star and is huge, loud, and brash, a massive wall of organ chords and drum cascades that I can't help but love, and 'After Glow' is nearly as epic - a hardened, fuzzed-out, fucked-up folk rocker featuring a chorus so gloriously over-the-top it sounds like Marriott is boiling his head off. 'Long Agos and Worlds Apart' is watery and stoned beyond comprehension, but the melodic core remains intact underneath all that reverbed madness.
The rest is unfortunately derivative, overcute, and more irritating than Tara Reid reciting the Gettysburg Address over a randomly chosen Einsturzende Neubauten track. The intro is very cool for what it is, but it's also a horrid cliché - the 'cool/square' classical-rock fusoid intro that announces Flake as something more than just another rock album...it's a concept album, and it's Serious Fucking Art (even though its about riding Enormous Fucking Flies and getting stoned on Enormous Fucking Joints). I can barely tolerate the nauseatingly bouncy stoner hit 'Lazy Sunday', where Marriott sounds so hick-British I feel like punching him in his oversinging Davy Jones-on-drugs nuts (just like on the she's-a-dirty-whore-but-she's-our-dirty-whore ditty 'Rene' before it degrades into a poor version of the middle section of 'My Generation halfway through). 'Happiness Stan' is, gawd, just terribly cliched baroque psychedelia. Think Spinal Tap. Flowers and excrement. The energetic-if-nothing-else 'Rollin' Over' raves but still pales in comparison with blues rockers with more integrity than the Faces had (I hear tons of Cream in here, you?), seeming to consist of a lot of aimless bashing that never coalesces into a hooky hole. Still impressively energetic, though. You can continue to play Name the Influence on through the stretch between 'The Hungry Intruder' (aka Tommy), 'The Journey' (uhhh...Tyrannosaurus Rex? Tommy James and the Shondells?), 'Mad John', (Donovan), and 'Happy Days Toy Town' (my large intestine after an enchilada dinner). It simply doesn't give enough idea that they cared to send their very best.  It must've seemed like enough that they were having such a good time in the studio...it hard to translate onto the tape, didn't it?

Capn's Final Word: Guess it didn't. Give my regards to Knee's Up Mother Brody, though.

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froody     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: a very poor review in my humble opinion, this album is an absolute classic and i think it stands up to the albums of my favourate artists(the beatles, the doors, bob dylan) i like it as much as piper at the gates of dawn, i havent heard any cream, and i havent heard all of the kinks vgps, but this is a classic pschadelic album and is good to listen to with a couple of people, my mate thinks its his favourate album of all time, classsics include afterglow, rene, long agos, the hungry intruder, rollin over and happy days toy town. and i think the dialog is funny overall a highly recomended album.the small faces piss over the vast majority of music ever, including the who from what ive heard of them, if i change my mind you shall be informed but i doubt it very much.

 


The BBC Sessions - Varese 1998

Live-in-the-crystalline-BBC-studios release that don't sound no worse or better than the first album. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure these aren't the exact same performances, mostly. Well, of course they're not, but they're so goddamn close, what's the difference, anyway? I guess it's testament to the Small Faces ability to play live that I can't really pick out too many flubs or half-assed bits, and that they sound just as metallic and acid on here as they did cramming all their sound into that measly London Records four-track deck.  The additional cover material from the groups early days (which may or may not exist on one of their innumerable compilation records...how the fuck should I know? I don't quite have the 40 hours per week of free time it takes to be a British Invasion discographer, not with my crack , whore, and peanut butter habits, anyway). includes a cover of Marvin Gaye's version of Holland/Dozier/Holland's 'Baby, Doncha Do It', (also covered by the Who) complete with unreachable female background vocals attempted gamely (and gamey) by one of the Faces themselves, and Rufus Thomas's hard-R&B 'Jump Back', also done by the Spencer Davis Group, in a much more sedate version, no doubt. There's also some heretofore unmentioned originals (like 'Understanding' and 'Rare Interviews with Steve Marriott Part III', which I heard was part of the unreleased sequel to Ogden's Nut Gone Flake called Quaker's Quick Pothead Oats). No really, the interviews are pretty standard other than when Steve more or less slams his manager's nuts in the drawer for not giving them a rest after three years of running their mod asses around Europe nonstop. Anyway, I still don't like 'Lazy Sunday', but that's a small price to pay to hear the debut album all over again, isn't it?

 Capn's Final Word:  Would it even be fair to give this a different grade than Small Faces?

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Playmates - Atlantic 1978

Apparently all those years in Humble Pie weren't too kind to ol' Stevie 'Wonder' Marriott, but then again working in such close quarters to Frampton like that is liable to do that to a guy. His voice sounds tired and his melodies even more so on this late-70's comeback attempt by the guys in the Small Faces who weren't chosen for big fame and fortune (except Kenny I guess, who'd be on the Who gravy train in a couple of years).  You could say this is the true Small Faces at long last: Marriott, McKlagan, and Jones, but you could also say this was the dregs. And don't forget, to get to the dregs, you have to drink the entire goddamn barrel, and that's just exactly what the Small Faces sound like they've done. This is one woozy sonembitch, that's for sure...if they were able to walk from the control room to the microphone without falling down all over each other, color me impressed.

The thing is, as frontman, singer, guitarist, and songwriter, the importance of Steve Marriott to the original band cannot be understated, and his depressing fade in the ensuing years has left him a shadow of his former self.  He mentions 'trying to fill my spoon'  on one track and 'doing another line' in another, but it sounds to me like this man needs bedrest, some herbal tea, and a nice full-bodied dump more than he needs to fuck himself up any more than he has. Secondarily, the 'second-in-command' Ronnie Lane, who left the Faces back in '73 to pursue rock 'n' roll circus roadshows and debilitating disease in his spare time, is only here in a marginal role at best (he didn't get along to well with the other guys...he must've thought 'Drive In Romance' was the worst gutter slime he'd ever heard, too). That leaves, well, Ian and Kenny as 'guiding lights', neither of whom can sing ('Tonight'...yikes! Whoever sang that should ldo the world of service and take a vow of silence), or has any interest in really leading a band. Predictably, as a result of all this 'hands-offedness' and intoxication, this thing is about as well-organized as a Brazilian Mars mission, but instead of being the endearing, heartfelt mess that some of the Faces albums were, this is simply a half-assed,let's-fuck-about-'til-something-happens-even-if-it-never-does anything-goes lost weekend. Lemme tell you, the last thing this band needs is anything going. Some things just should never go. F'r instance, we goddamn well don't need disco ('Find It', which ain't much more than a drumbeat anyway) and we don't need funkacraptic Humble Pie boogie leftover nightmares like 'Lookin' For a Love', neither. Toos it boys, even if you have to cut this bitch down to an EP. Don't sully yourselves like that.

Okay, there's a coupla bright spots - 'Saylarvee' has a nice drunken Jerry Lee Lewis thing goin' on, Ian McKlagan's piano work is good throughout, and the mistily nostalgic title track and 'Smilin' In Tune' are both pretty great songs for what they represent to this band (acknowledgement their relevance is ticking down to zero, if it hadn't already).  Of course, as standalone songs in the grand scheme of things, they suck toad livers, but I can't be too cruel to a bunch of dudes having some of their last good times together, can I? That'd be like stabbing a hobo or kicking a two-legged dog around the yard. Let's look at the bright side of things, eh? At least they're all still alive at this point.

Capn's Final Word: They are still alive, aren't they?

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Eric S     Your Rating: D+
Any Short Comments?: "...left the Faces back in '73 to pursue rock 'n' roll circus roadshows and debilitating disease in his spare time..."  I'm going to hell for laughing at this line.  Off to look for your John Lennon jokes now...

I think I played one track of this album when I worked in a used record store, and took it off after that one track.  Though I did sell a used Humble Pie CD out of the deal.  Steve Marriott really didn't get any better than "Tin Soldier", and here he just sounds far beyond fucked up.


First Step  - Warner Brothers 1969

Yeah, yeah I know it says 'Small Faces' on it, so you can save your energy firing up Outlook and sending me another email with yet another factual error in it. You aren't the only one doing it, 'cause this site is only just about riddled with the pesky motherfuckers...I try my best and refer to my references and resource my sources and plagiarize my plagarees as much as I can, but sometimes the fuck-ups just come a-flying on out of my fingertips anyway and end up here, preserved forever in a difficult-to-read black on grey color scheme forever and ever. It's permanent. Forever. As long as electromagnetism and copper wiring exist, chances are you'll get to see how much I really like stupid hard rock or how much The Wall makes me want to punch my cat in his fat bag. And even if I decide to pull a Starostin and dismantle the thing in a fit of rage and ethanolism, it'll still be there, preserved for the ages by the computers at Archive.org. You ever want to see what this page looked like three years ago? Hop on and type in my address. (Hint: it was exactly the same) So, what I'm saying is that this irresponsible hive of misinformation is now carved into digital stone, even if I don't want it to be. So email if you wish, but this is now beyond my control. All I do is feed the Beast his daily (weekly?) dose of new sarcasm and hope he doesn't come around demanding that I finish my goddamn Frank Zappa page already.

Anyway, First Step is slightly darker and less boozy in tone than the later Faces albums are, but that's not to say that it's either dark or sober, because it sure ain't. These guys couldn't walk a straight line if a record contract depended on it, but more importantly, do we want them to? It's nice having fun, heavily lubricated music lying around, which is why I like the Pogues as much as I do. Now, it wasn't like the Small faces were a bunch of librarians or something (all the wasted revelry on Ogden's ought to prove that much to ya), but their problem was they were trying to have a goofy good time making music that lots of folks took deadly serious - 'Sunday Afternoon' and 'Itchycoo Park' were serious artistic statements of rebellion and shouldn't be performed as if the lead singer had woken up in a bathtub full of lukewarm bourbon, three or four underaged groupies, and a few suspicious-looking Polaroids of the Queen in compromising circumstances. When Marriott left, it was a great opportunity for both sides to shed their British Invasion mini-Who Mod pinup image and start anew as 'just' a simple rock 'n' roll band without all that baggage. Bringing in Rod Stewart and Ron Wood gave them some Jeff Beck Group street cred, though the Faces and the boy's old band really couldn't sound more dissimilar in approach. the JBG was as uptight, pre-arranged, and regimented as the Faces are chaotic, loose, and relaxed. Ron Wood is definitely a capable player, but has always been more of a rhythm player forced to carry a few leads than a mini-Titan flash hero like ol' Beck, and besides - never was Rod allowed much leeway to develop himself inside his old group. It soon became clear, to come back to the point I abandoned, like, fifteen minutes ago, that First Step is an adjustment period, decompression from the Small Faces and JBG, and as such doesn't really seem to fit in with the other Faces records. For one thing, there's a noticeable lack of no-brain-required cover songs that would act as filler on the next three (ala 'Memphis, Tennessee', a great tune for sure, but probably about as challenging for a band like this to play as a game of Go Fish) , and the filler that is here (the instrumental 'Looking Out the Window, say) seems to act mostly as a place for the new band to bond with each other rather than just randomly dashed-off songs tossed in to finish the album quicker.

Moreover, there are two actual, honest-to-God serious tunes here that, despite both being fantastic, point to the fact that the Faces had, at one time, more ambition than what they'd end up being able to do anything with. 'Flying' is a pretty massive achievement nonetheless, especially for a bunch of guys who didn't choose to play like this very often. This is a bittersweet epic based around a descending riff ala 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps', speaking for a convict's desire for freedom or something. It's rougher than two-cent moonshine (especially Ron's parts, which often disintegrate completely), but it's also extremely heartfelt and...wouldn't you know it? Makes me think of flying. Neato. The other slightly weighty tune is the opening blues rocker 'Wicked Messenger', featuring a minor-key, almost Celtic tinge to the vocal melody. Ron's slide work stings like pure evil, dodging the chaotic rises and falls of McLagan's organ and Lane's basslines, both of which produce a sound which is riddled with holes and disparate melodies, but somehow holds together do to, what? Pure evil? A shared love for croquet? God knows, but it holds together anyway. Cool tune, and Rod blows his siren here magnificiently. I do wish they'd explored their more artistic, heavy side more on their later works, but the fact that they didn't makes First Step a bit more special - they hadn't yet gotten caught up in their own jolly-good image, and they'd soon start relegating anything with more weight than a pint of Guinness to Rod's solo albums.

The Faces do stake out some more familiar stock-in-trade elsewhere on , from the heart-on-sleeve Otis Redding-ish ballad that they'd toss on each of the rest of their albums ('Devotion', with a cool instrumental section that sounds light years from the Small Faces power-chord bluntness) to endearing mandolins-and-banjos Ronnie Lane-championed folk (his cute 'Stone', featuring Lane's froggy vocals, all about each one of his previous lives, from a stone to a grub to a mule to a hoodlum, morphs into the next), and, of course the Southern roots rock boogie tunes that would serve to fill up the rest of the time.  On one hand, songs like 'Shake, Shudder', and 'Pineapple and the Monkey' would be the Faces bread-and-butter, but I also can't help thinking how they didn't do this stuff as well as not only the Stones or many of their followers, but also did it better themselves on Rod's solo albums. I guess they really had an original sound (one that's now been so completely absorbed into the culture of your Bonnie Raitts and Black Crowes and what-have-you's to be almost like slipping on a pair of well-worn, 5-year old sneakers) and, to be honest, there's not much to complain about with this stuff - it rocks nicely, Rod's gravelly Scot voice always stops two inches from the brink of tastelessness, and they have an indescribable way of making me feel, well...happy. But there sure isn't much weight to it either, neither being balls-out enough to catch you up in an air-guitar fury (ala Aerosmith or AC/DC), it's not groundbreaking (no Who keyboards or other futurist brain-candy) or 'important' or serious enough to catch you in much of any emotional way (like how Lynyrd Skynyrd might be able to do).  It's only rock 'n' roll. It'll be up to you to decide if that's enough or not.

Capn's Final Word: I am quite happy about this record. The stronger, more serious moments force me to consider it as more than 'just a Faces record', though I wish there were more of 'em.

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Faces - Warner Brothers 1971

The Faces debut poked around in a few areas that, despite sounding great to me, the band must've decided didn't fit into their masterplan.  (Phsa! Like the Faces had a masterplan. It was good enough for them to have a wine list.) Dark, non-bluesy, mid-tempo rockers might just have been their ticket to acceptance as more than a rootsy party band (at least I think it could've been), but they weren't having nothing of it...it's much easier writing the nth Otis Redding-derivative blues ballad or two-note roots boogie, not to mention performing it when you can barely stand up onstage. As a result, their second album became much more of a stereotypically 'Faces' record - more boogie, more roots rockin', tighter funk, and about as much ambition as the average banana slug. Yup. All gone! You hear one Faces record, you've really heard 'em all. They'd end up remaking this album twice more in their career, every once in awhile bringing their formula to a sort of perfection but mostly just cruising along at this reliable, pleasant clip that keeps the smiles coming but never penetrates into the memory (that'd all be saved for the concurrent Rod solo albums...if you like the way the Faces play but wish they'd write better songs, check out anything by Rod prior to 1973). I can't really be too misty at the prospect of the Faces losing their artistic drive, considering they didn't have that much in the first place, but it sure makes reviewing their albums a chore. How many times can you say 'good mid-tempo rootsy rocker' or 'folk-inflected acoustic ballad' before you cough up a lung into your coffee cup, anyway? I guess I'll keep 'em short.

This is a seriously consistent record, the only slow spots for me being the live covers of Big Bill Broonzy's 'I Feel So Good', very sloppy and obvious, like the Allman Brothers with half their limbs cut off, and Paul McCartney's 'Maybe I'm Amazed'.  'Amazed' should be a great choice for the Faces to do, considering how thrown-together, rocking, and arbitrary the original was. It indeed starts out as good as might be imagined, with Ronnie Lane singing his just-north-of-ugly vocals with all the subtlety of Paul's original. But then Rod comes in and the song degrades into just so many screwed up fills, wanky pauses, and oversung choruses as can be packed into several minutes. The whole thing has a dashed off 'What the fuck, let's bash it out' vibe that does a disservice to the resilience of the original. It almost train wrecks about a half a dozen times (aren't there, like, three missed verses here?), and never actually clicks again after the first few verses, finally sputtering to a close.  For live versions of this great song, stick with Wings Over America and let this rickety widget be.

The rest of the album is good, enjoyable stuff. If it weren't, I'd be angrier than a PETA representative at a dog-beating competition, but it is, so what the hell. A Good record. Yawn. 'Bad 'n' Ruin' has a nice, comfortable sweep and a crazy-good riff for an opening rocker, and the band has worked out their groove well enough to follow along with each other without losing their endearing looseness. 'Richmond' is Ronnie Lane's great opportunity to write a country blues tune, and he somehow comes up with something honest, even a tiny bit moving (though in reality, Richmond is a real shithole of a town). Hell, Kermit the Frog or no, I like the man's voice - If I can handle Bob Dylan's early 80's voice, I can go along with this one. I'm not ready to crown the guy some sort of King of Sincerity like some critics do, (he relies on too many lyrical and musical cliches for that), but he is a nice tonic to Rod Stewart's jock-rockin' voice now and then. The rest? Sheeit...it's competent in its incompetence, enjoyable in its very predictability, I suppose. These guys had found their sound and had decided to cling to it like koala babies. I might have a tendency to overrate it or underrate it considering how much or little roots rock I've been listening to recently, 'cause it sure doesn't compare well to any Stones albums of the same time (or Rod Stewart albums, for that matter), but its inherent integrity and wooden tone is always welcome in my ears.

Capn's Final Word: This is their territory, so get used to it. Some lame live covers outweighed by consistency and goodwill.

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A Nod is as Good As A Wink to a Blind Horse - Warner Brothers 1972

Wow, when I think about it, all of these albums could so easily drop down that precipitous chasm between a 'I look at it on the shelf and see a good album' B+ to a 'I look at it and see a second rate album' B very easily, but I haven't let them do it because, goddamn it, I like the way these guys play, despite feeling like I've now heard every trick in the Faces book at least three times. Nod is the first Faces album to be released after Every Picture Tells A Story turned Rockin' Rod into a true-blue housewives-and-secretaries Rock Star, but it's hard to tell here. Possibly as a conciliatory measure, but probably because Rod was too busy being on Top of the Pops and all that crap, Ronnie Lane is given a larger share of the songwriting and vocals than he had on the first two albums. It's not really a good thing, because the man apparently only has one great song in him per album and pushing him any further turns him into a filler generating machine churning out 12-bar blues rock with complete lack of vengeance. Previously he'd given charming, pretty-in-their-homeliness changes of pace like 'Richmond' or 'Stone', and indeed he does his magic once more here with probably his best song yet, 'Debris'. But as great a ballad writer as Lane is, his rockers are ho-hum attempts to copy Rod ('You're So Rude' doesn't do the 'intolerable groupie' thing with near as much style as 'Stay With Me', and 'Last Orders Please' is just sloppy, sloppy, sloppy barroom filler that's so underdeveloped it sounds like a first-take jam with Lane reading his scrawled lyrics off a drink napkin). Its like letting your second string quarterback run your team for a quarter too long - his weaknesses get exposed real quick and sooner or later you're swallowing turf and watching the score get run up on ya. Time to get your starter in for a two minute drill to even things up a bit before halftime, eh?

The best song, by a margin so wide it sounds like it doesn't belong on here in any way, is the classic groupie-slagging hit 'Stay With Me', probably the one and only time the Faces sound like a professional rock 'n' roll band of the first rank rather than barroom amateurs somehow stumbling into semi-stardom. They pull out a full-bodied, gloriously rocking tune in two speeds - sleazy slow and hair-flailing fast, kicking back and forth between the two with a transparent grace that's a sight to behold. Rod slings half-joking, half-cruel jabs at some poor schmuck of a broad with so much style you forget he's being 'degrading' desite his claims to the contrary. It's also drum-tight (for the Faces, anyway), proving that when a couple of extra minutes of thought could have pushed any one of this band's songs to the level of an irresistible rock 'n' roll classic if they'd had the urge to do it. Well, at least they did it once - the Faces perfect themselves in all their boozy, bashing glory on this one song, and never get around to doing it again. Bummer.

The rest of the album is more of the usual, with a good but uninteresting cover of 'Memphis, Tennessee' that probably took less effort for the band than the last time they had to make it from the cab to the bar, absolutely competent but, you know, easy prey. The three hard rockers (read: riff rockers that rely on more than just a generic boogie) 'Miss Judy's Farm', 'That's All You Need' and 'Too Bad' all rock as well (and 'Too Bad' has a cool bridge duet between Stewart and Lane) as anything on the last album, and might be great listening for people who don't know what good electric guitar sounds like, but I don't really remember much about them after they're gone. I'm sure the Faces don't either.

In case you think I'm coming across a little too lukewarm about Blonde Hoes to justify ranking it exactly the same as the first two records, let me plead my case here. This is by far the best sounding Faces album so far, having been produced by the glorious Glyn Johns (Who's Next, many of the prime Stones albums) who was able to get a guitar sound so upfront and ass-kicking this album may as well be called Ron Wood Rocks Your Left Sock Off. My main criticism with this band always lies with being disappointed in what they didn't do (anything new or original) rather than disliking what they did do (except for those two ugly Lane rockers which can rot and die for all I care. In that order, no less).  Again, if I take this album down and throw it on, I am going to enjoy it and never once think about how the Faces were borderline incompetent rootsy punks who happened to become successful because of their lead singer because it makes me feel good. And because of that, isn't there a chance that they aren't borderline incompetent, and are closer to borderline great?

Capn's Final Word: 'Stay With Me' outweighs the lame Lane parts and the great production compensates for the lack of originality.

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Ooh La La - Warner Brothers 1973

Another Faces album, huh? Lemme guess - long on verve and attitude and great classic guitar tone, short on creativity, originality, and gravity. Yup. Nailed it. I've always thought of this final Faces record as being somewhat lower in quality than its older brothers, probably because the silly goddamn Rolling Stone Album Guide I used to read all the time when I was 13 gave it only two stars instead of three or three-and-a-half like the others and called it immature or something. Well, duuuurrrrrppp!! Ring the fucking alarm bell! Lock up the girls' underwear drawers! Call the Maturity Police! This was an immature band and has been ever since the moment after they finished 'Flying' on their debut. You can't play this much basic, boozy rock 'n' roll without being completely idiotic (which I don't think they are) or just having too much fun to want to fuck around with the formula too much. The fact that Ronnie Lane pulls out a heart-felt ballad every blue moon can't quite make up for a career packed with lines like 'with a face like that you've got nothin' to laugh about', can it? I don't know what someone would've expected from a new Faces record...you think they're suddenly going to morph into Mott the Hoople and start singing abstractly about being a bunch of beautiful losers in the grand game of rock 'n' roll, do you? Would you expect AC/DC to suddenly start writing math-metal epics? No, and you wouldn't fucking want them to, either. You can either accept that boogie-time rootsy rock 'n' roll is what the Faces did or you can just go listen to someone else (which, I suppose, is exactly what most people do anyway). It's that simple. Tell me why it's somehow okay for them to make the same album twice, but somehow wrong for them to make it a third time (or, really, a fourth) if it hasn't gotten any worse? Sure, it hasn't gotten any better, either, but you're just being a 'beer-is-half-full' guy if you think that way. And what do we do when the beer is half full? We order another one, don't we?

So maybe this one is worse, because I notice I have even less to say about it than I did about Long Player, which held the previous record for most-standard Faces album. Bluesy rock crunched out with lots of bashing cymbals (Kenny Jones is first and foremost in the national registry of High Hat Abusers, having beat his into submission on each Faces song ever recorded...but I guess he invented that kind of thing...complaining about it is like saying Dick Dale uses too much reverb.), grindy, tube-warm guitar tone, twiddly barroom keyboard, and Rod's Otis-with-a-head-cold vocals. It's more of that same ol' stuff, man. Believe what you will about how Stewart's fame was busting the band apart, you can't really tell it's busted them up too much as of Ooh La La. Lane did end up leaving after it was all over, but not before giving the band what amounted to its second-best song ever after 'Stay With Me', the nostalgic and loving acoustic 'Ooh La La' (Is that Woody singing? Man, somehow these guys wrote songs that sounded good with their sidemen's ugly-ass voices, and might just not have been the same with somebody better), as well as a few other, lesser tunes (the banal, James Taylor-ish 'Glad and Sorry', the harmonically treacherous 'Just Another Honky', and 'Flags and Banners, where his vocal hunts around so bad you'd swear he'd taken up quarter-tone theory).  Listen, Lane was most definitely not squeezed out of this band. They gave him every opportunity to contribute to the Faces, and the fact that he wasn't as popular as Rod had had a simple explanation - Lane could only write one good song a year. And those songs weren't exactly what the kids were humming on their way to make out behind the Tastee Freez, if you 'Taste the Remnants Of My Foot-Long Coney', and I think you do. The usual Stewart/Wood/McLagan rock material on here ranges from lukewarm (I think 'Silicone Grown' is pretty stupid, the Bob Dylan-rip 'Cindy Incidentally') to nice 'n' hot (the highly charged jailhouse rap 'Borstal Boys' ) but never once takes off like the best stuff on Nod. Still, it's enjoyable, and has good gobs of the Faces vibe for one last go-round. It certainly doesn't let them down in a way that a lot of people like to imagine it does (and whomever calls this album a 'sell out' hath stufft thine ears with piggs' shit), and anyone who still cares enough to buy it is sure going to have reduced their expectations to competent Faces levels by the time they roll around to this record anyway. Still, yeah, three toss-off party albums in a row is pushing it, and it was time for 'em to pack it in. Of course, they wouldn't officially do it for two more years, but you know how hard it can be to leave a good party sometimes. As a side note, count this as the last time Rod Stewart made a decent record album, Body Wishes notwithstanding.

Capn's Final Word: The Faces keep on smilin', possibly more out of habit than anything else, though. Lane pulls off his farewell classic, though.

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Coast to Coast - Overture and Beginners - Warner Brothers 1974

Depressingly cuh-rappy live album from the post-Lane years, Ronnie Sr. having been replaced by some dude named Tetris Tamagachi, who I've heard needs to be fed every two minutes and drowns in a pool of tears if not given attention. This shows that what comes across as loose, hard-rockin' good times on a studio album (and, assumedly, in person) degenerates into so many randomly placed Chuck Berry licks, high-hat crashes, and crumbling train wrecks on a live recording. They attempt cover songs they probably shouldn't (dragging 'Jealous Guy', and Hendrix's 'Angel' through the gutter), and are extremely stingy with the Faces originals ('Stay With Me' being the only one not shoehorned into a medley, and it's performed so slowly it's a complete joke), and generally sound like a bunch of Keystone cops tripping around the stage, kicking soccer balls and gargling into the mic at precisely the right tone that, when combined with whatever another guy is caterwauling at the same time, will undoubtedly hurt the most. I guess the worst crime about this album is that it probably doesn't even sound much like a Faces live show, anyway...it seems that whomever selected the tracks and running order felt it was more important to hype recent Rod Stewart songs (like the tacked-on 'Every Picture' on the back of 'Too Bad') than Faces ones, and decided to toss on more covers than either one combined. The sound is muddier than a chicken farmer's shitkickers, the energy level makes Stephen Wright look like Iggy Pop, and they screw up more times than the Department of Defense. Trust me...it's a trashy, ripoff-y experience.

Capn's Final Word: Coming across a really great live album may be rare, but one this bad doesn't come along every five minutes, either.

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