Saturday, February 28, 2015

Small Faces - Small Faces

Small Faces
Small Faces
4 Men With Beards  4M181

This is a 180 gram re-issue of the Small Faces' debut album originally released in the U.K. on Decca LK 4790 in 1966.  There was no American release during the lifetime of the band.  It is my belated tribute to Ian McLagan who died last December.  He replaced the band's original keyboardist Jimmy Winston prior to the recording of this album.  I was a fan of the Faces growing up and when I learned they were an offshoot of this earlier group I became interested in them as well.  I first encountered the group on a crappy compilation album from the 1970s on MGM called "Archetypes."  I liked their sound and was even more impressed when I picked up their two albums on Immediate Records from the late 1960s.  I replaced "Archetypes" with better comps years ago, but I was still delighted to finally obtain a copy of this album.  It opens with an exciting cover of Sam Cooke's "Shake" with a gritty vocal from Steve Marriott.  "Come on Children" is a group composition with Winston and is a high energy cut that demonstrates the band's soulful sound.  With Kenney Jones' frantic drumming and Marriott's slashing guitar chords it starts out sounding like the Who before a James Brown style rhythm and blues groove takes over.  It is one of my favorite tracks on the album. "You Better Believe It" was written by Kenny Lynch and Jerry Ragovoy.  It is a poppier cut but still has a soulful flavor reminiscent of the Young Rascals.  The song is boosted by a forceful organ solo from McLagan.  "It's Too Late" is another group composition with Winston.  It was the b-side of the band's second single and recorded with Winston. The song is driven by Marriott's guitar riff and sounds like the early Kinks.  "One Night Stand" was composed by Marriott and bassist Ronnie Lane.  It is another riff driven cut with a strong beat.  The side concludes with "What'Cha Gonna Do About It" which was the band's debut single recorded with Jimmy Winston.  It was written by Ian Samwell and Brian Potter and rips off Solomon Burke's "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" for the catchy riff that drives the song.  The propulsive tune features an urgent, passionate vocal from Marriott with the other band members crooning the title phrase behind him.  It is very fun and will stick in your head all day long after you play it.  Side two begins with another Kenny Lynch song, "Sorry She's Mine."  The song itself is vapid and dull, but the band's energetic playing and Marriott's emotional vocal transform it into a memorable performance.  "Own Up" is a Marriott/Lane composition.  It is a rocking instrumental that sounds like a blend of Booker T and the MGs with the Who with its loud guitar chords and McLagan's dynamic organ work.  It ends way too soon.  The bluesy "You Need Loving" is also by Marriott and Lane.  The song is shamelessly lifted from the Muddy Waters song "You Need Love" by Willie Dixon although with McLagan's crazed organ playing, the band's heavy groove and Marriott's fantastic vocal, I prefer it to the original.  Led Zeppelin would later steal it themselves for "Whole Lotta Love" in an arrangement that was obviously influenced by this one.  "Don't Stop What You Are Doing" is credited to the group and Jimmy Winston.  The song is relatively low key compared to the other songs on the record and the lyrics are inane, but Marriott's soulful vocal makes it compelling anyway.  He may have been a small man, but he had a huge voice.  "E Too D" is a Marriott/Lane song that sounds like the early Who with the noisy drumming and crashing guitar chords.  The incessant pounding beat, an exciting rave up and Marriott's passionate vocal make it another winner.  "Sha La La La Lee" was the band's third single and was written by Lynch and Mort Shuman.  The song was forced on the band by their manager and is very poppy and catchy.  It reminds me of the Crystals' big hit "Da Doo Ron Ron."  The band may not have liked it much but I think it is terrific.  The propulsive bass riff, Marriott's gravelly vocal supported by the higher pitched backing vocal from the band and an irresistible hook make this a classic single and gives the album a strong finish.  I love this record.  Its only weakness is the songwriting, which is hopelessly lightweight compared to their peers the Zombies, the Kinks, the Beatles, the Who and the Rolling Stones.  However even with such deficient material, the band's instrumental prowess and Marriott's superb singing delivers a consistently exciting and engaging record.  Marriott was one of the best vocalists in England at the time and his soulfulness was rivaled only by Eric Burdon among his peers.  Ian McLagan was a superb keyboard player and Jones and Lane provided a dynamic rhythmic groove that gave the band an enthralling instrumental sound.  I never get tired of listening to them.  They still sound as fresh and exciting to me as they did when I first heard them as a teenager.  Recommended to people who prefer "The Who Sings My Generation" over "Tommy."

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