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Small Faces - Profile

  by Keith How

published: 25 / 9 / 2015

Small Faces - Profile


Keith How reflects on new five CD Small Faces box set 'The Decca Years 1965-1967', which highlights their early years

Ah ,the Small Faces. Their story is fascinating and recounts those halycon days of 1965-67 when everything was changing almost weekly - fashion, music and art. I found myself wondering if the world really needed another Small Faces anthology but this pre–Immediate label selection soon gave me reason to believe in it. The Small Faces were always more than pop sensations. Enhanced by Steve Marriott’s good looks, boyish cockney wit and charm and great clothes, they looked the business. They looked good but also sounded fantastic. Still in their teens, the Small Faces consisted of Steve Marriott (guitar and vocals), Ian McLagan (keyboards), Ronnie Lane (bass)and Kenney Jones (drums). It was a truly stellar line-up. Added into this was the fact that, along with the Who, they stood at the forefront of the Mod scene where pop, blues and R&B morphed and mixed into a heady brew of music you could dance to, make out to or just look cool to. 'Quadrophenia' is often pointed to as a reflection of the Mod scene of the mid 1960s and rightly so, but the Small Faces embodied that style in every sense. So here we are before the heady days of 'Itchycoo Park', 'Lazy Sunday' and 'Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake' with a five disc retrospective collection full of oddities, rarities, mono mixes and alternative takes, which is normal fare for collectors. First off the hits keep a coming. Disc one ('Greatest Hits') reveals a young band full of confidence and exceptional ability. Take 'Sha La La La Lee', for example. It was a teenybop hit. We all know it and sing along with the catchy chorus. We get a mono version revealing a gritty rocking edge and a tale concerning picking up a girl on any old Friday night. Yet there is always that unsettling edge to Marriott’s delivery, almost pleading such as when he also sings “It’s gonna be alright” on 'All or Nothing'. He is pleading to his girl that this is how it is between us plain and simple. But listen again to the song construction. It is almost perfect. A love song that a bloke can deal with. It’s hard and driving and goes around in your head as you swing around town on your Vespa. 'Almost Grown', an instrumental in Booker T. Jones territory, has a stone soul groove and shows off the fact that these boys can actually play. A pre- album version of 'E Too D' is like an early version of 'I Can See For Miles' if not a little more refined, and another example of maturing musicianship. This disc should be titled early hits though. Anyone hoping for 'Lazy Sunday' needs to look elsewhere! Disc two is 'Small Faces', their classic first release from 1966. Most fans will own this. There are no extra tracks and no surprises. It is a great listen though. Things get most interesting on disc three ('From the Beginning'), which opens with a blistering cover of 'Runaway' and mono versions of cuts such as 'My Mind's Eye'. It is here and on the fourth disc ('Rarities and Outtakes') that the full power and potential of the band really comes to the fore. The combination of Marriott and Ronnie Lane as songwriters is beginning to blossom as the band revel in a batch of soul-influenced compositions that made them darlings of the Mod scene. The outtakes are really excellent. Full of raw power, they sound like a Stax house band one minute ('Own Up Time') and then next reveal the beginnings of the psychedelic influence that was calling the band to progress and ultimately leave Decca for the Immediate Label ('My Mind’s Eye'). The final disc is 'BBC Sessions'. Interviews and music come from 'Saturday Club' (never missed an episode) and 'Joe Loss Pop Show'. As a period piece, it works really well with the chat and music from the original broadcasts. Hearing about Marriott’s early years is really interesting. He comes across as intelligent and articulate. The interviewer asks, “ How about holidays? Where would you like to go?“ Marriott replies, “Southend or Bognor Regis.“ Despite my early reservations, this is a worthy addition to your collection with real insights into the making of pop legends. What a voice Marriott had what players Messrs Lane, Jones and McLagan were. The original boy band!

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Small Faces - Profile

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Profile (2014)
Small Faces - Profile
Malcolm Carter looks back on the short but influential career of the Small Faces, who have had recently had two of their many reissues, 'Greatest Hits - The Immediate Years 1967-1969' and US only album 'There Are But Four Small Faces', re-released
Small Faces (2012)

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