Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

The Faces A Nod Is As Good As A Wink…To A Blind Horse (1972)


Being a high schooler in the suburbs of Philadelphia in the early – very early – 2000s wasn’t easy. As a budding drummer, I drew influences from the classics instead of the contemporaries, so while bands like Blink 182 and Green Day might have had pretty good skin-smackers, I would dismiss the bands outright, saying, “Gimme Bonham or Moon any day!” This was a point of amusement to my friends, who would snicker outright at some of my music purchases; I can distinctly recall going to a Best Buy to pass some time with a friend, and the amount of ribbing I got for acquiring the Rolling Stones’ Dirty Work and the Faces’ A Nod Is As Good As A Wink … To A Blind Horse was relentless. “Oh, is this ‘Miss Judy’s Farm’?” he asked, completely straight-faced, as I drove us back home. Incredulous that he would know this, let alone before I did, I responded in the affirmative. “Oh, I love this song.” He repeated this once more before I caught on: he was simply eyeing the back of the CD case.

My tastes have since matured, but – as much as I like them – the Black Crowes don’t have the same joie de vivre as the Faces (and whoever the modern day Black Crowes is, well, I don’t even want to know), and when I listen to any of the Black Crowes’ albums, I can hear traces of certain bands – Faces, the Rolling Stones, some Little Feat – but I too often get frustrated and simply go for the originals.

Needless to say, I spend several minutes in my car before heading out for a destination in search of the perfect album to listen to, before throwing my hands up in frustration and saying, “I have no idea what I want to listen to!”

In the increasingly rare instances when I fall back on the Faces, I find myself gravitating toward this, their seminal break-out album. They’d released two albums before this – their self-titled debut and Long Player – but both were received somewhat tepidly, which brings me to an interesting point: there was a time when Rod Stewart wasn’t as well-known (or well-regarded) as he is today. Hard to believe, but the Faces struggled to find an audience, especially in England, their home country, though America embraced them more warmly. So Wink was their first, most cohesive album, due in no small part to production wonderboy Glyn Johns. There’s a fair amount of grit with just a pinch of ramshackle, striking the perfect balance that was so sorely lacking on their first two albums. It’s evident in particular on opener ‘Miss Judy’s Farm’, with a dirty guitar riff from Ronnie Wood before Stewart howls on about being a submissive sex slave to a dominatrix named Judy. (This ain’t no ‘Maggie’s Farm’!) The band locks into a groove for a minute or two before Wood brings things to a halt, Kenney Jones’ drums clatter in, and the quintet barely makes it into the double-time coda, with Ian McLagan’s electric piano well to the fore.

Ronnie Lane turns up the charm and the humor with ‘You’re So Rude’, a delightful song about sexytimes with his ladyfriend, who – in a rare display of role reversal – is the prime mover in the act, hoping to be done before her family gets home. ‘Love Lives Here’ is a surprisingly slow song that touches on nostalgia, with the physical destruction of a house serving as a metaphor for a crumbling relationship. Stewart dials back the gruff growl from the album opener, even allowing a tinge of sadness to infiltrate his good natured bonhomie, while Wood’s and McLagan’s guitar/keyboard interplay is delightful. It leads into ‘Last Orders Please’, penned solely by Lane, which takes the nostalgia and sadness from ‘Love Lives Here’ and amplifies it into the next part of the grieving process: the drunk stage. While propping up a bar, the protagonist runs into his ex; the two engage in a bit of emotional foreplay before she leaves him high and dry once again. Has he learned his lesson? (The song was derived from an earlier song titled ‘I Came Looking For You’, which, apart from the melody, has little in common with the finished version.)

Then we get to the song that everyone came for: ‘Stay With Me’, a raunchy, good-timin’ rocker that everyone who knows anything about the Faces – or even Rod Stewart – is familiar with. Written about a reveler who had a bit too much to drink and takes a random woman upstairs for a few seconds of pleasure, the protagonist preemptively rejects any outpouring of emotion, making it strictly clear that this was a one night stand, and nothing more. There’s some fine slide guitar work from Wood, and the instrumental coda, with each band member getting a few bars to solo in, before it all comes to a glorious, crashing close. ‘Stay With Me’ gave the Faces their one and only US single, and was instrumental in providing its sister album some much-needed sales.

Side Two isn’t as outstanding as Side One, though Lane’s ‘Debris’, obliquely written about his father, is perhaps his finest song ever written, and the others provide a gorgeous, restrained backing, letting Lane pour his heart out, though Stewart harmonizes beautifully with him on the choruses. The Faces weren’t well-known for their ballads, but this rivals only ‘Ooh La La’ as the top of the heap. It’s followed clumsily by a cover of Chuck Berry’s ‘Memphis, Tennessee’, which benefits somewhat from Johns’ production, but it’s a fairly mundane version that would have been better released as a B-side instead of occupying precious album space. ‘Too Bad’ returns us to the well-worn exuberance of a Faces show, with Stewart lamenting their poor treatment by the upper crust at a party they crashed. Their inebriation – and Stewart’s regional tongue – was their downfall, and the worst part about it was that he didn’t even get to shake a leg. The album closes with ‘That’s All You Need’, a slide guitar workout with lyrics about Stewart’s musician brother, run down by the pressures of reality. Stewart offers him a “cup of coke” and shows him a good time out on the town – a simple solution indeed. Wood’s deft guitar work is the star of the show, though the others get a chance to play in the extended instrumental outro, which even includes some steel drums from Harry Fowler.

I’m having a hard time trying to decide which Faces album is their best – is it Wink or the well-polished follow-up, Ooh La La? While both have their fair share of excellent tracks – and one duff track each (‘Memphis, Tennessee’ on Wink, ‘Fly In The Ointment’ on Ooh La La) – my decision is gravitating towards Wink, as it’s a cohesive, fun, and well-oiled album. Ooh La La may have been more mature, with better songwriting all around, but the Faces sound like they’re having a blast here, as if they were recording this album simply as an excuse to go out on the road and have a good time with anyone who’s willing to partake.

April 12, 2013 - Posted by | The Faces A Nod Is As Good As A Wink... |

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