Classic Rock Review

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The Faces Real Good Time (Paris Cinema, London, May 1971)


Paris Cinema, London, England – May 13th, 1971

(52:18): You’re My Girl, Cut Across Shorty, Love In Vain, Bad And Ruin, It’s All Over You, Had Me A Real Good Time, I’m Losing You

The Faces appeared on the BBC, both radio and TV, more than twenty times over their six year career and since they were so well recorded many appear on unofficial releases. Real Good Time on Watchtower documents the May 13th, 1971 appearance on John Peel’s Sunday Concert.

This recording appeared first on the LP Had Me A Real Good Time (TMOQ 1842 71052). Despite the claim of releases like Shake It On Down For Top Gear (Hiwatt HW-71/72), which has three BBC appearances and claims to have this one, Watchtower is the silver disc debut of this particular broadcast.

The recording is excellent stereo, probably sourced from a BBC transcription disc and not an actual broadcast. Watchtower use a vinyl transfer for Real Good Time which comes with several pops,clicks and a cut 3:03 in “You’re My Girl.” Since neither the master tape nor the taped used for the original vinyl are available, this is the best that can be done. Watchtower might have been able to remove the pops, but as it is they are not really distracting.

This appearance was taped in front of a live audience at the Paris Theater and broadcast on the BBC on May 23rd. The Faces wanted to do two things: play their best stage numbers but also introduce new songs from their latest album Long Player released in March. They start off with the Rod Stewart solo number “You’re My Girl” (called “I Don’t Want To Discuss It” on the artwork). Lasting eleven minutes, is about the best performed song of the broadcast.

Afterwards Stewart tells everyone: “Here’s one we’ve never done on the program before called ‘Cut Across Shorty.’” This performance is the only one from this session to be released officially, appearing Five Guys Walk Into A Bar. They follow with a long cover of The Rolling Stones’ Robert Johnson cover “Love In Vain.”

“Tonight is novelty night” Stewart says before “Bad And Ruin.” “This number has never been played before except when we recorded it for the Long Playeralbum. So if it falls apart in the middle, you know, laugh it off” punctuated by nervous laughter. However, the song does not break down in the middle. “Had Me A Real Good Time” is the other song from the new album played.

Before the end Stewart jokes “We forgot to do one of the best numbers we ever do…’Losing You’ yeah. It’s an old Temptations number and they were great. They ain’t now because they lost the best singer in the world David Ruffin.” The run through a tight six minute version of their cover including a very brief but intense Kenny Jones drum solo.

Real Good Time was released at a time when Watchtower were plumbing the depths of radio and television broadcasts for various artists. Other Watchtower titles at the time focused upon Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. It is packaged in a normal jewel case with very basic artwork with very clean graphics. And since this has never been issued before it is valuable for Faces collectors and is worth having.

May 30, 2013 Posted by | The Faces Real Good Time | , | Leave a comment

Had Me A Real Good Time: The Faces: Before, During & After by Andy Neil (2011)


Hardcover, 405 pages of text, 5 page Introduction by the author, 15 pages of FACES and related selected discography, 7 pages of BBC radio and TV appearances, 13 pages of concert listings from 1969-1975, plus acknowledgments, Bibliography, Source Notes, and an Index. Also included are 32 pages of b&w photos throughout the book.

The author, Andy Neill, has written a number of liners notes for The Who, a book on that band, and also writes for Mojo Magazine, and Record Collector. He has interviewed a number of people from the era in question, and has done extensive research about The Faces, using many period interviews in order to get a better picture of the band during their hey-day.

Formed out of The Small Faces (who released a couple of fine albums) and The Jeff Beck Group (likewise), The Faces were all about good time r’n’r that combined a devil may care attitude, and enough musical chops to see them through. The band was never truly popular in England as in the U.S., where audiences took them to heart as they stormed across America, with their woozy-boozy take on r’n’r.

The foundation of this book is based around quotes from band members, those close to the band, and people connected to the music business during the band’s relatively short reign. While there’s nothing startlingly new here, for fans of the band (like me) it’s an inside look into a band that was all about having a good time on stage-sometimes at the music’s (and the audience’s) expense. Beginning with the member’s early days growing up, the book moves into the formative stages and various bands that would lead to The Faces. The use of period interviews (especially during the 70’s), woven into a full picture of the band, gives an accurate feel and flavor of the era, the music, and the many musicians during those exciting formative days of rock in England, and, to some extent, America-where the band toured extensively.

The background of events during these formative years is a good foundation for the many bands forming at the time. We follow various Faces members as they coalesce around the initial stirrings of r’n’r, and the various bands of the era. Neill has done a pretty good job of blending the disparate interviews into one big picture that flows along nicely. All the ups and downs, The Small Faces, The Jeff Beck Group, the albums by those bands, The Faces’ overwhelming desire to have a good time on stage, the eventual splintering (Stewart said when Ronnie Lane left the band the spirit was gone) of the band-it’s all here.

If you’re a fan of the band this book will help you relive those glory days when the band would (sometimes literally) stagger on stage and launch into one of their alcohol-fueled rock or soul tunes-sometimes to crank up the fire power, and sometimes to lose their way. The group’s desire to have fun (Stewart would launch soccer balls into the crowd, or the band would sing some old English drinking song for example) sometimes produced less than stellar performances. If you’ve seen the band a number of times (as I was lucky enough to do), you know that some nights they were on blistering r’n’r form. Other nights (or even during the same concert) their sloppy drinking habits carried over into sloppy performances. But it was all in good fun, and you couldn’t help but leave with a smile on your face. And this book brings it all back and into sharper focus.

If you’ve never experienced the band live, or never heard their music extensively, this book may be lost on you. Their albums gave some indication of their approach to music and performing. But on stage is where the band truly made their reputation, and reading this book brought back a lot of good memories. But it’s also a look into an era that will never be repeated. If you missed out on those times for whatever reason, this book will give you a good idea about those few years when The Faces stormed across America not just giving a concert, but a good time to everyone lucky enough to experience them live. The Faces were never a truly important band compared to other groups, but on a good night they were a combination of a powerhouse band and an on-stage party. This book is a welcome addition in just about anyone’s library of r’n’r.

May 24, 2013 Posted by | Book Had Me A Real Good Time: The Faces: Before During & After by Andy Neil | , | Leave a comment

The Faces Electric Soup (Edmonton London, June 1973)


(The Godfatherrecords G.R.850) London, England, The Edmonton, June 4, 1973 (Ronnie Lane’s Last Show) (70:46) Introduction, Cindy Incidentally, Angel, True Blue, I’d Rather Go Blind, Jealous Guy, You Wear It Well, Maggie May, Borstal Boys, Twistin’ The Night Away, Memphis Tennessee, We’ll Meet Again BONUS TRACKS BBC Top Of The Pops, April 28, 1971: Richmond, Bad ‘N’ Ruin. BBC Top Gear, September 15, 1970: Around The Plynth/Gasoline Alley

Back in the good old TDK/Maxell 90 days (high bias, natch; and if you know what I’m talking about, you’re older than you think), I used to make Rod Stewart mix tapes for eye-rolling friends and unsuspecting colleagues and title them “When He Was Good.” Not that I was a big Rod fan, mind you, but once I discovered his work with the Faces and delved deeply into his first few solo albums – nearly all of which featured backing from some or all of the Faces to varying degrees – I felt that a wrong had to be righted.

Namely, that the MOR dreck Stewart had been churning out in the ’80s and flogging on MTV had completely overtaken and obfuscated his true legacy as an artist and singer for one of the best and truest rock & roll groups of the 1970s. The critic Greil Marcus was right when he said, referring to Rod, that perhaps “no artist has betrayed his talent so completely.”

“Electric Soup,” the latest offering from Godfather, a label that has quickly become a gold standard-setter in the ROIR world, not just for packaging and design, but for the quality of its recordings and source tapes, is proof positive that Marcus was right.

This handsomely presented silver disc set, housed in a beautiful full-color tri-fold cardboard sleeve, presents the Faces’ June 4, 1973 show at The Edmonton in London in its definitive form and the best available sound quality (at least to our memory). This title represents The Godfather’s first foray into Faces territory, and appears to be the first issue of this show since “The Party Hogs” was issued by Roaring Mouse some years back.

From shag-cut head to high-heel booted toe, “Electric Soup” is a very clear, nicely balanced soundboard recording that I very likely would have put to tape as one of my “When He was Good” volumes and foisted on friends who would have probably rolled their eyes. Until they played the tape and realized, from the moment that Ian McLagan’s’s barrelhouse piano and Ron Wood’s guitar chords kick off “Cindy Incidentally” (from the band’s fourth and final album, “Ooh La La,” released in April of that year) that this shite was bloody good!

“Electric Soup” is a colloquial term used to describe the dubious alcoholic concoction that results from fusing milk with natural gas, and given the Faces’ penchant for a tipple or ten, and their ragged-but-right stew of old time rock & roll, soul, and folk, it’s an inspired title for music that matches that disposition. As a bonus, the disc also includes a tasty BBC Top Of The Pops performance of “Richmond” and “Bad ‘n’ Ruin” from April 28, 1971, plus a Top Gear appearance of “Around The Plynth/Gasoline Alley” from September 15, 1970. Both are presented here in excellent quality. (Any and all Faces recordings done for the BBC are well worth seeking out on their own).

Besides being a strong, lively performance with the band firing on all proverbial cylinders before an enthusiastically receptive audience, the Edmonton show was an important Faces gig from a historical vantage point, as it happens to be bassist-singer-songwriter Ronnie Lane’s last show before he quit the band amid growing acrimony between he and Stewart in 1973. (Lane would go on to record, perhaps most notably, a couple of albums with his folk-tinged and criminally under-heard post-Faces outfit, Slim Chance, before eventually succumbing to multiple sclerosis in 1997 at age 51).

Ironically and unfortunately, despite this being his final show, we get none of Lane’s wonderful songs or lead vocals, which were always a softer contrast to Stewart’s sandpaper rasp on record. (Lane’s poignant ode to his father, “Debris,” from ‘71′s ‘A Nod Is As Good As A Wink … To A Blind Horse,’ remains one of the one or two best things they ever did). Oddly, neither do we get guitarist Wood’s lone star vocal turn on the then-current single, “Ooh La La,” which Lane wrote. The song selection – which does, however, include a pair of Stewart solo album numbers, “You Wear It Well,” and the soon-to-be-ubiquitous “Maggie May” – speaks volumes, perhaps, as to why Lane left amid growing tensions with Rod.

As was their custom, nearly half of the eleven tracks here are comprised of a clutch of covers that were in the band’s regular repertoire, among them Jimi Hendrix’s “Angel,”; the Etta James-popularized “I’d Rather Go Blind,”; John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy”; Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee” (sic) and of course, “Twistin’ The Night Away,” by Rod’s idol, Sam Cooke. The back-to-back readings of “Blind” and “Jealous Guy” in particular provide a rare introspective respite from the Faces’ usual brand of rough-and-tumble pub-rock blooze, which reaches a rollicking apex on an extended, set-closing “Memphis.”
Given the spirit of camaraderie and chemistry, you’d never guess that this was to be Lane’s last show. And the Faces’ days themselves were numbered. Within two years, they’d be gone, with Ronnie Wood unofficially joining another slightly well known quintet. But for a glorious few years, the Faces were special.

As a long time music journalist, I had the good fortune to interview keyboardist Ian “Mac” McLagan (a very charming, witty, gregarious fellow) not once but twice over the years, each occasion coming when the stalwart Rhino Records record label was about to issue a Faces retrospective, including the essential box set, “Five Guys Walk Into A Bar.” I asked Mac what had made the chemistry and musical interplay of the Faces so good, in the early years at least, before Stewart’s burgeoning superstardom caused friction among the principals, who came to be viewed and treated as Rod’s backing band.

”The fact that we had so many writers in the band, and so many different personalities. And that we always had a laugh,” McLagan recalled. “We’d rehearse and then go down to the pub. We weren’t thinking about the next career move … especially in the early days, when all of us used to be falling-over drunk all of the time. Like the Marx Brothers, we’d all be sitting together and at a certain point we’d all fall over and grope the girls who used to be hanging ‘round.

We were all pals, and we were just having the best f –g time possible. Unfortunately, by the end, I didn’t talk to Rod at all except to say f — k you on stage.”

May 23, 2013 Posted by | The Faces Electric Soup | , | Leave a comment

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... | | Leave a comment

The Faces Long Player (1971)


The Faces had entirely worked out their formula on their second LP – so, without further thought, they just named it ‘LP’ for short. And that formula? Play whatever you want, however you want and for whatever purpose you want. Long Player is essentially ‘punk for bluesheads’: your typical barroom band guaranteed to give you enough pleasure while you sit and sip at your beer, but – for some perverse reason – elevated to the position of superstars.

Oh well. Perverse, maybe, but not accidental. The biggest problem with this record is that it goes for far too long without being completely adequate: there are, like, maybe two or three minor original ideas on the album, and even when they take somebody else’s idea, they hardly manage to improve on it. Need proof? Just put on track number five, a live rendition of Paul McCartney’s ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’. It’s actually not bad at all – apart from the fact that Ronnie Lane sings the first verse and he’s got even less of a singing voice than Ronnie Wood. But no amount of piano heroics courtesy of Mr McLagan and even no amount of wailing by Rod Stewart himself are gonna make me prefer this version to the original, simply because a song like ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ isn’t supposed to be played that way. That is, the song is perfectly suited for an arena-rock atmosphere (and it was probably envisaged that way), but it has to be played tight, compact and improvisation-less, just to let the listener catch hold of all the subtle details of the melody. These guys just sound like they had one too many Martinis. ‘Just about warming up and getting into it right about here’, Rod says at the end, and it seems like the absolute truth – problem is, these guys always sounded like they were ‘just about warming up and getting into it right about here’.

Nevertheless, the sheer raw enthusiasm of several of the tracks on here and the Faces’ instrumental prowess do compensate for the bad, ‘distracted’ sides of the record. Ronnie Wood opens the album on a great note, with a sneering, ragged riff that constitutes the meat of ‘Bad ‘N’ Ruin’, and the band rips into one of the best rockers of their career: Stewart’s screams of ‘MOTHER YOU WON’T RECOGNIZE ME NOW!’ will light the inner fire in your soul and wake the sleeping dragon in your heart, if I might use a couple cliched poetic metaphors. (Actually, I hate cliched poetic metaphors; that’s probably why I’m so keen on using them.) And if that’s not enough, ‘Had Me A Real Good Time’, the album’s heaviest and most uncompromised track, is even better, with Kenny Jones kicking away with a nearly John Bonham-ish force and the band reveling in their braggard, raunchy style for all its worth. I, for one, wish Stewart’s powerhouse vocals were a wee bit higher in the mix (which reminds me of a problem – the glorious word ‘shit’ is too melodious an epithet to describe the album’s production), but then again, maybe it’s only for the better: the vocals blend in with the screeching guitars and boogie pianos to form a single, multi-headed monster of a sound. Those who don’t seek anything but innovation in music will probably be horrified, but those who emphasize sincerity and effectiveness will be delighted more than a wolf in sight of a lamb. (Today’s my day for idiotic metaphors, it seems). And to top it all, Stones’ veteran Bobby Keys adds some delightful sax solos in the ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’ vein.

Of course, they almost manage to ruin it by including an eight-minute live version of Big Bill Broonzie’s ‘I Feel So Good’, but there are three factors that redeem it: (a) it’s a generic blues cover, and who can resist a great generic blues cover?; (b) the boys play like drunk schizophrenics, which is great fun; (c) Rod totally delights in his functions, especially when he fools around with the audience, urging it to sing along. Hmm. I actually see that out of the three reasons above, only the last one can qualify as a pro argument. Never mind, let’s move on.

The rest of the album is considerably softer – a couple ballads and a couple countryish/folkish ditties. When it comes to ballads (quite funny, that one), it becomes quite clear, at least, to me, what exactly makes a typical folk ballad superate a typical soul ballad. Namely, Lane’s ‘Tell Everyone’ is monotonous, repetitive, simplistic and only highlighted by a sincere enough Stewart vocal delivery, while the entire band’s ‘Sweet Lady Mary’ is a definite highlight of the record: beautiful interplay between acoustic and electric guitars over the background of a swirling, winterish organ is complemented by the most passionate, tender and loving vocals on the entire record. The song is a perfect ballad for your beloved one – just substitute the ‘Mary’ for whoever you want and whoops, you have your serenade ready. Just don’t forget to grab Ronnie Wood along when you head for your beloved one’s windows, as nobody but the man is able to play these delightful slide fills in the instrumental part.

Ronnie Lane contributes two more forgettable tunes – I’ve never been able to really get into the stupid, brain-pounding ‘On The Beach’, and ‘Richmond’ is only slightly better, with some really impressive steel guitar parts. The steel guitar is also resurrected for the album’s big question mark, an instrumental version of the traditional hymn ‘Jerusalem’ that forms the coda to the album; it sounds like Ronnie Wood recorded it in the studio alone, late at night, and secretly pasted it onto the end of the record so that nobody would guess the fact until it was too late. Don’t try to prove I’m wrong.

On the other hand, I feel like I’m getting a bit too harsh. After all, dem Faces are dem Faces, ‘sall. Dem Faces have to be taken like they have to: with all their flaws and misfires. If you accept the Faces’ flaws and misfires as a lawful part of the whole package, you might even understand why the All-Music Guide gave this album a ‘best-of-genre’ rating. But just one small request of you: before you buy this, buy Sticky Fingers. Please. For me.

March 18, 2013 Posted by | The Faces Long Player | | Leave a comment

The Faces Ooh La La (1973)


It is said somewhere that 1960s were “We” decade and 1970s were “Me” decade. It is easy understand why. Many rock musicians that were contributing to various bands in 1960s, started respectable solo careers: Eric Clapton, Lou Reed, Neil Young, members of The Beatles. There were also huge ego clashes. Remember Lennon-McCartney-Harrison feud, then temporary break up of CSNY in 1970, arguing between Simon and Garfunkel. Showing off became more important than music. And yet one band kept rock and roll spirit alive.

They had a special relationship with their fans. And what is the most important, all the best of 1960s remained intact in their music. They were The Faces: funny and charming Ronnie Wood, already brilliant vocalist but still not so Hollywoodified Rod Stewart, still healthy and a bit introspective Ronnie Lane, very soulful keyboard player Ian MacLagan and powerful drummer Kenney Jones. They had a strong sense of togetherness, carefree attitude, and plenty of good, funky songs about everyday life.

They never tried to be too smart, conceptualistic or enigmatic, they were always honest and friendly. Their riffs were powerful as the ones of The Stones, but not so nihilistic and always friendly, as they say: “Welcome to the party”. They were all skilled musicians, played easily, but were addicted to pubs, bars, and good time. No wonder their records were warm, charming, very accessible, simple, but somehow imperfect.

By 1973, Rod Stewart became superstar, and The Faces had one hit, “Stay With Me”. Stewart’s records were million selling, yet The Faces’ ones were not. They just opened the doors of stardom with 1971 “A Nod Is Good as Wink…To a Blind Horse”, so they needed one more hit record to cement the position. And they almost did it.

“Ooh La La” is by far their most serious and introspective record. Of course, it is friendly, filled with riffs, good time, but the folky songs penned mainly by Ronnie Lane steal the show. But this is why the record initially perplexed the audience. Immediately after the release it was panned by critics and, believe it or not, Rod Stewart himself. “Ooh La La” contains, for the band, unusually high quantity of sadness, suspicion and nostalgia. The party is still here but, there are questions “where do we go” in the air.

As Ronnie Lane would say and Ronnie Wood would sing in the title track: “I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger.” There are quiet meditations about love on “Glad and Sorry” and “If I’m On The Late Side”. And there is also a potent dose of roaring rockers, listen to “Borstal Boys”, “Silicone Grown” and “My Fault”, but compared their only hit single, “Stay With Me”, they didn’t have so energizing and recognizable riff (to be honest, very, very few songs have so powerful riff as “Stay With Me”). Maybe that is the reason why was the record misunderstood. Everyone expected “Stay With Me” all over again, but they got something different, gentle and quiet.

Its quietness and folkiness aside, “Ooh La La” has its flaws. First, instrumental “Fly in the Ointment” is a limp, and it is very evident because it is placed between two jewels, after “Borstal Boys” and before “If I’m on the Late Side”. The second, album is barely 30 minutes long. Of course, other 9 songs are at least very good, but it is too short. Another problem was Rod Stewart.

Unfortunately he began acting like a superstar. He missed the initial recording sessions, leaving up to the rest of the guys to do the job. It is audible that his singing could be better, in terms of interpretation. Given that he panned it after the albums release, it was clear that he wanted to do a solo career, rather than to be in the band. It is ironic that “Ooh La La” is maybe the last truly great record he had something to do with

March 4, 2013 Posted by | The Faces Ooh La La | | Leave a comment

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


The Faces’ A Nod is As Good As a Wink…to a Blind Horse represent The Faces at their finest moment in the history of their all too brief career. While they went on to produce another fine album with Ooh La La, none of the band’s output captured the heart of the band as stupendously as A Nod…did. This album contains all the promise of an up and coming band with none of the internal conflicts that inevitably find their way through final albums.

The album starts with “Miss Judy’s Farm”, a raucous tune that prepares you for the inherent legitimacy of the blues-funk-rock band that never rose beyond the perfect “Stay With Me” in Billboard status and which plagues the band to this day. It behooves this writer to think of what may have become had The Faces had the proper stars aligned at the time of their existence. Their legion of fans swear that rock and roll suffered an organ loss, which was never transplanted or replaced when the Face’s demise came about and will also attest to the body of work that The Faces left behind and its greatness.

A Nod…’s single, “Stay With Me” is the band’s most recognizable song, one that epitomized the intent of the band as well as carved the path that they would follow. A Nod…, then, would be an excellent choice for remastering, as has been done by Blonstein’s Audio Fidelity label. The 24k+ Gold Compact Disc reissue of Faces’ A Nod is as Good as a Wink…to a Blind Horse (titles!) show off the label’s foray in new audiophile reproduction with its use of gold surfacing that eliminates surface irregularities found on standard aluminum CDs. Add to this, HDCD encoding and excellent mastering, the album takes on a new life not heard before. Fans of DCC will notice familiarities with the packaging.

The album’s opening track, “Miss Judy’s Farm”, immediately reveals the clarity of the disc as you hear in- studio howling and commenting likely by Stewart. The howling is not such a big deal by itself but the fact that you can hear it so clearly lets you know what a ride you’re in for. The stereo effects are superb and provide great depth normally attributable to SACDs. The keyboards are lush and rich, Lane’s bass lows are deep and full-bodied, the drumming felt, and Stewart’s vocals are glorious, forefront as intended. You can hear Wood’s great guitar playing (a talent that we all know that his stint with the Stones stifle), and which is revealed (no other word can explain what is happening here) on this remastering.

“Stay With Me” leaps out of the speakers, “Memphis” is revelatory with the Faces’ stunning rendition of Berry’s classic, the perfect “Too Bad” with its SACD-like reproduction (it has to be heard to be fully enjoyed; every instrument is sound shaped), and “That’s All You Need” with its strolling slide from Wood.

This same skill, care, and technology have been applied to The Doobie Brothers’ Minute by Minute album which yielded the hits “What a Fool Believe” and “Minute by Minute.” The band’s second phase career push absorbed soul with vocals expertly handled by the addition of Michael McDonald several albums back of this one, who also provided much of the written tunes with the rest penned by original band mate, Patrick Simmons. This album revitalized The Doobie Brothers with good reason; the tunes showed a band capable of renewal. Although the shift in sound occurred with Takin’ It To The Streets, it wasn’t until Minute by Minute that they found the comfortable niche. They didn’t abandon their roots entirely although it would be easy to think that happened with Minute by Minute.

The Simmons’ penned song, “Don’t Stop to Watch the Wheels”, is a nice little soul number that merged their past rock sound to create a new Doobie hybrid, one that carried for a few years after the release of Minute by Minute. But it was the McDonald tunes that McDonald also sang on that made the grade for the band.

The Audio Fidelity 24k+ Gold remastering process makes this recording buzz. The uses of the various instruments by the band are allowed to expand. From Baxter’s wonderful guitar work, especially let loose in the great sounding “How Do The Fools Survive” to the horns in the same song; from McDonald’s rich voice and keyboard work to Tiran Porter’s bass, Minute by Minute is beautifully reproduced. With the album’s depth in musical style, the Audio fidelity reissue draws out the richness. The jazz/soul tunes such as “Here to Love You”, and “Minute By Minute” are revitalized. The country flavour of the instrumental “Steamer Lane Breakdown” is literally a sound sculpture with the recording’s various instruments (fiddle, guitars, banjo) being coaxed out of the grooves.

Both albums’ artwork and originality have been preserved and a slipcase added to enhance the package thus preserving your investment dollars. Both albums are classics. Both reissues are classically striking.

Quite frankly, with this depth of remastering, who needs SACD? That’s a serious statement but then these are serious reproductions. Let’s hope that there are more in the pipe. If they all sound this good, stereo purists and fans will profit immensely. It is gold, after all.

March 4, 2013 Posted by | The Faces A Nod Is As Good As A Wink... | | Leave a comment

The Faces Ooh La La (1973)

zap_faces1From Rolling Stone

Hey, not all that bad if you consider that most consumers will fork over for a Faces album with rather low preliminary expectations: Two or at most three tracks will usually soak up the energy and style of the tunes that grace the records of Rodney himself, the sandy catarrh, a jaunty and rocking swing, the insouciant lip that he lays on his lovers and his listeners.

Everybody knows that the other seven cuts are not gonna amount to much — even if they give Rod a third or a quarter compositional credit just to fatten up the sheep, not enough is gonna be happening with master Ronnie Lane’s tenuous tonsilisms. At least that’s the way it’s gone before.

Ooh La La however is more than an excuse to keep three cute journeyman popsters off the dole and behind Rodney and guitarist Ron (“Everything Sounds the Same”) Wood. Only three of the ten tracks are candidates for the poop chute and the rest alternately rock real hard or are fine vehicles for Rod’s mellower and subtler vocal talents. What a surprise. And more, what a relief …

“Silicone Grown” has that nice and fiery tone Woodsy gets out of his axe, a tasty rockish flavor and words that I can’t quite make out the content of, but judging from the title you’d think that they’d have something to do with tits, wouldn’t you? “Cindy Incidentally” comes next and has that old lurching and slightly crapulated feeling that Rod does so well by, something like “Mama You Been on My Mind.” Stewart and Lane collaborated on “Flags And Banners”; Lane sings and it doesn’t come off too hot.

A beautifully soulful Stewart vocal rehabilitates “My Fault” from probable torpor if anyone else had done it. “Borstal Boys” is as good a hard-rock number as Rod as ever dealt with; Borstal — reform school in Britain — is no picnic and the tune reflects the loathing that folks have for it, as well as the tough glamour that the word projects.

The second side starts with an interesting, if not gland-opening, instrumental by Jones – McLagen – Wood – Lane, then gets into a pair of handsome and gentle songs on which Stewart excels, the smoky “If I’m on the Late Side” and especially Ronnie Lane’s “Just Another Honky,” a self-conscious musicians’ lament which Rod delivers as well as any song on his own albums. It’s a smart tune that cancels out the doldrums of “Glad And Sorry” and the title tune, which shamefully falls on its Face; any song about the old-time boulevardier spirit oughtta move, but this sounds like thumb-sucking to me.

In any case seven out of ten is better than average for this bunch, good enough to rate as a solid pop record, although I might consider “Borstal Boys” alone worth the price. It’s strong.

March 3, 2013 Posted by | The Faces Ooh La La | | Leave a comment

The Faces First Step (1970)

FacesFrom the

This week in the “rock room” I decided to drop the needle on a famous but undervalued LP by the “Small”, soon to be only “Faces”. This LP was released in early 1970 by the conglomerate of the remnants of the “Small Faces” with the addition of Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart from the “Jeff Beck Group”. Critics sometimes dismiss the record as being not the best effort of the Faces discography, but in my opinion it is a record full of enthusiasm, and some tasty musical nuggets. The rough and ready attitude of this LP is one of its charms, as is that its a band oriented recording,before ego and hurt feelings ate at the core of the group. While there is some “filler” on the LP, the classic songs outweigh any weaker tracks. This LP is an Instamatic portrait of rock and roll when it was it was still dirty, fun, and loud, played by musicians seeped in the craft.

The first side of the LP opens with a cover of the Bob Dylan song “The Wicked Messenger”, punctuated by Ian McLagan’s cathedral organ flourishes and Ronnie Lane’s “plonking” bass lines. Rod’s voice is serious, yet pure rock and roll, as he owns one of the most diverse voices in rock. In my opinion, while Rod was fronting the Beck band and the Faces he was the best rock singer around. It was hard to match his range and stage personae, as even Jagger had some competition when Rod was at his peak. For me the translation of Dylan tunes is one of the hardest things to do as a musical artist. Even The Byrds couldn’t always pull it off to full effect. This version of ‘The Wicked Messenger is indeed a success as the band conveys the mood effectively through their instrumentation and attitude. The appealing and unique aspect of The Faces is in their group attitude. As they did not give a shit about anything but their music. They were going to get sloppy, boozey, and say “Sod it!” to anyone who disagreed. That’s the way I feel about this record, its a good time record and anyone who doesn’t like it can “F” off!

Continuing on as the needle caresses the blank grooves between song one and two the spiritual and delicate opening of the Ronnie Lane track “Devotion” hovers from my speakers. For those who are not familiar Ronnie Lane is still one of the most overlooked songwriters in rock history. Though many of his songs fill the classic FM airwaves his voice is not recognized nor talked about like other songwriter/musicians of his ilk. Beginning with a dampened and tender Ronnie Wood guitar opening “Devotion” sounds as if its humming out of a church gathering field tent. This song contains a blessed vibe, and healing attitude that never fails to direct me to contemplation and happiness. Mac’s organ paints light strokes of gospel color, while Rod just sings his ass off. Ronnie joins Rod to sing the change in the middle of the tune which takes the song to magical levels. Underneath this Woody plays “Robbie Robertson” riffs tastefully underpinning the vocals, eliciting warmth and making my windows fog. The song keeping out the brisk winter night with notes that contain a luminosity like flame.

The third track on side one is the Lane/Wood composition “Shake Shutter Shiver” containing a dual organ and guitar revolving ballroom dance as its centerpiece. Rod and Ronnie Lane share the vocals on the verses, and Woody again delights with his demonstrative slide work. The song swirls and agitates itself into a nice peak before it fades to silence. Following “Shake Shutter Shiver” comes one of my personal favorite songs on the LP and possibly of all time, “Stone”, again penned by Ronnie Lane. This song similarly to “Devotion” is a highly spiritual tune, based in Ronnie’s faith in Meher Baba’a teachings. The song grooves on an acoustic guitar played by Lane, and banjo riff played by Rod Stewart, with some honky-tonk bar room piano tinkled in by by Mac. The earthy title of the song is reflected in the the rustic atmosphere of the instrumentation and the reincarnation themed content of the lyrics. The tune has a stomping celebratory vibe with Rod and Ronnie singing call and response during the middle eight to take any edge of the philosophical lyrics. “Stone” would remain a song that Ronnie would return to over the course of his career many times in many different arrangements. A towering song and one of the best on the album.

Side one closes with a popular Faces live track that always reached extraordinary heights when played in concert, “Around the Plynth”. “Plynth” is a despondent song about a man reflecting on his life and using the image of water going down the drain as a metaphor for his existence. Centered around fervent slide guitar work by Ronnie Wood and heavy footed bass drum stomps by Kenney Jones the song is a quintessential Faces track. Tight instrumentation with a feeling that it could careen off of the tracks at anytime is a hallmark of many of the Faces best songs. A gold star goes to Kenney Jones on this track for his sturdy and tenacious drumming. Any fan of the Faces should hunt down some of the legendary live versions of this song.

Side two opens with what many, including some of the band members consider to be the definitive example of the Faces at their best. “Flying” a Wood/Stewart/Lane composition fades in with a metallic picked guitar introduction by Wood, which reaches out of the speakers and grabs you with its windy etheral vibe. Mac’s ghostly organ follows, then Lane’s bass with “plonking” neck slides setting the stage for what are probably Rod’s most superlative vocals on the record. This is the “best” band performance on the record, and a true collaborative effort. If someone asked me who The Faces were I would play this song. Side two continues with Ronnie Wood’s “Pineapple and the Monkey” which opens dramatically with Mac’s silky smooth organ introduction, soon after joined by Woody’s funky chunky guitar riff. This instrumental track does seem like it may have been taken out of the oven a bit to early, but it does contain a lovely melody line featuring Woody’s guitar and Lane’s bass locking together like a DNA helix.

“Nobody Knows” is up next and spotlights shared vocals between Lane and Stewart once again. Its such a pleasure to hear those two guys sing together, its unfortunate that as time passed it happened less and less. Another fantastic band performance containing tasteful drumming, and slippery round guitar licks abound. A tender song containing the yin and yang of exsistence, and the optimism and pessimism we all feel traveling the road of life, perfectly packaged in a tuneful format. A marvelous song stashed away on the “B” side of a sometimes forgotten album is exactly why I write this blog. To rediscover, reconnect, and reintroduce these dusty hidden treasures back into the light of day. I have included some rare footage at the bottom of the page of the group performing this song. The next to last track on the album is again an instrumental this time composed by Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones. Propelled by Woody’s bouncy rubber ball guitar work, this tune has the feel of a rehearsal that was quickly committed to tape. This in no way diminishes the tune, it just has that “jammy” attitude to it. At around two and a half minutes in the groove picks up slightly with Kenney and Mac pushing the song forward and Lane holding down the bottom end like a ships anchor. I feel that moments like this on the LP show the guys feeling each other out and learning how to play together. For that reason alone the instrumentals on this record are perfect looking glasses into the band’s development.

The closing song on the album is again a song that continued to be part of the Faces stage show throughout their career. “Three Button Hand Me Down” is a swaying and swinging rock and roll number. You can’t help but to stomp your feet or bob your head to this track. Ronnie Wood takes over bass duties for this tune, like his previous stint in The Jeff Beck Group, and leads the way with his upfront sound and rock steady heartbeat.”Three Button Hand Me Down” elicits shades of Motown classics gone by mixed with the drunken “Englishness” of The Faces. The song dissolves into a small little improv toward the end, and that signals the conclusion of The Faces debut LP.

The one characteristic of The (Small) Faces that separates them from other rock bands of the era is their ability to not compromise who they truly were as artists. The music they created, starting with “First Step”, was birthed by a organic process taking into account all of their influences and infusing them into a unpretentious rock and roll stew. All of the members would go on to have their own musical careers filled with artistic achievement after the group disbanded. But for a short time they collaborated to create some of the finest, most diverse rock and roll ever composed and performed. It all started with that “First Step” that they took in 1970. Time for me to stop writing and throw the LP on the turntable for another spin, and try not to be so serious about my rock and roll.

March 1, 2013 Posted by | The Faces First Step | | Leave a comment

The Faces First Step (1970)


Being married to, or even dating a super model may give you a lot of bragging rights with the boys down at the local watering hole, and it certainly gives you a “checkmate” in the game of one-upmanship when you and your buddies are on your fifth pint and trading war stories about the hottest girlfriend you ever dated. But if you are a rock star, and history tells us anything, it’s that that Super Models are responsible for ruining more careers than drugs, alcohol and Yoko combined, and that maintaining a relationship with one or more of these long legged vixens may be on the list of bad career moves right along-side Abraham Lincoln’s decision to attend the play at Ford’s Theatre instead of staying home and watching a chick flick with the wife.

The gold standard of a career derailed by the scent of a woman is Billy Joel. Coming off a string of some pretty strong efforts that yielded the concert staples “Pressure”, “You May be Right”, “My Life”, and “Big Shot” he documented his relationship with Super Model Christie Brinkley with an album noted only for its mediocrity, it’s use of 50’s doo-wop music that was so gimmicky it made Sha-Na- Na cringe, and one smokin’ hot video. Three sub-par albums followed in short order and then kapow! He essentially fell off the new release map. Since 1993, there have been more rumored sightings of Jim Morrison and D.B. Cooper than talked about fresh music from the Joel camp. Is it all Christie’s fault? Probably not, remember for the last 10 years Billy’s BFF has been Elton John.

David Bowie is famous for being the husband of Iman, the stunningly beautiful Somali-American Super Model. Bowie is also famous for reincarnating himself by rising from the ashes and taking on various eclectic personas such as Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke. Since his marriage to Iman he has once again reinvented himself, this time as a New Caledonian rail, a smallish bird indigenous to New Caledonia, Melanesia. The New Caledonian rail, much like David Bowies career, has been essentially extinct since 1990. In the interest of full disclosure, there is no evidence to support the rumors that Iman once vacationed in New Caledonia in 1989.

Rod Stewart is the “Dexter” of Super Model relationships with his “dark passenger” being an unavoidable attraction to long-legged beautiful blondes rather than the dismemberment of human bodies. The partial list of his bevy of model conquests includes wives Alana Hamilton, Rachel Hunter, and Penny Lancaster along with girlfriends Britt Eckland, Kelly Emberg, and Dee Harrington. In other words, he has dated more models than he has written new songs in the last 10+ years. Six to zero if you are scoring at home. Fortunately Lois Lane was not a supermodel since this particular race of females seems to have kryptonite-like effects on Rod Stewart’s songwriting skills and his ability to generate any new music. Super Models have single handedly turned “Randy Rod” from Ronnie James Dio to Michael Bolton.

But I digress.

The album First Step was either the last Small Faces album as the name on the album cover implies or the first Faces album. On this recording the embryo of the classic Faces line-up was being formed with the brilliant Steve Marriott out, and Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood in, to complete the classic Faces line-up of Wood, Stewart, Ian Mcglagan, Kenney Jones, and Ronnie Lane.

Ronnie Lane

Released in 1970, the album features the scarf wearing, soccer playing, Freddie Mercury like stage presence version of “Rod the Mod” and not the model chasing, cover song stealing, standard ruining Rod Stewart that we know and don’t so much love today. Providing a glimpse of the party band this group of blokes was to become, this eponymous album also shows some of the ballad like subtleties that Rod would brilliantly put on display once he went solo and recorded such classics as “Maggie May”, “You Wear it Well”, and “Handbags & Glad Rags”.

Considering that Wood and Stewart had just come off a series of recordings with Jeff Beck it is understandable that their first effort with a “proper” band might sound a bit messy, and that is exactly what this album sounds like. Not that messy is a bad thing and in this case the band is simply trying to perfect that raunch & roll sound while still taking full advantage of Rod’s soulful singing style and Ron Woods dirty blues guitar approach. The experiment works quite nicely with the aching ballad “Devotion”, the upbeat “Shudder”, and the brilliant “Around the Plynth” that features some downright swampy Ron Wood slide guitar soloing.

The future Faces classics are here with the mostly Ronnie Lane penned “Flying” and “Three Button Hand Me Down” with a delicious Hammond organ riffing in the background. “Stone” is a classic Ronnie Lane style good time song with some tuneful harmonica blowing.

This album is a perfect time capsule of what will be become of the Faces as the hardest partying bar band in the business and what should have been with Rod Stewart.

At the end of the day, someone much wiser than me said it best………Women…..Powerful medicine.

February 28, 2013 Posted by | The Faces First Step | | Leave a comment