Monday, 29 May 2017
Grateful Dead "Live/Dead" (1969)
Dark Star//St Stephen/The Eleven//Turn On Your Lovelight//Death Don't Have No Mercy/Feedback/And We Bid You Goodnight
'Take your hands out of your pocket and turn on your love-light!'
The Grateful Dead were clearly a beast meant to be heard in their natural habitat on the stage. Slightly scared of the studio, with its possibilities for finesse and re-recordings and it's white-coated engineers and old-school producers and it's artificial lighting and most of all its lack of people in the audience taking part in the 'trip', the first three Dead albums had all been something of a missed opportunity, at least in the eyes of the growing number of Deadheads used to hearing the band in concert. The first album had been felled by too much interference from the men in suits and the second and third by not enough, the Dead free to do whatever they wanted, on almost any budget they chose: quite why they chose to record the likes of '[ ] 'What Has Become Of The Baby?' when they were given the chance to record everything is something that will perhaps never truly be known. The Dead should have been recorded live from the start, the engineers waiting night after night until they finally captured the lightning in a bottle that happened to the Dead during their really magical majestic nights. Instead it took Warner Brothers' shock and horror at the balance sheets for second album 'Aoxomoxoa'' in 1968 (not out yet at the time this album was being recorded but which was already costing a fortune) for some unspoken hero to pipe up and suggest that the next time around the Dead could probably get away with adding a double album for the price it took to run a couple of mobile unit recording trucks (with sound engineer Stanley 'Bear' Owsley already the perfect person to run them, having tried and experimented with recording the band live anyway on a lower budget).The idea was that Warner Brothers would then get three albums for virtually the price of one' in the end even being a pricier double-set 'Live/Dead' still outsold 'Aoxomoxoa' hands down. 'Live/Dead' seems an obvious solution to the increasing problems the Dead were having trying to capture their real and very unique selves and it was a natural heavy-seller, a cult album that was both as extreme as the band ever went and as marketable an album as they ever made. Anyone who went to a Dead show in 1969 (as a lot of people did) had to own this album - and anyone who couldn't afford to go or lived in a part of the world the Dead hadn't got to yet had to buy it too in order to see what their crazy friends were making such a fuss about. Shall we go, then, you and I while we can, through the transitive nightfall of diamonds?
‘Live/Dead’ is one of the best AAA album live albums of them all. Only seven ‘songs’ fill up this double album’s 77 minute running time (and one of them is entitled ‘Feedback’!) and yet four of them making up the first unbroken hour suite at least are up to the best things the Dead ever did. The set starts off with a 23-minute Dark Star, segues neatly into a 'St Stephen' sounding so much fuller and fatter than it had on 'Aoxomoxoa' complete with a break-off into a new spin on 'William Tell', then lurches into a nine minute ‘The Eleven’ a fiery and a near-impossible to play instrumental and then spirals out into a fifteen minute blues workout on ‘Turn Off Your Lovelight’ to tether the song back to Earth. All these songs are very very different and the only thing they have in common is that they are incredibly complex. The fact that the band play them, indeed largely improvise them past the bare-bones, without a break for a full hour without putting a foot wrong anywhere demonstrates once and for all why the Dead were like no other band, with a telepathy that bordered on the alien and a unity that could only be formed through intense hours of practice, rehearsal and performance. This is the sound of a band that can go anywhere and do anything - and frequently do.
What I like a lot about this record is that we get to hear it pretty much as the audience would have heard it back then. There's no overdubbing trickery, no mass choirs or guest stars added in ther studio and instead of multiple gigs combined together th,is set is taken from just three, all of them played at the band's natural home The Filmore West in order to keep the same ambience and atmosphere throughout: a killer 'Dark Star > St Stephen' segue from February 27th 1969, an 'Eleven > Turn On Your Lovelight' jam January 25th that slots in perfectly despite coming from a month before (though you can hear the edit right at the start of 'The Eleven' if you listen closely, it really doesn't spoil the sequence) and 'Death Don't Have No Mercy' 'Feedback' plus 'And We Bid You Goodnight' from a later gig on March 2nd 1969. In between the Dead went off and played all sorts of shows up and down America but somehow here they manage to keep focus and tie up the three different gigs together into a natural sounding sequence. Another thing I love is that 'Aoxomoxoa' isn't even out yet: It's the opposite of 'Anthem Of The Sun' where several gigs combined to sound like many different possible avenues to explore, only here the statement is definitive. Talking of which another thing I love about this record is the title: 'Live/Dead', one of the cleverest puns in the whole of the AAA franchise and summing up simply what this album is. Even now in 2017, with another - gulp - six official albums to follow up to the 1990s and 145 and counting archive Dead releases this set still feels the most 'definitive' live Dead statement somehow, the point at which this band are playing something that no other band could ever think up, never mind pull off during the course of seventy-five exciting minutes. The angel resurrected from her tomb on the coffin sums the band up well too during the period of their second wind, perhaps more than the stars and stripes on the back does.
However what I love most about this album is how daring it is. Every song here charts new territory in a whole number of different ways, each one prepared to go further out into the realms of music than anyone had ever been before. Far from being a collection of random songs from the Dead's repertoire this is a collection of songs that sounds as if it's meant to be together (even though, sometimes in period concerts, the band switched things around and added 'The Other One' or 'Alligator' into the mix for good measure, or switched Pigpen's earthy blues finale). For the first five songs of this album at least are all about exploration into different things. 'Dark Star' finds the band heading off into outer space, describing the solar system in beautiful, sometimes claustrophobic detail. 'St Stephen' is about time, looking back to an early Christian Saint who represented what was once a whole new way of life that Stephen was ridiculed for at the time but which became the de facto way of life (are the Dead's hippies the Saint Stephens of their own generation per chance?) The un-credited 'William Tell' stuck on the end repeats the generational difficulty, a father literally shooting at his son (or at least the apple balanced on his noggin) to prove a point. 'The Eleven' explores music: what other musician even knows what an 11/8signature is never mind play it? (To give you the basics it's like playing a typical 4/4 rock song, the 'common time' signature most rock music is in, twice over before sticking a waltz on the end and playing all three bars to sound perfectly natural. If anyone ever told you that the Dead aren't 'proper' musicians then a) they probably heard them on an off night during the 1980s b) seriously that's rude, you need a new grou[ of friends and c) play them this track. Their head might just explode. 'Turn On Your Lovelight' explores sex with Pigpen wringing every double entrendre and metaphor he can out of what was once a fairly compact Scott Marlowe song. 'Death Don't Have No Mercy' explores what happens next, the inevitability of death that awaits us all, even the Grateful Dead (poor Pig will succumb to his hard-living and liquor addiction just four years on from this recording). 'Feedback' kinda fits too, exploring what constitutes music, before the Dead end on a thirty second traditional folk song (one more usually stretched out to five minutes).
In a way it's the history of the human race right there and what makes us human not animal and our need to 'know' everything: how the world around us works, what 'creator' put us here and for what purpose, love of sex, fear of death and an embracing of music that also happens to be at its most mathematical. Time, space, death, love and impossible time signatures: that's quite a 'trip' as they say, without a single drugs reference anywhere funnily enough. It's quite a chaotic one too, the 11/8 time signature the perfect accompaniment to the spacemen who don't really know where they're going (and as beautiful as a 'dark star' sounds it's highly dangerous with its irresistible gravitational pull). 'St Stephen' and 'William Tell' turbulent songs about changes no one sounds fit to embrace just yet. 'Turn On Your Lovelight' traces the ups and downs of love as only Pigpen can, driven by instinct and lust rather than planning and preparation. Then there's 'Death Don't Have No Mercy', the single scariest, creepiest song in the Dead canon, lurching forward in a roundabout way rather than pouncing and getting it over with, as if death is random and inexplicable. And then it ends in nearly eight minutes of feedback and primal howls, the possible end of the human race gobbled up from the inside. This isn't just an album that's 'live dead' but one that's maybe about 'life and death' too.
Or am I seeing too much into a record that was made on the cheap in something of a hurry that just happened to take songs that were already in the Dead's back catalogue by 1969 for quite a while anyway? You see, you don't need to have a brain to enjoy this album - a pair of eyes will reveal just as much to enjoy. Ignore the lyrics if you want to, the Dead's musical abilities were never stronger than here. The Dead played their 'signature tune' 'Dark Star' every which way down the years: fast, slow, assertive, laidback and with jazz, folk and rock and roll kicks to it - there's even a three minute distillation released as a single at the start of the year (and included on the 'Live/Dead' CD as a bonus track). This full album version though is arguably the definitive one with a bit of everything thrown in. So used are we now to hearing the band navigate their way through these familiar sections that we've forgotten the fact that nobody on the stage actually knows what's coming next. Everything here sounds planned, the band getting by on instinct and trust and above all listening to each other in the era when - more than any other - the Dead could read each other like the book. And a multi-volume book at that, given that Garcia doesn't always go where you expect him to, that Weir doesn't always join him and that Lesh isn't always playing what anyone would recognise as music having anything in common with the tune. And then there's the cymbal washes added by the drummers - bootlegs reveal that they had never done that before this 'take' of the song and rarely did it again after and it works, brilliantly. 'St Stephen' is a great song, multi-layered and full of twists and turns held in check by a gorgeous inventive riff but this version leaves the studio take for dust. The band nail the tricky stop-start sections without even pausing for breath.
My favourite moment in the whole Dead canon (all 400-odd legally released hours of it!) comes when the band are navigating their way out of the end of the slow middle eight ('One man gathers what another man spills') and back into the main theme. On the record Tom Constanten is flying on the piano while the drummers are playing a whole great sea of cacophony. On record the guitars play the piano part, Mickey plays like a demon and Billy pauses, waiting for the mother of all drum-whallops that you know is always going to happen, dispensing with all that flowery stuff to get at the very heart of the song. Its the queue for the whole band, who've been holding back while playing an extremely tricky song for ten minutes, to just go all out. It's the kind of moment that had the Dead been working to a score would have been marked 'forte forte forte' after 'pianissimo', one of the best uses of dynamics on record. And even then the song stop-starts again, in synch, before taking you by surprise and heading off down the folky 'William Tell' route, the Dead loving the fact that they've just confused the hell out of an audience who think they know where the song is going. Only then so we end up at 'The Eleven', perhaps the trickiest song in the Dead catalogue, not just performed without mistakes but heard at full-throttle speed as if the band are inviting every last bit of risk into their performance. This is a band who know how to live dangerously and who then spend the next quarter hour 'chilling out' on the open-ended groove of 'Lovelight', the point in the show which for any other band would be the show-stopper but here is a chance to kick back and relax for everyone except Pig, one of the greatest front-men in music finally given a chance to move from the backline and strut his stuff.
'Live/Dead' isn't perfect. The last side of the original vinyl undoes a lot of the good work of the other three. As well as this album sounds together and as much as it 'feels' as if 'Death Don't Have No Mercy' 'Feedback' and 'Goodnight' fits thematically, I'd have dropped them in a Micky Hart drumbeat/heartbeat for a side-long excursion into 'That's It For The Other One' (the version recorded at the same Filmore show as 'Dark Star/St Stephen' and included in the 1999 box set 'So Many Roads' and later the 'Complete Filmore Recordings' is the 'other' Dead live moment every Deadhead needs to own, an extraordinary tightrope walk of daring, ambition and dexterity), plus any amount of 'Morning Dew' 'Alligator' 'Viola Lee Blues' or 'China Riders' around at the time. There are many of my friends and family who still insist on hearing even the best of this album as pure noise rather than rock music played like jazz and flying by the seat of its pants but played on instruments that actually sound good together (Rock music naturally leads to power and melody even if you don't try too hard; horns lead to noise which is why so much - not all, but much - jazz ends in unlistenable jams that make your head hurt). Fans of the Dead's quieter, more reflective music that came out less than a year later (!) will wonder what all the fuss is about and what happened to the tunes and harmonies. The vocals are particularly sloppy on this album, Bob and Phil messing up the words to 'William Tell' and struggling through patches of 'Dark Star' whilst even Jerry seems to lose the plot midway through 'Death Don't Have No Mercy'. But that's the small price to be paid for the sheer joy of hearing a band flying in formation arguably further than any band have ever been in tandem then, now or always. For nearly an hour we get the chance to hear the Dead the way they should always have been heard, playing 'like the five fingers on a hand', each of them going to exactly the same place but taking very different routes to get there played with the sheer excitement and energy that doing something fresh and brave and new and unknown brings out in musicians, without making any clumsy mistakes along the way. No one can play better than the Grateful Dead when they're playing to a room of Deadheads that love them and get them and understand them and the audience squeals (deliberately downplayed on the original recordings but nevertheless more than loud enough to be picked up by the microphones) are the seventh band member in the room, playing their bit to will the musicians on from A to glorious B. Even several hundred shows on this remains one of their all-time best shows at least partly because they got the timing right, with exactly the right band performing exactly the right material to exactly the right crowd ine exactly the right venue at exactly the right time (in 1968 the band would have been too 'new' and under-rehearsed; in 1970 this would have been too 'pretentious' for a pop market that had gone back to 'roots' music). No one can improvise the way the Dead can, but this album doesn't even sound like improvising, the band so sure of each other and full of such faith in the material that they can leap off giant cliffs together and still land on their feet time and time again. Not every Dead album works, not even every live Dead album works, but high points like this give the listener something special and so alive they can't get it from any other place. This is the Dead at their most alive - and how!
'Dark Star' is a work of beauty, rightly hailed as the Grateful Dead's signature song and their most important, unique and groundbreaking song even though - at a mere 235 performances - it doesn't even feature in the top ten most performed Dead songs. It is, like many Garcia-Hunter songs to come, a tone poem that breaks all the rules set to music that embellishes all that rule-breaking and non-conformity but in a way that still somehow makes sense. Freed of the need to reach from verse to chorus to instrumental, instead it's a piece designed to be moulded to the mood of the musicians and the Dead duly played it every which way - with clean starts, with lengthy instrumental openings, with detours into other ideas and even other songs, reduced to the bare-bones essentials at four minutes or spin out across half an hour. This most famous version, for instance, lasts twenty-three minutes and takes it's sweet time investigating a bit of everything, taking a full minute before we even get the song's familiar riff and a full six before we get any lyrics, only returning to the main theme after a quarter hour break to explore the galaxy and beyond. One of the best of the Dead's handful of 'interactive' songs, this is a song that manages to be both playful and serious as it invites us the listener to explore the outer galaxies with the band. Only eighty words are used in total, Hunter paring back the song's meaning to the point where this piece is more like a haiku than a rock and roll lyrics and leaving everything delightfully ambiguous. Hunter admits that he nicked the rhythm and roll and even the chorus from TS Elliott (and his lesser-known work 'The Love Song Of J Alfred Prufrock' ('Shall we go you and I while we can?') but the words are the sort of thing that could only make sense when backed with soul-searching music like the Dead's.
As with so many of the Dead's song it's a piece about transformations. In the space-scene we witness a dark star: an ancient, imploding star whose power is folding in on itself and who has the gravitational weight to suck in all light around it. This should be a scene of horror as the star 'crashes' and 'reasons tatter', all previous logic and laws of physics suddenly turned topsy-turvy. Though which star this is is never stated, this song could easily be our own sun, the source of all our current light and life turned inward to be cruel and devastating. But as with 'St Stephen' and 'That's It For The Other One' the new changing world isn't something to be frightened of but embraced. As the star breaks up search lights pick up on 'faults' in the 'old' way of life, seeing through the 'clouds of delusion' that have sprung up around the 'Anthem Of The Sun' as an Earth-bound Dead came to understand the world. Hunter invites us to go with the band, hand in hand, 'through the transitive nightfall of diamonds', our perception of the world changing as the air is strewn and littered with things that were once so rare and so expensive now turned into something common. The mirror 'shatters' and a glass hand's 'dissolving', the streaks of light that once gave us our strength turned into an illusion. It all sounds so beautiful - yet would be so horrific if it were to happen for real, the universe effectively eating and destroying itself; sometimes though out of the ashes of something terrible something beautiful and new can be formed in its wake.The Dead know that more than perhaps any other band. So many of their marathon jam sessions start in beauty, end in migraine-inducing terror and yet pick themselves up to go through the journey all over again, in search of perfection. As a lover of history Hunter also knows that the human race is run under cycles, powers rising and falling and beginning again generations apart in different places - that's just the way of human nature as it blossoms then decays.
A song about a theme that size needs music as powerful and epic to match it (no wonder the three minute studio version of 'Dark Star' flopped when released as a single, with a banjo tagline of all things) and the Dead excel themselves here, taking their own sweet time to build up from nothing to a sound as magnificently loud and powerful as any music can be. Garcia's at the heart of the storm, pining away for a future that might be and searching bravely into distant space for mankind's future. Weir is right there with him, his chunky rhythm guitar never better as he tears away obstacle after obstacle in his plight. Lesh's bass adds the curiosity, mankind driven on by ever wandering what lies over the horizon. And the two drummers keep up the momentum one cymbal bash at a time. Eventually the music ends where it began, on a quiet reflective note as the human race searches ever onwards for a new life source, a new goal and a new home. It's an age-long search and could have gone so wrong (indeed often did go wrong, which is why the band dropped it after a while in the 1970s as a regular fixture of their set). That's the trouble with free-form songs about mega life events - they come over as pretentious or meandering. Not so this version which, while improvised, feels 'right' from first note to last, the Dead searching in tandem in song.
'St Stephen' sounds a million miles away from the studio version heard on 'Aoxomoxoa'. As you'd expect from a live version it's a lot rougher but a lot punchier too, the band sounding more desperate and emotional here as the song clearly means something to them rather than being a cute novelty song based around a great riff (just listen to Jerry's passionate scream at the 3:35 mark!) As we've seen in our review of 'Aoxomoxoa' St Stephen was the first 'real' person not to have met Jesus to have died for his beliefs, stoned to death for refusing to denounce his faith. In astrological terms the 20th century was the last 'Age of Pisces' after 2000 years, a period that began the same year Christ was born and which had several things in common (the fish turns up a lot in the Bible, as done washing feet and baptisms in water, as well as a general move towards love and art - on paper at least). The more eccentric, opinionated Age of Aquarius officially began in 2001 (9/11 being a scary premonition perhaps) but as Earth only gradually changes from one constellation to another there are said to be 'premonitions' from earlier times. Some hippies clearly believed they were part of this change (which is why the musical 'Hair' was such a big hit, even though it's mostly rubbish) longing for a new way of life apart from the religious indoctrination and blind faith of their school days on the one hand and the pressure of capitalism on the other (Pisces, of course, is a sign that delights in heading in two extremes at once). 'St Stephen', who died somewhere around 100 years in to the 'Age Of Pisces' is surely, then, the equivalent of the hippies in 1969, having his own blind faith in something no one around him 'gets' and which he's adamant is the 'real' truth as he sees it. Hell beckons from a bucket and everyone around him complains and had you met anyone who 'knew' him surely Stephen would be painted as a loser hippie, giving up his job to worship some guy he never met and being killed for it; not until the old testament was written did he become a martyr and a hero, all he lost since regained, by dint of reputation at least. 'St Stephen' is surely Hunter's tribute to a similarly confused man at a similarly confused period in time, abused and ridiculed for nothing worse than listening to his heart, the way the hippies did in the day. One generation gathering from their predecessors what another generation spills. Even compared to the studio version this recording of the song is magnificent, Jerry's vocal cracking under the weight in a beautiful middle eight and the whole song ending with a truly fierce rock and roll attack where everyone piles in on one of the greatest riffs in rock and goes for a big ending that lasts for a full minute - which still isn't the 'real' ending, but another chance to go back where we started, which seems somehow fitting given the song. Listen out for manic laughter at 3:20 in the distance, buried on the original vinyl but slightly louder on CD.
The part that differs from the studio version is a new 'old' part suddenly attached at the end after the 'what would be the answer to the answer man?' line. A new bridge written by Hunter and based on the 'William Tell' story, this is another tale of generational divide using another historical is-he-real-or-is-he-fictional character from the past to reflect on current issues. However this doesn't feel like the past and is observed as present day, Hunter's narrator now the boy perched nervously with an apple on his head while his father is forced to fire at him to 'prove' his skills. In the original tale (which Hunter surely knew) this isn't just a father getting cross at his son but a punishment for refusing to bow to a hat perched on a branch which was said to signify Switzerland's new Hapsburg leaders. This saw both father and son imprisoned and due to be executed but Tell Senior was famous in his village for being a talented marksmen and the intrigued town leaders wanted a demonstration, forcing him to shoot at an apple on his son's head with only one chance. In the story it goes well but Tell is imprisoned anyway for taking two arrows from his quiver and admitting to the 'mayor' that he doubted his own abilities and would have shot the man for making him kill his son had it gone wrong (Tell dies an old man in prison having never been released in the folk tale original). In the song the Dead are the children perched with apples on their heads, waiting to see if the parental generation will shoot them down anyway for refusing to bow to their way of life. The first lines describe the sights, sounds and smells of the countryside and the next describes how 'William Tell has stretched his bow till it won't stretch no furthermore', the arm of ther elders pulled back to the point where they either have to stamp hippiedom and all it stands for for good or embrace it. The lines continue 'It may require a change that hasn't come before', that ominous line (parental divide or refusal to bow to the rich and powerful?) left hanging in the air like a threat. In the event we kind of get both across the next few years, ending when Nixon gets kicked out the Whitehouse and hippies are seen as being almost sorta kinda 'right' at last (by some people anyway), but with the movement by then too sparse to rise up again. The song is for the most part given the air of a Scottish folk tune (which isn't that close to Switzerland really, but never mind) and ends with pure rock, that arm held back waiting to pull the trigger which actually results in...
'The Eleven', one of the most ridiculous and bonkers of all instrumentals. Have you ever tried to play music in 11/8 dear readers? I had a go at all the time signatures I could find back in my piano theory days and I can't even think in this tome signature, never get my fingers nimble enough to play it. Imagine a waltz on top of two rock and roll tunes, all playing at the same time but with five different members of the band (Pig and TC sit this one out) all starting at different points of the rhythm and all playing different tunes. It should be an unholy mess - indeed, occasionally, on both bootlegs and official 'archives' releases the Dead are simply too ambitious and fall flat on their faces. However the Dead are so disciplined in this period and have so much momentum coming out of the last song (actually we're onto a different concert now, but they played the same sequence at most of their 1969 shows) that they navigate it nimbly. That's particularly true of the moments from 2:45 when the band stop playing hell for leather and remember that this song has a tune, a nimble scales-style chord progression that features Jerry worrying away at a few notes before Phil leads off into the riff, the drummers and Bob nipping at his heels, before the whole lot suddenly meet up in tandem somewhere around 3:35 where the effect is tremendous. The criss-crossing drum pattern especially is mind-blowing as you can't tell where Billy ends and Mickey begins and Jerry is on top form once again, blistering in his quicksilver lightning runs as he picks up this weird time signature and runs with it.
Finally, after five minutes of tension-release, we get to the song proper. 'This is the season 'of what?' asks Hunter out loud, before answering 'The time of returning with our thought'. We're in the present day at last, a complex mechanical time perhaps (given the music and time signature) but one bursting with new ideas. It's a time 'past believing that the child has relinquished the reins' as the youngsters are very much in control their jewels (records?) 'polished and gleaming'. However this is not the comfortable end of a quest but a beginning, Hunter waiting anxiously as the 'boomerang tossed in the night of redeeming', wondering what the future response will be. The song then counts down, not from eleven as expected, but from seven in a mockery of the 'Fie Gold Rings' Christmas carol imagining what future happy new years (in the age of Aquarius?) might bring, each one with a bigger return: 'Seven faced marble-eyed transitory dream-doll, six proud walkers on the jingle bell rainbow...' As much sense as this (again kinda sorta) makes though you get the sense that Hunter is pulling our leg a little here, over-writing the song to the point where it sounds like a self-parody, a comedy at the band's expense. The Dead seem in on the joke too performing with a real twinkle in their voices as they garble this near-nonsense prose and make it sound like Christmas. However I sense there's a kernel of something deeper lurking in this song. Eleven is, after all a spiritual number, said to be the 'life path' of people born on this planet to do good and create lasting changes, the idea being that they've 'evolved' and been re-incarnated enough times on Earth to teach this pinnacle (you can tell it's your life path if your day and month of birth add up to 11, 22 or 33. Oddly enough neither Robert's - June 23rd - or Jerry's - August 1st - does, though oddly my 4th July birthday does so hahaha the AAA is officially a product of a higher more progressive way of thinking, so there!) It's also the first time that the numbers repeat themselves on a 'higher plain' (we've been here before in reviews, notably on Cat Stevens' 'Numbers' and The Beatles' 'Revolution #9', but basically 'nine' is the highest spiritual point you can reach before you begin to repeat yourself and 'eleven' is the start of a whole new 'level' of understanding on a higher plain). Could it be that Hunter started writing this song seriously after being handed the melody and time signature by Garcia and then got the giggles and turned it into a silly song instead? Either way 'The Eleven' is a daring, ambitious, ridiculous tour de force that we're meant to goggle and giggle at, amongst the most spectacular the Dead ever played.
After so much airy-fairy detours throughout time, space, history and impossible time-signatures with possible life path configurations we end up landing right on top of the R and B groove of 'Turn On Your Lovelight'. Believe it or not the original of this song by Joe Scott and Deadric Malone is a compact piece of writing, a #2 hit for soul singer Bobby Bland in 1961 that gets by through keeping up the intensity factor all the way through. The Dead take quite a different approach, Pigpen stretching out the original simple metaphor (the 'lovelight' is a metaphor for feeling sexy) from not quite three minutes to fifteen. Along the way we get such fun improvisations as 'I don't want it all, I just want a little bit' and the lacklustre love 'is your fault cause it's none of mine - unless I stole her!' The Dead listen to each other superbly here, allowing Pig time to rasp away to his heart's content, then diving in en masse when he finally gets to the middle of the tune ('Working under cover of her four-wheel drive') and then chasing each other around the song's circular riff. This is all bluff and bluster of course - actually Pig was a rather lonely soul, the closest he came to having a long-lasting relationship in his twenty-seven years a brief love affair with similar hard-drinking hard-living outsider Janis Joplin. He's having fun living out a character here though and has great fun tethering the Dead and their audience back to Earth again after forty-odd minutes in space, playing cat and mouse like all the best soul singers. However Pig is upstaged by Bob's improvised sexual interruption to 'get your hands out of your pockets and turn on your lovelight!', as close to referencing masturbation as the censors allowed in 1969. 'Like the man says!' giggles Pig, shocked at his bandmate's audacity before the pair bounce around each other quoting from another legendary period song 'Shout!' by the Isley Brothers. Somehow though 'a little bit louder' and 'a little bit quieter' have now turned into 'a little big higher' a suitable double entendre for the 'love-light' and for 'drugs'! The band pound in for a full five minute ending that fair takes your breath away before they finally close in on themselves with a marvellous final twirl that ends in a hoarse cry from Pig, the perfect end to nearly a full hour of jamming without a pause spread across three album sides. '...And leave it on!' jokes Bob, as if the previous quarter hour has all been a build-up to that punchline! Sloppy maybe, messy definitely and yet it's all terrifically exciting and Lovelight's good-time cheer is impossible to ignore. One of the Dead's best R and B covers.
After such delight 'Death Don't Have No Mercy' feels like even more of an uncomfortable ride. The Dead had been playing this Rev Gary Davis song for a while and often played it for laughs, treating the Grim Reaper like an unwanted visitor or a mother-in-law. For whatever reason though serious stalks this cover version and Jerry isn't joking when he finds his household decimated and his life stalked by a figure he can't escape (his scream at 9:10 is utterly terrifying!) Death indeed don't have no mercy, picking the young, the loved, the wanted, the needed at random and leaving people like the narrator behind 'standing and crying' wishing he could join them. Again the original of this song is rather compact but this version is stretched out to ten and a half of the most painful moments in the Dead's back catalogue with Jerry singing most of the verses through three times for added weight. I'm still, several hundred playings of this album on, not quite sure what I think of this piece. It's certainly brave and the chill factor is through the roof, but this track doesn't feel as if it belongs on this album somehow, a dark evil statement on an album that spends its other three sides being quite hopeful about the future of the hippie dream. Finding out that even the happiest, kindest and most selfless of us will pass and cause others to cry and mourn while those we love can be taken away at random is scary as hell, especially given the way that Jerry lives this song. In many ways 'Live/Dead' is an album that mirrors a drug experience, with sudden moments of adrenalin and lethargy all fused up together in one long suite. This song is the dreaded acid flashback, the epitome of a 'bad trip'. Best avoided too to be honest unless you feel like scaring yourself silly.
'Feedback' is perhaps a self-indulgence too far. We know the Dead can control feedback like no other band before or since, perhaps because they worked with it more than most groups, always pushing their songs to the limits (at least until the end of 1969 when they'd gone about as far as they could go). The end of [ ] 'Caution', for instance, is phenomenal, the feedback the natural result of having pushed the musical envelope as far as it will go and then some. This track is different. It's pasted in from somewhere else and - ironically given that every other song but one so far has been divided by side change on the original vinyl, doesn't feel like it goes with the end of 'Death Don't Have No Mercy'. Stylistically of course it should: what better or more inhuman sound can there be for passing from one world to the next than peals of feedback? (That's how I'm going I tell you!) At 1:53 we get a sudden loud burst of something (thunder? clapping? The two drummers falling on top of their drum-kits?!?) and the 'song' threatens to go somewhere but no, this is just an inhuman howl letting off steam and exploring sounds for the pure hell of it. Which would have made sense had this song naturally built up from the ether of 'Mercy', but instead it all sounds rather forced and contrived, not two words that usually go with either 'feedback' or 'The Grateful Dead'!
For sitting through that cacophony we then get the briefest of goodbyes, the traditional chant 'And We Bid You Goodnight', usually performed in concert as a 'round' but here heard just the once. In a twist on 'St Stephen' it's a Christian hymn which the Dead probably learnt from The Incredible String Band in the first half of the 1960s and based on a song written by Sarah Doudney for a friend's funeral. It's meant to be heard as a body is buried, family and friends bidding 'I love you - but Jesus loves you the best' before the soul passes into the next world. The Dead skip a few verses though, here's an example: 'Until our shadows from this Earth are cast, until he gathers in his sheave at last, until the twilight gloom is over past, we bid you goodnight goodnight goodnight'. It's in some ways a fitting end to an album about the glory of change on the one hand and the inevitability of death on the other and perhaps symbolically closes the 'age of Pisces' started with St Stephen. In another way though the Dead aren't the sort of band for straight Christian a capella chants and they never sounded all that comfortable on this song on the dozens of recordings of them playing it. This high-profile noisy rule-breaking album deserved better than to end on such a low key traditional note, or perhaps that was the idea, the Dead assuming everyone would expect the album to end on another far-out note so they decided to offer up what no fan was expecting instead, closing on a song that in many ways was the antithesis of Dead-dom.
Overall, then, 'Live/Dead' is remembered for its first three sides and not really the fourth. The best of this album is extraordinary and richly deserves the accolades it was given at the time as one of the best live albums around and proof that the Dead live experience was like no other yet also one that could be successfully captured on record without any dilution of their sound. It's a record that lives outside time and space playing to its own rules, an hour-long journey split across three LP sides that cares nothing for radio airplay or publishing rights (most bands would have split the songs into multiple parts for 'extra money' the way the Dead did on 'The Other One') but simply has to exist like this because that's where the muse happened to take the band this particular night (well, three nights). It's a shame, though, that the record ends so dismally - there's no end of goodies on the 'Complete Filmore' box set that would have gone better still in place of 'Death Don't Have No Mercy' and 'Feedback' and at seventy-five minutes this set runs five short for an average double album set anyway. That, though, seems like trying to find something bad and realistic to say about an album that really isn't about Earthly restrictions at all. For 'Live/Dead' is an album quite unlike any other rock and roll ever made, working to its own rulebook and even a band as adventurous as the Grateful Dead never quite dared to make a second album as graceful, powerful or wonderful as this again. The Dead truly never sounded more alive.
Other Dead-related articles from this site you might be interested in reading:
Hot 'n' Nasty/Stone Cold Fever/I Can't Stand The Rain/30 Days In The Hole/Black Coffee/Shine On/C'mon Everybody/Honky Tonk Women/I Don't Need No Doctor
"Found it hard to find you in the dark..."
Yikes! Ways of not making a compilation appeal to its main fanbase #1: use a cover of a fat middle-aged housewife being hit in the face, comedy-style, with a 'pie'. Ways...#2: Give her curlers for extra horror. Ways...#3: Ignore most of the songs that your audience actively knows and loves in favour of endless eight minute slowed down rock numbers that in truth most fans skip. Ways...#4: Edit most of those longer songs down to size so they make no sense in their new incarnations anyway. Ways...#5: Release this album at a time when this sort of repetitive fierce rock and roll is so out of fashion it hurts! We asked our readers what they thought of this record using a Humble Pie chart - and ended up with pie on our faces too for making people sit through this rubbish, thankfully not yet re-issued on CD. Next!
Steve Marriott "Packet Of Three" aka "Live At Dingwells"
(Aura Records, Recorded July 1984 Released 1986)
What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?/Fool For A Pretty Face/Shame On You/Bad Moon Rising/The Cockney Rhyme/All Shook Up/The Fixer/All Or Nothing/Five Long Years/30 Days In The Hole/I Don't Need No Doctor/Big Train Stop In Memphis/Walkin' The Dog
"You can't be late, buy the express rate, you know the Dingwalls air sometimes still sounds sweet!"
While his peers were making big-news live concerts from Shea Stadium and Central Park, Marriott was reduced to recording primitive live sets rejected by his record label in a 500 seat arena down the less glamorous side of London. At least Marriott had won some support from the BBC though who broadcast this show live - brave stuff given how wayward Marriott's live shows of the time were becoming and perhaps his last moment close to a spotlight in his lifetime. Marriott has certainly turned up the wick compared to his recent live shows, investing this gig with energy and some old favourites including two of the earliest Small Faces songs (though there's nothing later than the Decca years here) and two Humble Pie live favourites as well as a number of songs from his more recent live career. Unfortunately, The Packet Of Three are no Humble Pie never mind The Small Faces and sound more like a pub band, plodding through songs rather than giving Marriott the inter-action he's always needed to be pushed into giving his best. His voice, fading from too many years of booze and drugs, is by now a pale shadow of itself too but he can still accelerate into his old best when he's moved to it, with highlights of the set including a charming take on 'Fool For A Pretty Face', an epic eleven minute '30 Days In The Hole' and a full thirteen minute 'I Don't Need No Doctor' that doesn't sound quite as healthy as it used to but is still good enough until the next check-up. The highlight though is surely the a capella burst of madness that's 'Cockney Rhyme', a traditional song in the public domain that's a clear influence on the delightful gibberish of 'Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass' and perfect for Marriott's cheeky off-beat humour ('Pyjamas aren't what they used to be!') There's also, however, way too many limp cover songs of old standards in the Humble Pie tradition of being slower and more awkward than their originals, a poor substitute for both the originals and Marriott's own superior back catalogue, while the worst travesty is the pair of Small Faces songs slowed down to a crawl, all excitement gone. All or nothing, then, in the usual Marriott style.
Steve Marriott/Packet Of Three "Live At The George Robey" aka "Afterglow"
(Zeus, Recorded October 1985)
What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?/Fool For A Pretty Face/Shame On You/All Or Nothing/Talkin' 'Bout You/Five Long Years/Afterglow/I Don't Need No Doctor/Big Train Stop In Memphis/Tin Soldier
"Ain't nobody else going to take my place..."
This gig with Marriott's new , umm, 'smoking' band 'Packet Of Three' has a more interesting background than it is to actually listen to. The set was taped for Marriott's archives back in 1985 (by a journalist, according to the sometimes-questionable sleevenotes) and as usual Marriott's distrust of record companies meant he put it away for safe keeping while he wondered what to do with it. Fans looking for tributes after his death in that house fire in 1991 requested its release as a record they knew to be in existence, but the tapes were never found, presumed lost in that same fire. The tapes turned up mysteriously in 1995 (did Marriott lend them to a friend?) and were rush-released as a late tribute to the man. Sadly the gig itself is one of Marriott's ropier ones, recorded when the singer was a little rusty after over a year away from touring and all too obviously recorded from the audience rather than using professional equipment. However it's still a gig worthy of release if only for the three Small Faces songs - more than heard at any post-Small Faces Marriott gig, which all sound pretty good tonight: 'What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?' has been altered to fit a preening strutting Humble Pie hard rock slant that works rather well, 'All Or Nothing' is poignant and sad and an unexpected revival of 'Afterglow' (the name given to this set on its re-issue) is ragged but gloriously raw. Other highlights include one of Marriott's better slowed down classic rockers (Chuck Berry's 'Talkin' Bout You'), while 'I Don't Need No Doctor' is in slightly better health than of late. Too many of these songs though are long drawn out Motown classics or rock ballads that are becoming something of a strain for Marriott to sing, while the dichotomy is that Packet Of Three play these old standards more like a punk band, something that doesn't quite work. Marriott is on gloriously cheeky form in his few on-stage chats as well, perhaps invigorated by the idea of performing at a relatively local theatre to his old London home named after the famous music hall comedian. Not the best then, but not the worst, long overdue a re-issue as it's one of the rarer albums in this book.
Rollin' Over/Song Of A Baker/I Feel Much Better/Talk To You/Tin Soldier/Autumn Stone/Become Like You/I Can't Make It Without You/Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass/Rene/I'm Only Dreaming/The Hungry Intruder/Red Balloon/Just Passing
"What becomes of me is meant to be - so I'll just groove along quite naturally!"
At the risk of turning all our readers away, now a history lesson. We may be twenty years nearly after the event but Immediate are still in a financial black hole that the loss of their biggest band (The Small Faces if you've somehow got to this point without realising) didn't help. The sensible thing would have been to re-release the best-selling Small Faces LPs and they did, with more Ogden's Nut Gone Flake's floating around than a tobacconists. But back in the late 1960s right up to the mid 1980s re-releasing old material was anathema to most collectors when there were so many interesting exciting 'new' things to get into. However it's around the time of this compilation that everything changes: the invention of CDs make the re-issue of old music acceptable again for collectors whose vinyl copies were getting very old by now and were sucked in by all the promise of digital sound (something the record business is still trying it's best to recover from, but hey at least CDs don't take up quite as much space as vinyl or the likes of me and you would have nowhere left in the house to sleep at night). Oh, not to mention the fact that absolutely nothing of any value was happening at all in the mid-1980s unless you seriously think Kylie Minogue and the Stock-Aitken-Waterman empire counts as music. Unfortunately Immediate were so taken with the sales of their first 'modern' Small Faces compilation and how much easy money they made that they'll spend the next thirty years and counting re-issuing Small Faces product to every company who offers them a bit of spare change. Quite apart from the sad fact that we have to review all the flipping things, it rather cheapened the impact of The Small Faces' product when reviewers and fans alike know that there'll probably be a near-identical set along in a minute. All you need to own really is the longest, the 'Whapping Wharf Laundrette' double disc set full of every album tracks and oodles of rarities which got things right early on, but that hasn't stopped Immediate from trying to re-create perfection many times since.
At the time of 'Quite Naturally' though the CD is still an invention for the rich and technological rather than the general public (finally taking off the following year when the release of every Beatles album on CD makes them 'officially acceptable' for most people to own. Despite the name, there's nothing natural about this timid set at all, which includes just fourteen tracks and a half-hour running time (most of the later sets run for two hours plus). The set includes a couple of rare alternate mixes which were collectors items until the mammoth 'Here Comes The Nice' box finally included everything (and we mean everything, including every time Steve Marriott coughed near a microphone) in 2014 - only the sleeve didn't say so, presenting itself as more of a traditional compilation. Which is odd because it doesn't look much like a traditional compilation: there's no 'Here Come The Nice' 'Lazy Sunday' or 'Itchycoo Park' for starters, while 'Tin Soldier' is only included via an (admittedly rather groovy) outtake of a backing track. The other oddity is an instrumental of 'The Hungry Intruder', which seems an odd choice as without the vocals it's one of the few Small Faces backing tracks where not much happens. Later Small Faces compilations would get things more 'right' and yet for collectors at the time or for those who'd never heard The Small Faces before but were just buying up every CD they could lay their hands on back in the days when there weren't many, this set was a revelation and gave the band (and particularly the label) a boost just when they were in danger of being forgotten. The 90s mod revival is just around the corner...
Steve Marriott/Packet Of Three "Some Kind Of Wonderful"
(Whapping Wharf Records, Recorded 1987, Released 2006)
CD One: What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?/Don't Lie To Me/Mother In Law/All Or Nothing/I Know (You Don't Love Me No More)/My Girl/Fool For A Pretty Face/Five Long Years/Shame Shame Shame/Big Train Stops At Memphis/I Don't Need No Doctor/Tin Soldier/Slow Down
CD Two: Some Kind Of Wonderful/Don't Lie To Me/Mother In Law/All Or Nothing/I Know (You Don't Love Me No More)/Never Loved A Woman/What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?/Fool For A Pretty Face/Five Long Years/Tin Soldier/Run Rudolph Run/Walkin' The Dog/Steve Marriott Interview 1988
"I don't need a whole lot of money, I don't need a big fine car..."
Well, wonderful is probably going a bit too far but these two gigs recorded in 1987 and released through the Whapping Wharf fanzine are, like so many of Marriott's posthumous releases, nice to have. These two gigs were recorded nearly back to back, the first disc at the Hammersmith Odeon in July and the second at The Park Hotel in Tynemouth in February but what's most impressive about them is how different the two gigs are with very different material and quite a different feel about them, with the first gig for the fans pure nostalgia and the second for a smaller, more loyal audience more about crafting a new sound. Sadly while the spirit is willing, with The Official Receivers now strong enough to match mid-period Humble Pie and Marriott on shouty charismatic form, the flesh is so often weak. Marriott's voice is quite alarming if you've come to it straight from one of his 'classic' recordings and he sounds oddly fragile here, no matter how much roar he still packs into his vocals. He certainly sound far older than forty, with his big birthday coming just before the first gig here. Quite often he passes vocals over to his bandmates anyway, such as comedy track 'Mother In Law'.
The first disc is the greater, recorded in better sound and with some interesting covers of songs like Larry Williams' 'Slow Down' and Smokey Robinson's 'My Girl' sung with far more care than any of Humble Pie's similar covers and some cracking repeats of old favourites like 'Tin Soldier' and 'Fool For A Pretty Face'. Sadly 'I Don't Need No Doctor' sounds like a parody, slowed to a ridiculously dawdling pace across twelve painful minutes, but it's the only song here that really doesn't work. The second disc though is in such poor sound you'd feel short-changed buying it as a bootleg and while the track selection looks really interesting sadly the versions here are either over or under-sung. An unexpected revival of first Small Faces single 'What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It' is treated to a fine hard-hitting arrangement but sadly Marriott has lost all subtlety in his voice and shouts it rather than sings, while 'Tin Soldier' is so wretched it should have been de-mobbed. Probably the most interesting thing on the second disc is a twelve minute interview with Marriott conducted around the same time as the two gigs and which features him in an engaging mood, riffing round some of his favourite subjects including 'Ogden's and Don Arden. Marriott again talks about his money worries and being phoned up by the makers of the 'Backtrackin' series about a possible Small Faces re-issue which he turned down flat after learning he wouldn't make any money (they went with The Kinks instead!) Very much a set of two halves, then, but the powerful on-form first gig makes up for the lacklustre second. Hearing the two together is probably all too uncomfortably close to the truth of what a Marriott live experience could be like in the 1980s: miserable or magic depending on which night you caught him.
Steve Marriott "30 Seconds To Midnite"
(Trax Music, '1989')
Knocking On Your Door/All Or Nothing/One More Heartache/The Um Um Um Um Song/Superlungs/Get Up Stand Up/Rascal You/Life During Wartime/Phonecall Away/Clapping Song/Shakin' All Over/Gypsy Woman
"Waiting for the rising sun everyone was having fun - apart from the bloke on the synthesiser who collapsed from exhaustion!"
Thank goodness Steve got this final album made before he died after a decade or so of procrastination. Which is not to say that it's particularly good or a rollicking return to form and in truth it's as inconsistent as either of the Humble Pie reunion albums with worse 1980s production values and Marriott's vocals ever more scratchy. But fans who'd been carrying the flame for so long had been waiting for this album to come out and nearly all the songs that the guitarist had introduced as live highlights during the past few years are here. The effect is like having one last encore to enjoy Marriott's work in all its highs and lows together. The backing band is the 'new' version of 'Packet Of Three' who are far more digital darlings than the old wham-bam-thank-you-mans-and-mams style, which to these ears is a bit of a shame - only Marriott's second studio solo album sounds frustratingly like the lesser polished 'American' half of 1976's 'Marriott' rather than the wonderfully ragged character-filled first. Even the front cover's a bit weird: many visual images come to mind when you think of Steve Marriott but impressionism isn't one of them! (is this from Picasso's little known 'guitar' period?!)
The other problem working heavily against this album is that it's so chock-full of covers: we know from the 'Rainy Changes' and 'Raincoat' anthologies just how many Marriott compositions were going spare, most of them far better than anything here, so why weren't more of them used? Luckily the one new original here 'Phone Call Away' is a good 'un and rather poignant on reflection as Marriott tells us however far he goes from us he can always be reached. In fact that's arguably this album's strongest suit, something which wouldn't have been known back in 1989: it feels like a farewell and often a fitting one, Marriott poised between some oldies from his very earliest years and a sense that he's getting towards the end, even though at the time he was still only 42, young even by rock and roll standards. Just take that title: This is Marriott two years away from the end, 30 seconds away from his own midnight, still giving his all - albeit in the company of synths and things that really don't suit him. Another album that might shock casual fans, but committed Marriottettes would never be without.
Credence Clearwater Revival seem like a sensible choice - they weren't all that far removed from Humble Pie. But 'Knocking On Your Door' (originally 'Lookin' Out My Back Door') isn't one of their best and the drummer is taking the idea of 'knocking' all too literally!
A lumpy re-make of 'All Or Nothing' fares even worse than Pie's 'Tin Soldier', given a 1980s makeover and a typically Marriott slowed-down tempo that this timeless song really didn't need. This recording has too much 'all' and ends up with 'nothing'.
Smokey Robinson's 'One More Heartache' is at least more suited to Marriott's smokey vocal, though again his voice is the only thing that really works on a song that's so tinny and 1980s it sounds like a computer game soundtrack.
Curtis Mayfield's 'Um Um Um Um Um Um' song, which AAA fans might know better from The Mindbender's cover before Eric Stewart joined 10cc, is an apt choice too, Marriott getting to offer his depth on the verses and cockney humour on the hummed chorus. The background, though, is like all your worst memories of the 1980s rolled into one.
Donovan's 'Superlungs' is a surprisingly noisy song by a songwriter whose usual crime is being bland (as well has exactly the sort of ego to come up with a song title like that and thinking he invented everything ever done in music since about 1968. One of his best known songs is 'Hurdy Gurdy Man' which sounds remarkably like The Small Faces' 'Green Circles' a year later!) This track suits the 1980s backing better than most here and Marriott of course has superlungs, though he doesn't often get much chance to use them.
Marriott is more sympathetic than most white musicians to Bob Marley covers, but 'Get Up Stand Up' doesn't so much push for rights as have a quiet lie down not doing very much.
'Rascal You' sounds like the ghost of late period Humble Pie, a shouty unfocussed rocker about a no-gooder that's screamed rather than sung.
'Life During Wartime' is just bland musically, though it features perhaps the best lyric of the album as Marriott sings about a boyhood in the war avoiding bombs (though technically he was born in 1947, two years after armistice day).
Marriott's own 'Phone Call Away' is easily the best thing here, despite the backing, as like so many past songs in his career he admits to struggling with loneliness and longing for someone to be at the end of a phone line. He also promises to be for them - and for 'us' - whenever we need him, whatever happens to him. A sweet song that deserved far better treatment.
Lincoln Chase's 'Clapping Song' is pretty darn good too, a comedy nonsense song about choking monkeys or something (and no it's not a euphemism this time!) given a great strutting performance as Marriott bounces off a sub-Blackberries girl group.
Johnny Kidd and The Pirates' 'Shakin' All Over' is of course a rock and roll classic much covered by Marriott's peers - the Pirates were after all the only English rock and roll group worth buying pre-Beatles. However this Pirates cover is more like a mutiny, slowed down to a crawl and losing all the excitement - ad the point it has to be said - of the original. At least when The Who slowed this down they speeded it up again at key moments and Roger Daltrey sounded like he meant it.
A second Curtis Mayfield cover 'Gypsy Woman' makes for a strong finale though - the last song released under Marriott's name in his lifetime. A slow, smokey tribute to an exotic girl, it's a good fit for Marriott's voice, though thematically it sounds more like a Ronnie Lane track. 'Hypnotise me with love!', the song's key line, screeched at full power, is a pretty fair summary of Marriott's career too: intense, brooding, desperate and real, it's a worthy goodbye.
Overall, though '30 Seconds To Midnite' sounds as if it needs a whole new production, perhaps a new backing band and at least a half dozen better songs to be a truly worthy addition to Marriott's canon. It's something of a shame given how much better some of the period live versions of these songs were and the absence of other live favourites like Fleetwood Mac's 'Oh Well' is a shame. But oh well indeed - we'd rather have this album than not and at times, such as on 'Gypsy Woman' and 'A Phone Call Away', there's enough of the old Marriott shine behind those ugly synths and noisy drums to catch the ear. This records just neeeeeeeeds a remix doctor - and a track to the level of 'I Don't Need No Doctor' - and it would be fine.
Steve Marriott "All Or Nuffin' - The Final Performances"
(Marriott, Recorded 1991, Released June 2008)
CD One: Memphis Tennessee/Watch Your Step/Some Kind Of Wonderful/Big Train Stops At Memphis/What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?/Talkin' 'Bout You/Silly Song/Itchycoo Park/Mr Pitiful/Hallelujah I Love Her So/Five Long Years/All Or Nothing/This Ol' Fool/Natural Born Bugie/Before You Accuse Me
CD Two: Why I Sing The Blues/Man In Black/Havin' A Good Time/Rainy Changes/Berkshire Poppies/Route 66-Be Bop A Lula/Steve Marriott Interview
"Talkin' 'bout you! Nobody but you!"
Strictly speaking this is the 'final performance' of Steve's that was recorded rather than performed, taped at a gig in Germany in February 1991 by an enterprising fan. Neither of them of course know the significance of this date, as Marriott goes through the motions with the new revised 90s version of 'Packet Of Three'. Even by Marriott's recent standards it's not a great performance, high on unfocussed shouting and careless versions of old friends, while the sound quality sounds like Marriott's performing in a shower, not a theatre. That said, though, this set is of huge historical value, with a last message - however unintended - of great import simply for being the last. Interestingly Marriott sounds more at pace with his legacy at this stage in his life, throwing in a whole number of songs he didn't normally do: lots and lots of old rock and roll standards half-remembered from his youth (of which a quick-stepping 'Memphis Tennessee' and Bobby Parker's 'Watch Your Step' - the inspiration for The Beatles' 'I Feel Fine' - particularly strong), a gorgeous Otis Redding cover in 'Mr Pitiful' that's defiant rather than self-pitying as per the original, no less than three Small Faces songs (including the only post-77 reunion tour version of 'Itchycoo Park', which is terribly wonky but still good fun) and Humble Pie's only bona fide hit record 'natural Born Bugie', which the band itself stopped playing around 1970 and which here sounds suspiciously like the song that inspired it, Carl Perkins' 'Blue Suede Shoes'.
Of even more potential interest to fans is the short second disc containing a compilation of songs Steve helped others record. Though it looks from the discographies as if Marriott stayed away from the studio across the 1980s, that's only true for his own albums - he was still more than ready to help out his friends in that decade where most of these tracks date from. Six examples of this are here, none of them unmissable but all quite interesting with Marriott's guitar or backing vocal or both stealing all the spotlights. One of these is quite legendary: Steve's second wife Pamela Stephens sing one of her husband's last great compositions, the folky 'Rainy Changes', under his watchful eye - though not up to his solo demo, their harmonies are actually pretty strong and it's a surprise they didn't do more together. The best though has to be Skip Bifferty's Small Faces sounding psychedelic single 'Man In Black' from the 'Ogden's period, which despite the title is a very colourful 60s song with Marriott's typically rousing vocals high in the mix. Sadly Marriott's estate couldn't get the rights to the two highest profile appearances on The Rolling Stones' 'In Another Land' or Marriott's own dog howling through Pink Floyd's 'Seamus', but never mind - this is still an intriguing bonus collection. The rest of the second disc is taken up with a lengthy half hour interview from 1986 that's a nice idea but sadly doesn't reveal a lot, with a gushing interviewer trying to praise Marriott's old work to the hilt only to be cut off with bored comments like 'it's a drag innit?' If you're a casual fan who stopped listening around 1969 then this lot will sounds like a muddy messy noisy disaster area or not feature anywhere near enough of the Small Faces sound - but if Marriott meant something to you then it seems only right to raise a glass and bid the old boy a proper goodbye. Musicians have bowed out with far worse gigs, after all, while the 'guest' recordings are a great reminder of that natural warm voice in it's prime. Too under-par to be heavily recommended then, but most fans will want to own this set all the same.
Humble Pie "Hot 'n' Nasty: The Anthology"
(A&M, June 1994)
CD One: Natural Born Woman/Buttermilk Boy/I'll Go Alone/As Safe As Yesterday Is/Take Me Back/The Sad Bag Of Shakey Jake/Big Black Dog/Live With Me/One Eyes Trouser Snake Rumba/Earth and Water Song/Red Light Mama Red Hot!/Shine On/Stone Cold Fever/Rollin' Stone/Strange Days
CD Two: Four Day Creep/I'm Ready/I Don't Need No Doctor/Hot 'n' Nasty/C'mon Everybody/You're So Good To Me/30 Days In The Hole/I Wonder/Black Coffee/I Believe To My Soul/Beckton Thumps/Thunderbox/99 Pounds/Street Rat/Road Hog/Rain
"I want you to love me - like a hurricane!"
A sensible two-disc compilation of Humble Pie's finest moments which concentrates on the early glorious Frampton days of the band rather than the slightly leaden and lumpy band the Pie became. Unlike some other sets out there the Pie are catered for well on both their short and lengthy songs, with the full unedited nine minute take of 'I Don't Need No Doctor' here intact alongside less impressive but still groovy epic fan favourites like 'I Wonder' and 'C'mon Everybody' and an impressive collection of shorter punchier songs that even includes some of the comparatively non-album singles 'Big Black Dog'. There's a lot here to enjoy including pretty much all the band's true best moments: the impressive rock star swagger/weak-kneed humility of 'Buttermilk Boy', the slow burning soul epic 'Live With Me', the yearning ballad 'You're So Good To Me' and the law-baiting cheeky of '30 Days In The Hole'. If only this set had thrown in a few more of Marriott's beautiful ballads in here like 'A Song For Jenny' and 'See You Later Liquidator' this set might have been perfect, but then A&M make it clear from the title that they're focussing more on the 'hot 'n' nasty' side of the Humble discography. Sadly this set also contains 'Thunderbox' 'Street Rats' and the title track as memories of why Humble Pie never came close to matching The Small Faces in fans' affection, but then messing up in a minor way so close to perfection seems very Humble Pie too somehow. A compilation that's better and with more surprises than you might expect from a band who were better and had more surprises than their reputation suggests: sounds about right.
"The Best Of The Small Faces"
Sha-La-La-La-Lee/My Mind's Eye/The Universal/.What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?/Hey Girl/I can't Make It/All Or Nothing/Here Come The Nice/Afterglow (Of Your Love)/Tin Soldier/The Autumn Stone/Rollin' Over/Lazy Sunday/Every Little Bit Hurts/I Feel Much Better/Itchycoo Park"
My love is at the foot of your hand, come what may"
As cheap and tacky as it looks, this simple best-of may well be the best single-disc way of dipping into The Small Faces catalogue out there. Mixing Decca and Immediate eras and containing all the top ten hits alongside fan favourites, this couldn't have been much better in terms of track selection containing, bearing in mind that this set only has room for sixteen songs. The only things that let it down are the lack of size and scope (there isn't a Small Faces album in the world that wouldn't benefit from being longer!), the very retro red-lettering-on-blue cover that could have used anyone of the myriad Small Faces photo-shoots celebrating art, culture and style and plumps for...one of the band climbing stairs and the fact that the tracks are jumbled up together without any sense of order whatsoever. Still, if you ain't got no benson in your burner and the liquidator's still threatening to see ya later, this is a cheap way of getting access to a golden collection of songs.
"The Small Faces" (Box Set)
CD One: You Really Got Me (The Moments)/Money Money (The Moments)/What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?/Sha La La La Lee/Hey Girl/My Mind's Eye (Two Mixes)/All Or Nothing/Yesterday Today and Tomorrow/I Can't Make It/.Just Passing/Here Come The Nice/Talk To You/Itchycoo Park/I'm Only Dreaming/Tin Soldier/I Feel Much Better/Lazy Sunday/Rollin' Over/The Universal/Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass/Afterglow (Of Your Love)/Wham Bam Thank You Man
CD Two: I Can't Make It/Just Passing/Here Come The Nice/Itchycoo Park/I'm Only Dreaming/Tin Soldier/I Feel Much Better/Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass/Wham Bam Thank You Man/Tell Me Have You Ever Seen Me?/There's Something I Want To Tell You/Feeling Lonely/Happy Boys Happy/Things Are Going To Get Better/My Way Of Giving/Green Circles/Become Like You/Get Yourself Together/All Our Yesterdays/Talk To You/Show Me The Way/Up The Wooden Hills To Bedfordshire/Eddie's Dreaming
CD Three: Ogden's Nut Gone Flake/Afterglow (Of Your Love)/Long Agos and Worlds Apart/Rene/Song Of A Baker/Lazy Sunday/Happiness Stan/Rollin' Over/Happiness Stan/The Hungry Intruder/The Journey/Mad John/Happydaystoytown/Rollin' Over (Live)/If I Were A Carpenter (Live)/Every Little Bit Hurts (Live)/All Or Nothing (Live)/Tin Soldier (Live)
CD Four: Call It Something Nice/The Autumn Stone/Every Little Bit Hurts (Studio)/Collibosher/Red Balloon/Don't Burst My Bubble/Have You Ever Seen Me?/Green Circles/Picaninny/The Pig Trotters/The War Of The Worlds/The Wide-Eyed Girl On The Wall/Tin Soldier (Backing Track)/Green Circles/Wham Bam Thank You Man/Collibosher/Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass/The Hungry Intruder/The Red Balloon/Tin Soldier/The Autumn Stone/Wide-Eyed Girl On The Wall
"We'll boogie till the rooster crows his thing, oh yeah!"
If I didn't have this set in my hand while I was writing this review (one of my luckiest charity shop finds!), I'd begin to wonder if I'd dreamed about this set. Despite some five years of work digging out rare master-tapes and re-mastering, this set came and went with almost no attention paid to it whatsoever and it's impossible to find any information about it out there. Pretty much everything that came out on this set is available elsewhere nowadays, particularly the second box set 'The Immediate Years' from twenty years later, while the 'Whapping Wharf' two disc set in the interim contains pretty much everything a fan could want anyway. However this set is important, both in being the first to feature The Small Faces in decent sound (and with so many revelations and bits of detailed arrangements that just kept being lost on the older CDs) and in being the first to mix the Decca and Immediate years on the same disc (though there still isn't enough from Decca just yet). To be honest this set could easily have lost a disc out of the four with no harm done to the music at all (too many similar mixes, none of them 'new'). In many ways it's even more 'complete' than the longer later box set, opening with two rare pre-Faces Marriott recordings, the instrumental takes first released on the 'Quite Naturally' compilation in the 1980s and the '1862' outtakes from 1968 that never made it to 'Autumn Stone' collected together for the first time. These are all key parts of the Small Faces discography - if only because the band didn't leave us many recordings to begin with - and it's a surprise that no one had thought to gather them all up in one place before.
On the other hand though there's probably too much here not too little: there are also so many mixes of 'Green Circles' it will turn your eyes spiral along with three increasingly worse versions of 'Tell Me Have You Ever Seen Me?' included in the 'wrong' order. Talking of the 'wrong' order, I'm not sure I quite buy the decision to block out disc by 'theme' rather than date either, so that for instance the first disc is all mono from all eras, the second stereo for 'The Small Faces' Immediate debut with extras, the third 'Ogden's (which only appears in stereo) and the live tracks and the fourth is 'Autumn Stone' with outtakes, oddities and alternate mixes, although at least gives us the chance to hear all the tracks recorded for 'Stone' all together for the first time. By and large, though, this huge and sprawling all-encompassing set for a famously compact and miniature band is a worthy purchase and it's a testament to the band's creative talents that four lots of 80 minute CDs can be dedicated to a band who only lasted for around two years and who only completed three albums can sound so good without leaving you short-changed. This excellent box set deserved to make far more of an impact, the 'mother' set from which most of the next twenty years' worth of Small Faces re-issues will take their seemingly random collection of recordings and mixes from.
"The Decca Anthology"
CD One: What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?/Whatsa Matter Baby?/I've Got Mine/It's Too Late/Sha-La-La-la-Lee/Grow Your Own/Hey Girl/Almost Grown/Shake!/Come On Children!/You Better Believe It/One-Night Stand/Sorry She's Mine/Own Up Time/You Need Loving/Don't Stop What You're Doing/E Too D
CD Two: All Or Nothing/Understanding/My Mind's Eye/I Can't Dance With You/Just Passing/Patterns/Runaway/Yesterday Today And Tomorrow/That Man/My Way Of Giving/Tell Me Have You Ever Seen Me?/Take This Hurt Off Me/Baby Don't You Do It/Plum Nellie/You've Really Got A Hold On Me/Steve Marriott: Give Her My Regards/Imaginary Love/Jimmy Winston: Sorry She's Mine/It's Not What You Do
"I held her close and asked her if she was going to my baby, she answered only if you buy me The Small Faces Decca Anthology - it contains half of everything you'll ever need you see and is pretty darn great you have to agree. Sha la la la lee!"
Despite the great lengths we've gone to across this book to tell you about everything, if you're a fan on a budget and you don't own anything by The Small Faces then a) boy do I know what you're going to be listening to continuously for the next year at least! and b) there are only really two compilations you need from this whole book in order to get everything most fans would be more than satisfied with. This is the first, a two disc compilation sensibly containing everything possible from the Decca period: hits, B-sides, every track from the band's only completes album on Decca, every song on the 'From The Beginning' compilation, one-off post-official single 'Patterns' and even both sides of a single each from Steve Marriott and Jimmy Winston. This includes such hard to find (and classic) tracks as flipsides 'Understanding' and 'I Can't Dance With You' and unfinished psychedelic single 'Patterns', all of which are hard to find on CD through any other source, which makes the Decca Anthology a cut above the other Decca Small Faces sets out there. It even contains all the Decca mixes of songs the band then took to Immediate (with similar-yet-different takes on 'My Way Of Giving' 'Have You Ever Seen Me?' and 'Just Passing'), which must have been a legal minefield - certainly no other Decca set has featured these songs since ('I Can't Make It' is the only track they couldn't get!)
What you don't get is any of the alternate mixes and curios that have come to light since - the 'French EP' alternate recordings included on the individual CD re-issues of each album (which just sound like different mixes rather than alternate versions anyway), the mono/stereo variants released in the band's lifetime or the BBC sessions, so if the completist in you is crying out for more you might want to hold out for the (gulp) five disc Decca box set instead. I'm not sure too if the running order is such a good idea: this set comes in order of songs released rather than recorded so that, for instance, the gloriously retro 'Runaway' and the less gloriously retro 'Take This Hurt Off Me' covers appear in the middle of the psychedelic years and the entire set ends with first Marriott's nice-but-posh 1963 single and Jimmy Winston's nice-but-raw 1966 single which both seem a little out of place. For most fans, though, this is plenty and it's plenty good too, with the more under-rated half of The Small Faces' career taking the band from screaming R and B covers to intense jamming to the late period sophistication of 'All Or Nothing' through to a late flowering of psychedelia. Along with 'The Darlings Of Whapping Wharf Laundrette' in 2000 (which does a similar job for the Immediate recordings on two CDs) you have the start of a pretty damn superb collection. Typically Small Faces though, at the time of writing this set is out of print! Curses!
The Small Faces "The Masters"
(Eagle Records, '1997')
CD One: Here Come The Nice/Itchycoo Park/Talk To You/I'm Only Dreaming/Tin Soldier/I Feel Much Better/Lazy Sunday/Rollin' Over/The Universal/Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass/Afterglow (Of Your Love)/Wham Bam Thank You Man/All Or Nothing (Live)/If I Were A Carpenter (Live)/Happiness Stan/The Autumn Stone/Ogden's Nut Gone Flake/Something I Want To Tell You
CD Two: Mad John/I Can't Make It/Feeling Lonely/Call It Something Nice/Collibosher/All Our Yesterdays/Red Balloon/Show Me The Way/Song Of A Baker/Don't Burst My Bubble/Green Circles/My Way Of Giving/Every Little Bit Hurts (Live)/Get Yourself Together/Picaninny/Rene/Runaway/Things Are Going To Get Better
"Just hold your breath and close your eyes, turn the corner of surprise - and there you are!"
Yet another fine but unnecessary two-disc compilation of The Small Faces' Immediate years which is much like every other two-disc Immediate collection: perfectly fine, imperfectly complete. Immediate's financial troubles meant that they were more keen to exploit their artists and license their recordings out in the CD era than pretty much any other label in the history of music - in truth you only really need one and the packed 'Whapping Wharf Laundrette' is it, but this is still pretty good with a full 36 tracks including a number that don't often appear on these sort of CDs (there's more of the 'Autumn Stone/1862' outtakes for a start). Putting these in chronological order would have been good though.
The end result is a quirky, rather scattershot Immediate compilation released only in Europe and featuring a very varied assortment of 36 tracks from the era, big on B sides, the first 'Immediate' album and the live tracks from 'Autumn Stone' oddly, though missing most of the 'extra' material such as 'If You Think You're Groovy' or the Autumn Stone instrumentals and roughly two-thirds of 'Ogden's. Oddly the Decca-era 'Runaway' has slipped through the net too. There are better compilations out there then, but even if its track sslection seems to have been picked completely at random, The Small Faces were such a consistent band that even this crazy-paving compilation is still pretty good. There's a nice unseen (at least by me) cover of The Small Faces larking about Beatles-style down a street. Sadly it's the Decca rather than Immediate era Small Faces, which rather sums up the depth and detail of this set, but never mind at least the music's good...
"The Faces Family Album: All Shapes and Sizes"
(**, June 1998)
Afterglow (Of Your Love)/All That I Am (The Creation)/In A Broken Dream (Python Lee Jackson)/Black Coffee (Humble Pie)/Reason To Believe (Rod Stewart)/Sorry She's Mine (Jimmy WInston)/Cindy Incidentally (The Faces)/Heartbreaker (Free)/How Come? (Ronnie Lane)/I Can Feel The Fire (Ronnie Wood)/Ready Or Not (The Faces)/Find It! (The Small Faces)/La De Da (Ian Mclagan)/Waiting For A Girl Like You (Foreigner)/What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It? (Steve Marriott)/Won't Get Fooled Again (The Who)
"Haven't any time for children - though I got a lot!"
This is one of those compilations that look really good on paper - 'gee, why don't we license the rights to a track each by every person whose ever been a member of The (Small) Faces and lump them all together on one CD?' - but aren't exactly made for listening pleasure. It's a Faces family tree in other words, including every black coffee (sorry black sheep) of the family where half the record is guaranteed to annoy somebody, whether you're a Marriott worshipper who considered Rod a poser or a Faces fanatic who can't stand all the grooving and moving in Humble Pie. There's something not for everyone, in fact. Humble Pie and The Faces, for instance, don't often sound as if they belong in the same era at all, never mind contain DNA from the same band, whilst this difficulty only gets greater when more members are added to the mix like Rod, Woody and Jimmy Winston. This album ought to work as a sampler at least, offering insight into how each band sounds before encouraging fans to take the plunge, but even there things fall apart: who on earth though the slinky but rather boring groove of 'Black Coffee' represented Humble Pie at their finest? Why is 'Cindy Incidentally' used to represent The Faces when it's one of their weakest singles? Sure 'Hoe Come?' was the only single Ronnie Lane ever had solo, but it's silly bad-luck tale is hardly evocative of his records. Why use a clumsy live version of a clearly ill Steve Marriott chugging through the first Small Faces single at half-speed when we could have had the original and/or many Marriott mini-masterpieces? As welcome as it always is to hear, The Who's 'Won't Get Fooled Again' is a bit of a stretch (yes Kenney Jones plays on this live recording, but he's merely copying a drum part invented by Keith Moon a decade earlier - why not use one of the genuinely thrilling Who songs from his era like 'Eminence Front' 'The Quiet Ones' 'You Better You Bet' or 'Cry If You Want', with its natty military drumming?) And if we're going to be this 'pseud's corner' about the whole enterprise then why nothing by The Rolling Stones? Ronnie Wood had more to do with them than Kenney did with The Who or Woody did with Creation! By the way, where is Woody's first group 'The Birds'?! At least The Small Faces track is a good 'un, but featuring 'Afterglow' right at the start just shows up how ordinary everything else here on this album. The only real plusses to this set are the chance to hear a rare track by the deeply under-rated Creation (though they'd gone badly downhill by the time Ronnie Wood briefly joined) and a rare revival of one of the better Small Faces reunion songs from 1977 'Find It!' By and large though this is one of those awkward family reunions where everyone has grown far too far apart, have nothing in common and clock-watch until the whole thing's over and they can go back to their real selves elsewhere.
Ronnie Lane "You Never Can Tell - The BBC Sessions"
(Burning Airlines, '1998')
CD One: Ooh La La/Flags and Banners/How Come?/Anniversary/Don't Try and Change My Mind/One For The Road/Steppin' and Reelin'/Sweet Virginia/Careless Love/Lovely/All Or Nothing
CD Two: Last Orders/Anniversary #2/Roll On Babe/Lost-How Come?/You're So Rude/What Went Down?/Chicken Wired/Ooh La La #2/You Never Can Tell/Anniversary #3/Don't Try and Change My Mind #2/Walk On By/You Never Can Tell/Steppin' and Reelin' #2/Ooh La La #3
"Seven hundred records rock rhythm and jazz, But when the sun went down the rapid tempo of the music fell..."
Slim Chance wouldn't have seemed right being spotted on the TV every other week somehow (though Ronnie did perform 'How Come?' once on Top Of The Pops!) The band had to promote their mid-70s albums and their ill-advertised 'Passing Tour' somehow though - radio seemed the obvious solution. Though The Small Faces, oddly for a 1960s band, didn't seem to hang out at the BBC much at all (most of their material was recorded during their busy first six months, with one lone session near the end to show for three years together; The Beatles made 10 CDs' worth in the same time!) for The Faces BBC sessions had been their bread and butter, a chance to show off their live skills (oddly there never has been a Faces set just featuring BBC sessions, though lots appear on their two box sets). Ronnie, though, recorded the most it seems, with a whole double-disc set's worth of sessions that span the early years post-Faces to the 'One For The Road' period. The last project that Ronnie oversaw himself (he sadly died while it was being put together) it must have seemed like some parallel universe self passing before his eyes (Ronnie rarely listened to his own work after it was made!)
There aren't really that many differences compared to the records. If anything these performances are more polished than the records, the usual benefit of BBC one-take session compilations, lacking the 'open-air' vibe of the studio albums. There's only one unreleased song too, a rather messy take on The Rolling Stones' 'Sweet Virginia', which despite something of a comedy ('Got to scrape that shit right off your shoes!') suits Ronnie's country gentleman vibe better. Then again you do get Ronnie's own vocals on Faces tracks given to others to sing, including the definitive 'Ooh La La' (which far better suits Ronnie L than Ronnie W) and 'Flags and Banners'(which sounds much more Ronnie somehow than the slowed-down slide-guitar-filled Faces take on it). You also get a complete one-off: a Ronnie-sung folkified 'All Or Nothing', which - in more of a Humble Pie tradition - has been slowed down too much but still has a nice R and B groove at the core. Like many BBC sets you'll get tired of the repeats - I wish birthdays came round as often as 'Anniversary' seems to on this album - and the decision to include an interminable announcer's links across the second disc quickly becomes trying - but at least four of the five Ronnie sessions are here complete, unedited unlike some other AAA BBC discs (The Faces' 'Glad and Sorry', sung at the first, only seems to exist in poor sound which might be why it's not here).
A bigger problem is the usual one with BBC sets: nothing here is different enough to make it worth your while forking out good money for what's always been a highly pricey set (even when it was on catalogue) and yet neither is it representative enough to work as a sort of alternate best-of, with too many key track missing for comfort, especially from the superlative 'One For The Road' album. Ronnie's on nothing less than good form throughout, but he doesn't quite nail the tracks the way he often does on the albums and nothing here matches, never mind surpasses the versions we've all known and loved. Still, we don't have any other access to what 'The Passing Show' might have sounded like and though admittedly we lack the tent, the clowns and the fire-eaters of those days while the earthliness and bonhomie from a band that put their own tents up every night have been replaced by a posh BBC announcer, there's enough of that atmosphere here to come close.
Ronnie Lane "Tin and Tambourine"
(New Millennium Connections, '1998')
Give Me A Penny/Tin and Tambourine/You Can Never Can Tell/A Little Piece Of Nothing/Winning With Women/Rat's Tails/Only You/Three Cool Cats/Richmond/You're So Rude/From The Late To The Early/How Come?
Bonus Tracks: Joyride/Nobody's Listening/One For The Road/Innocence Lost
"All your future's tied up in your past!"
Though Ronnie left less outtakes and rarities in the vaults than Steve ever did, with no unfinished albums piling up in his caravan or any excess time to make records in the first place, there's enough to make a more than solid compilation. Ronnie's brother Stan had the hard job of tracking down all the master-tapes he could from all eras of Ronnie's solo career 1971-1980, turning up quite a few songs that fans had never come across before and some fascinating alternate versions from the 'One For The Road' album sessions. Some of these songs ended up being re-recorded under different names - 'Rat Tails' becoming 'Catmelody' from 'Rough Mix' for instance and 'Joyrise' turning into 'Steppin' and Reelin', while the earliest song here 'Richmond' is a solo demo of a song recorded by The Faces and hit single 'How Come?' sounds quite different in its timid first version. The highlights though is an alternate version of Slim Chance's 'Tin and Tambourine' which has even more grace and beauty than the finished product and a spikier, punkier 'Nobody's Listening' that's as aggressive as the naturally laidback lane ever got. The wry smile of 'Winning With Women' from 1980 is also probably the last new studio recording Ronnie made and is a good place to finish, with another hapless Lane narrator trying but not quite succeeding. It's the tracks from the previous year though, tentatively called 'Self Tapper' before re-worked as 'See Me', that let the album down a touch, being not even as strong as that disappointing final album. The overall result perhaps isn't quite strong enough to match the consistency of Ronnie's 'real' records and little here matches the finished versions, but then that's kind of to be expected by rarities and outtakes sets. This one certainly embellishes rather than harms Ronnie's reputation and fans who waited in vain for that fifth solo record will find 'Tin and Tambourine' of some comfort.
"Itchycoo Park - The Best Of The Small Faces"
Lazy Sunday/Itchycoo Park/Here Come The Nice/Rene/Tell Me Have You Ever Seen Me?/My Way Of Giving/Get Yourself Together/Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am/The Universal/Rollin' Over/Song Of A Baker/Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass/Happy Days Toy Town/Tin Soldier/Afterglow
"Words seem out of place when every night I've known your face"
Hmm, it's pink (since when have The Small Faces ever used pink?!) It's short (since when have decent best-ofs ever been short?) It's track selection is weird (the set starts off with the band's three biggest hits on Immediate, but then gets weird by including for instance 'Happydaystoytown' and 'The Universal' over fan favourites 'Green Circles' and 'The Autumn Stone'). Still, it's cheap! (The best best-ofs should always be cheap!) and the music is all too beautiful. There are better and certainly longer Small Faces sets out there, but this does at least contain some of the cream of the crop and will give you some idea of all the different 'flavours' available if you buy the whole Small Faces catalogue, from cheeky cockney charm to hard rock and heartfelt soul, with a nice sprinkling of the serious and the comic.
"The Darlings Of Whapping Wharf Launderette"
(Sequel, April 1999)
CD One: I Can't Make It/Just Passing/Here Comes The Nice/Talk To You/Tell Me Have You Ever Seen Me?/Something I Want To Tell You/Feeling Lonely/Happy Boys Happy/Things Are Going To Get Better/My Way Of Giving/Green Circles/Become Like You/Get Yourself Together/All Our Yesterdays/Show Me The Way/Up The Wooden Hills To Bedfordshire/Eddie's Dreaming/Itchycoo Park/I'm Only Dreaming/Tin Soldier/I Feel Much Better/Ogden's Nut Gone Flake/Afterglow (Of Your Love)/Long Agos and Worlds Apart/Rene/Song Of A Baker/Lazy Sunday
CD Two: Happiness Stan/Rollin' Over/The Hungry Intruder/The Journey/Mad John/Happydaystoytown/The Universal/Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass/Wham Bam Thank You Man/The Autumn Stone/Collibosher/Red Balloon/Call It Something Nice/Wide Eyed Girl On The Wall/Don't Burst My Bubble/Every Little Bit Hurts/Picaniny/Pig Trotters/War Of The Worlds/Take My Time/Mad John (Unedited)/If You Think You're Groovy/Me You and Us Too/(Un-credited: 'Green Circles' Alternate Take snippet)
"If you've got the readies in the bin, just make your way down to your local CD shop, ask for this compilation - and you'll be well in!"
If you can only buy one set from this entire book (did our book really cost you that much? Oh you're saving up for the next one, ok...) then 'Whapping Wharf' is the one to get, the best balance of content, quality, packaging and price out there. From the witty title (taken from Marriott's introduction of partner Lane in 'All Our Yesterdays') down to the distinctive 'blurry' cover art (first used on the picture sleeve of the 'Tin Soldier' single), this is a set made with a lot of cover and containing everything that was officially released on the Immediate label between 1967 and 1969 along with a handful of unheard recordings, all in the right order and all sounding great. In other words that's two finished albums (the Immediate 'Small Faces' from 1967, 'Ogden's from 1968, all seven 'exclusive' tracks from the unfinished-plus-outtakes 'Autumn Stone' from 1969 and no less than four exclusive singles plus their B-sides. The set also rounds up curios like the PP Arnold collaboration 'If You Think You're Groovy', the American-only single mix of 'Mad John' sans narration plus thirty-second-longer coda and three unheard band jams/instrumentals from 'Autumn Stone' period (none of them unmissable, all of them nice to have). I bought my copy of this set, in the week of release, in a 'two albums for £12' deal which, while admittedly we're going back a little bit there, still represents one of the best deals for a 'new' CD of the entire AAA collection. What's not to like?
Well, some fans have challenged the fact that this set has been 're-mastered' without the packaging telling you anything and, yes, if you know the original album mixes well you can hear a few changes: mixed harmony lines, a slightly different emphasis, things like that. However the worst of these changes don't interfere with your enjoyment of the record and at best they add new insight, such as the punchier snarlier mix of 'I Can't Make It' (which would have been a much bigger hit released like this) and the marginally longer fades on the likes of 'Collibosher'. Other sets, such as the Immediate box set 'Here Come The Nice' include every mix here plus more, with every possible variant released down the years so you can compare - but down here, in the real world, a two-disc set of everything the band recorded without multiple remixes sounds like a good deal to me. Some fans have complained that Ogden's is split in two, between the two discs, but that makes sense to me: sides one and two are very different beasts after all and it makes sense to feature Stanley Unwin's narration at the start of the second. The packaging, too, is groovy with some rare picture singles, tape boxes, a discography so you know what songs comes from where and sleevenotes by David Wells that do a good job at condensing the second half of The Small Faces story into a readable, compact essay (though one admittedly printed in terribly small print). Obviously if you want to, then buy everything everyone of The Small Faces ever made (I've never regretted it - well actually sitting through all those Faces B-sides was a chore. And I'm not in a hurry to play Humble Pie's 'Thunderbox' again); but if you only have room/money for two sets then buy this one first and the Small Faces Decca Anthology second (assuming you can find it nowadays): incomplete both may be in terms of mixes, they still contain a cracking collection of songs that deserve a place in any record collection. Heard all together like this, with remarkably little filler despite being complete, The Small Faces' catalogues shines even brighter than ever - and you can't ask any more from a compilation than that.
"The Definite Collection"
(Immediate/Sanctuary, June 1999)
CD One: All Or Nothing/Here Comes The Nice/Talk To You/Have You Ever Seen Me?/Something I Want To Tell You/Feeling Lonely/Things Are Going To Get Better/My Way Of Giving/Green Circles/Become Like You/Get Yourself Together/All Our Yesterdays/Show Me The Way/Up The Wooden Hills To Bedfordshire/Itchycoo Park/I'm Only Dreaming/Tin Soldier/I Feel Much Better
CD Two: Ogden's Nut Gone Flake/Afterglow/Long Agos and Worlds Apart/Rene/Song Of A Baker/Lazy Sunday/Happiness Stan/Rollin' Over/The Hungry Intruder/The Journey/Mad John/Happy Days Toy Town/The Universal/Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass/Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am/Every Little Bit Hurts/Don't Burst My Bubble/The Autumn Stone
"Just like what you hear with a shell pressed to your ear..."
A nice mopping up job of several of The Small Faces' best songs for Immediate on two discs, which feels like the 'Whapping Wharf' set with the oddities (the live tracks, the PP Arnold collaboration, the Autumn Stone session outtakes) removed. To be honest it's probably all that you really need to own unless you're a passionate collector and like many things Immediate was a bargain if you managed to snap it up at its original price, but long deleted and hard to find nowadays. If you didn't buy it don't worry - history suggests there'll be another similar compilation along any minute now but this one is hard to improve on as it is, with a full 36 tracks of Faces magic including the entire 12 track 'Ogden's Nut Gone Flake' album.
(**, February 2000)
What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?/Jump Back/Baby Don't You Do It/Shake!/Sha-La-La-La-Lee/You Need Loving/Hey Girl/E Too D/One Night Stand/You Better Believe It/Understanding/All Or Nothing/If I Were A Carpenter/Lazy Sunday/Every Little Bit Hurts/Steve Marriott Interviews x 4/Kenney Jones Interview
"When my name was comin' on something illusion struck me down, but times have changed and now my name's in lights - yet you still hang around"
The middle of three BBC sets dedicated to The Small Faces and various splinter groups, this one featuring the parent band ought to be the best one. After all, the band recorded so few albums and so few live performances exist to make any of them important simply through the fact they exist. However this set isn't as good as many fans perhaps hoped and came out to slow sales and duff reviews. For a start, it mainly features the very earliest Small Faces, still with Jimmy Winston on board, and while they were one of the best R and B bands out there, the results lack the sophistication and class of the band at their best. Even on the third and fourth sessions included here, from 1966 and 1968, The Small Faces either stick religiously to the arrangements of the original or perform rather limply, without the energy and precision combination they're known for. Even five extra interviews (with a surprisingly reverential Steve and Kenney, whose best moment comes when Marriott is asked about a holiday, with presenter Brian Matthews expecting something exotic and the guitarist replying, 'Dunno...maybe Margate?') aren't all that interesting, while unlike the Beatles, Hollies and Who BBC sets filled with lots of rarities and exclusives there's only one song here, a fairly grooving cover of Rufus Thomas' 'Jump Back'.
There are, though, still a few highlights to be had. Though 'wimpier' than the studio version, debut single 'What'cha Gonna 'Do 'Bout It?' still sounds impressively daring for the era, Marriott's guitar leaking over to feedback as he channels his angst. Ronnie reprises 'Shake!' with even more leg-pulling 'oohs' and 'aahs' and delivers an even better performance here. 'E Too D' is a brave song to reprise and The Small Faces don't quite pull it off, with the sheer energy and excitement of the original band-jam-with-ad-libs all too audibly diluted and copied here to a slower tempo - still some of the magic of the Decca original lingers and as far as we know it's the only other time the band ever performed this 'song'. 'Understanding' is messy and raucous, but fun and the band really nail the song's swinging groove. A timid, low-key humble 'All Or Nothing' is an interesting reading, delivered in a sadder and more heartbreaking way. It's great to hear 'If I Were A Carpenter' from 1968 without the screaming of the live version on 'The Autumn Stone' even if Ronnie's and PP Arnold's shared shoo-be-doo-wah backing vocals are, frankly, stupid when set against Marriott pouring his guts out. 'Lazy Sunday', sounds anaemic and awful, but features a whole raft of new sound effects played in live, so it's at least different. Finally, the third version of 'Every Little Bit Hurts' can't live up to the studio or live takes, but it's once again one of the best things the band ever did, with PP Arnold this time perfect for the backing vocals and slower more relaxed tempo taking this song to a very different place. Nothing here is perfect, little really matches to the album versions and if you're short on money then I'd skip this altogether. I have a sneaking suspicion that Decca/Immediate will somehow cobble together a 'deluxe' version of this set in the future with the songs from 1966 that are missing too (mainly covers that featured on the first album and nothing earth-shattering but, hey, having a complete set of anything is always nice). Like many an AAA BBC set, though, this one isn't without its charms and there are some good if not great recordings here.
Humble Pie "Natural Born Bugie: The BBC Sessions"
(**, February 2000)
Natural Born Bugie/The Sad Bag Of Shakey Jake/Heartbeat/Desperation/The Big Black Dog/Rolling Stone/4 Day Creep/The Light/Black Coffee/I Don't Need No Doctor
"Tell me, why can no one seem to learn from their mistakes?"
Hot on the heels of The Small Faces' BBC set comes Humble Pie's. This ought to be better - the Pie being a natural 'live' band whereas the Small Faces were a 'studio' one - but somehow it isn't. The early Pie sound nervous and twitchy, most unlike their brash confident selves from their first LP. The later Pie just sound noisy, lacking even the finesse of the 'Performance' era, which wasn't exactly high on subtlety to begin with. The sound is poor, all too audibly taken from acetates for overseas use that sounds as if they've been trapped in many a civil war over the past few decades before coming home. Worse still, licensing rights means that many of these tracks are cut off early or fade mid-song: this isn't the BBC losing their master-tapes or the record company being awkward, but an unfortunate side-effect over the fact that it costs too much to get radio DJs' permission to use their voice as well as the music and many of them loved the sound of their own voice so muc back then they often talked over songs (sometimes they read out letters too, which sadly can probably never be re-broadcast as permission rests with the letter-writers who can't be traced after half a century's worth of house moves and life events; that's why The Beatles BBC sets aren't anywhere close to being as fun as the bootlegs!)
At 36 minutes this is also one of the shorter BBC sets out there: I can't find a complete list of how many the band played but I'm pretty certain it was a lot more than this! Oddly the title of this set restores the proper spelling of 'boogie', which seems like a step too far from the grammar police after forty years of no complaints (you wait till Slade release a BBC set with all their titles spelt properly!) The good news is that Pie chose many of their better songs to be performed for the Beeb and this is to date the only Pie set out there which combines Immediate and A&M material. A tearful 'Desperation' that's more of a Frampton solo sounds particularly good and a soulful 'Black Coffee' is nice and hot but sadly these are the only ones that come close to the records. A terrible off-air recording of a truncated 'I Don't Need No Doctor' is particularly disappointing, with Marriott sounds like he's running a marathon while singing (given that we don't have the visuals perhaps he is?) This set needs a doctor - and quick!
Ian McLagan "The Best Of British"
(Gadfly, March 2000)
Best Of British/I Only Want To Be With You/She Stole It/Warm Rain/Hope Street/Hello Old Friend/Big Love/Don't Let Him Out Of Your Sight/Suzie Gotta Sweet Face/Barking Dogs/I Will Follow/This Time/Last Chance To Dance
"Hello old friend, it's been a long time since I saw your face in front of mine"
This cleverly titled album celebrated the family Mac's recent move to a new home in Austin, Texas, where after twenty years of contractless playing in tiny clubs a local label finally gave Mac a second chance to make some music (funnily enough it's 'Gadfly' - perhaps they hoped Mac might re-record 'The Hungry Intruder'?!) In many ways it's a surprise it didn't happen sooner: by now both Steve and Ronnie have gone leaving Mac as the only 'writing' Face left and the 1990s had been a good decade to the band, partly out of respect to the two lost founders but also thanks to so many of the Britpop crowd announcing their love and passion for The Small Faces (you can hear their work in a lot from the middle of the decade, from the Manchester version of cockney humour on Oasis' 'She's Electric' to virtually anything on Paul Weller's 'Wild Wood' and 'Stanley Road').
This album isn't quite the best of Mac sadly, lacking the performances of the earlier records and the poignancy of later ones, but Mac is as always an under-rated singer and writer, always with something interesting to say and an interesting way of doing it. On this album the songs get quirkier too: 'She stole it!' is a song of horror and betrayal, not about a contract or a lover or a jewel robbery but an ex who insists on taking the narrator's record collection (we'll wait here while you recover from fainting at the awful thought, better now?) and 'Warm Rain' is a mixed-feelings goodbye and hello to two different continents linked only by the weather. Best of all though is Ronnie Lane tribute 'Hello Old Friend' which leans heavily on the bass player's 'April Fool', while also paying tribute to loyal Faces audiences. The Bump Band have a fuller sound by now, with two guitarists, a bass and a drummer with a sound ever more like The Faces, with mac's swirly organ centre-stage. Talking of which, Ronnie Wood makes the most of a lengthy break between Stones albums to appear on a couple of tracks, including the Ronnie Lane tribute, while 1980s protest singer Billy Bragg add his own distinctly British vocals to the title track. It was later revealed that Wood himself had paid for most of the sessions, anxious that his old friend should get his work out there to the public once more: it's a very noble gesture similar to Pete Townshend's 'sponsorship' of Ronnie Lane's records and one that faces fans are grateful for (Mac had been playing with the Stones, on and off, since the Faces split though never as a full member). This is a fun album, with Mac easing his way back into the saddle again after so long away, not that pioneering and not that emotional as yet but that will come: for now it's just good to have the old boy back again.
The title track 'Best Of British' could be seen as a bit egotistical, but it's actually a sweet song of love for Mac's newborn son Lee McLagan and dad's excitement at the chance of starting a new life in a new country, surrounded by the only souvenirs of his old life he needs.
'I Only Wanna Be With You' has a funky groove and Mac sings well, but the backing track's a bit lumpy and this sort of generic love song has been done better elsewhere.
'She Stole It!' though is great fun - 'Let's see who you love!' is the note the narrator's girlfriend leaves when she walks away with his record collection, the condition being that only by wooing her back can he hear his old friends again. Now there's an incentive to romance for you! Don't try this at home though, you'll make your record player very sad!
'Warm Rain' finds Mac trying to balance the good and bad points of starting life anew as he watches his home disappear from a passing ship. 'Some things you lose, some things you win' is his realisation, as the grass is both greener - and wetter thanks to the 'warm rain' replacing the cold rain he's left behind.
'Hope Street' is another ugly AAA white reggae song that borders on embarrassing, though at least the lyrics are better than the groove, touching on the idea that people live in poverty all over the world and effectively share the same 'street' however far apart.
'Hello Old Friend' features the same lo-fi quirky roaring twenties sound as the early Ronnie Lane albums and a harmony (we use the term loosely) vocal from Ronnie Wood. It's clearly about Lane (Mac wrote it for him to sing and he was flattered, but it was too late and Ronnie was too ill) but also Mac too, remembering the moment his dad spotted The Small Faces on television and told him Ronnie Lane looked just like him. Mentioning Ronnie's birth-date of April Fool's Day, Mac tells him 'I thought I was the only fool I knew!' It's also a song for 'us', though, those who waited patiently for more Faces music as Mac makes our acquaintance again. One of Mac's career highlights, sweetly written and superbly sung, even with Wood's uncomfortable harmony.
'Big Love' is pretty good too, a groovy rock number with some unusual chords as Mac tries to whisper how much love he's holding in his heart not to wake his wife - but can't stop yelling it instead. This song has a lot of the old Small Faces energy and enthusiasm about it.
'Don't Let Him Out Of Your Sight' though is a touch too slow and a touch too, well, average. Two lovers are splitting up, Mac doesn't think they should, she's spying on a potential lover...it's all a bit Middle Of The Road for a Small Face whose been to Itchycoo Park and back and knows greater sights.
'Suzie Gotta Sweet Face' is pretty ordinary rocking too - we don't learn anything about Suzie except her face and you've probably guessed what that's like from the title.
'Barking Dogs' adds a then-contemporary shimmer of guitars and surface sheen (think Lenny Kravitz) behind a very Ronnie Lane style lyric about how human nature is just empty barking at people between being born and dying.
'I Will Follow' has a nice beat as Mac admits to having been adrift for so much of his career recently, but he's just been inspired by the other music stars out there and 'where you go I will follow!'
The album ends with another rocker, unusually, a retro Chuck Berry style number (Mac had recently guested on an album the guitarist made) named 'This Time' as Mac tells us that he's had enough this time and is leaving - though he seems to mean his home country rather than his family.
Overall, then, 'Best Of British' is a rocking little album with many highlights, even if it's far from Mac's best of most consistent work. The good more than makes up for the bad though and hearing a record of this quality makes you long to see what Mac might have got up to in the 1980s and 1990s, when instead of performing his own quality material he was too often playing others' inferior works (Bob Dylan really lost it in the 1970s as did the Stones in the 1980s). With a bit more British luck and a touch more promotion, this album deserved to do far better though it at least sold well enough for multiple follow-ups...
Rod Stewart and The Faces "Changing Faces"
(UMTV, October 2003)
CD One: Maggie May/Stay With Me/Reason To Believe/You Wear It Well/In A Broken Dream/Cut Across Shorty/Had Me A Real Good Time/Miss Judy's Farm/Angel/Oh No Not My Baby/What Made Milwaukee Famous/I'm Losing You/Mandolin Wind/Every Picture Tells A Story/I'd Rather Go Blind/Twistin' The Night Away/Sweet Little Rock 'n' Roller/Bring It On Home To Me-You Send Me
CD Two: Handbags and Gladrags/It's All Over Now/Cindy Incidentally/Pool Hall Richard/Street Fighting Man/Gasoline Alley/Let Me Be Your Car/That's Alright/My Way Of Giving/Italian Girls/Lost Paraguayos/True Blue/Hard Road/A Natural Man/An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down/Jodie/Man Of Constant Sorrow/You Can Make Me Dance Sing Or Anything
"Remember one thing, don't lose your head to a tatty compilation that will cost you bread"
This was such a golden opportunity for the various record labels out there I'm surprised this hadn't happened before: the chance to lump all the Faces and Rod Stewart solo hits (most of which The Faces played on anyway) on one handy disc and appeal to two markets simultaneously. The problem is, of course, that true fans of either side traditionally hate, or at any rate rib mercilessly, the other. Those who are of The Fasces persuasion still have a lingering sense of resentment that Rod's inferior pop career killed off rather a promising little band. There are also some poor deluded fans who think that Rod was the only talent in The Faces and he simply outgrew them. Putting the two together, not even side by side but jumbled together, is a little like sticking Lennon and McCartney solo songs together, or Simon and Garfunkel solo tracks if you prefer: yes there's a shared history and some fans enjoy exploring both branches of each rock family tree, but blimey there isn't much else in common musicwise. The Faces tend to go for grooving pub rock; Rod as a solo act tends to go for lush gushing ballads past closing time. The two might just about have worked as separate entities across two separate discs, but heard together? The result is a mess. If you divide this compilation down into tracks at least it makes more sense: all the singles from the early to mid 1970s by both bands are here along with a sensible if conservative selection of album tracks (so very little Ronnie Lane sadly, though Ronnie Wood just about sneaks in).
We've pretty much covered the Faces highlights on other compilations so here's a few words on the Rod half of the equation, the albums covering mainly the Faces years so albums 'An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down' 'Gasoline Alley' 'Every Picture Tells A Story' 'Never A Dull Moment' and 'Smiler' (which sadly means we skip Cat Stevens cover 'The First Cut Is The Deepest' and Crazy Horse cover 'I Don't Want To Talk About It', but at least means we're spared 'Sailing' and 'If You Think I'm Sexy', which rumour has it were both played on repeat at Guantanamo bay or the Great American Songbook albums, which could have been: I'd have told all by the end of track one). Of the songs that are here some are worthy of consideration ('Maggie May' is way overplayed and Rod is worryingly young to be singing about a schoolgirl, but there's no harm done and a guesting Ray Jackson from Lindisfarne plays a cracking mandolin solo - typically the others forget to take down his name and credited him as 'that mandolin guy from Lindisfarne' which didn't go down too well...), a lot of them not ('Street Fighting Man' is a candidate for worst AAA cover ever, completely missing the point - Mick 'n' Keef were attacking apathy not having a party - while I'd rather go deaf than listen to 'I'd Rather Go Blind' again). There's also the rare chance to pit Rod up against Steve in a head to head battle thanks to the former's cover of the latter's 'My Way Of Giving'; it won't surprise anyone to learn that Marriott wins by a million miles, although Rod's slower smokier take is still one of his better cover ideas. You may have realised by now from my tone that I'm not really the target audience for this CD - fair enough if you see more worth than I do. However even then I'm not sure this curio compilation gets things quite right: if you are a fan there are better Rod Stewart and better Faces greatest hits packages out there and you don't really get anything here you can't get better elsewhere, with little in the way of packaging and lots of pictures of Rod with only a few of The Faces.
Ian McLagan "Rise and Shine"
(Sanctuary, March 2004)
You're My Girl/Been A Long Time/Date With An Angel/Anytime/Price Of Love/She Ain't My Girl/Your Secret/Lying/The Wrong Direction/Rubies In Her Hair/Wishing Hoping Dreaming
"I know I'll never find anything better - and I stopped looking a long time ago"
More of the same from 'Mac', who treats us to another hard-rocking record of blues and rockabilly originals with a defiantly retro flavour that sounds like a Jools Holland Big Band album by someone who can actually play. There's nothing here likely to convert you to the cause if you haven't already connected with the Faces' music, but Mac does his best to keep the good-time boozy spirit of his old band still going. Soul vocalist Patty Griffin plays P P Arnold to Mac's Steve Marriott, but actually the biggest improvement over the past few records has been with his singing voice which is now gloriously passionate and ruggedly raw, with a charisma all of its own. Though not particularly different to both earlier and later albums, this may well be Mac's most consistent LP and probably the one most worth getting.
'You're My Girl' is an original that sounds as if it could have been written in the 1960s with a glorious organ solo and the sort of upbeat frenzy Marriott used to do so well. Mac first recorded this song for the EP 'A Chance To Dance' back in 1985.
'Been A Long Time' is superior honky-tonk about having reached the point in life where the music business is suddenly 'filled with people I don't know' while Mac looks in vain for his old buddies to come and sing with him.
Scott Miller's 'Date With An Angel' merges pub rock with reggae to better effect than you might suppose as Mac dreams about moving on from an abusive relationship and meeting someone who really cares for him.
'Anytime' is an album highlight, a poignant ballad where Mac writes to an old friend (named Rod perhaps?), asking them to call round the next time they're passing and acknowledging that apart they've both been going through similar 'hells'. The difference, though, is that they've done 'well', while Mac still lives relatively unknown and forgotten except by key Faces fanatics.
'Price Of Love' is by contrast the weakest thing here, a slow dirge of a blues with only the unexpected horn part adding anything of difference or interest.
'She Ain't My Girl' is a second reggae-style song albeit played with some great howling Ronnie Wood-style slide guitar. Though not as strong as 'Angel' this track has a nice slinky groove and some fun lines: 'She don't waste time washing dishes!' is Mac's biggest reason for wanting to go out with a new girl!
'Your Secret' is pure Faces as Mac both looks forward to and dreads his next night of 'torture' with the girl of his dreams he can't stop thinking of. There's a great barrel-roll piano solo in the middle that runs for hours!
'Lying' is, funnily enough, not unlike The Faces' 'Flying', a moody complex track that seems most out of place compared to its album-mates sung with more seriousness and a bigger production than normal. This sad song about betrayal is another real album highlight with Mac's anguished vocals well suited to the track.
'The Wrong Direction' is a slinky bluesy tale of how Mac's narrator's problems didn't all disappear the day his wife walked out - he had to live with himself too. More slide guitar embellishes this song's groove no end.
'Rubies In Her Hair' is the poppiest song here, as Mac regrets not taking up with an old flame decade ago, especially when he sees how run-down and unloved she now is. If Mac was with her she wouldn't want for anything.
The slow-burning 'Wishing Hoping Dreaming' is another strong track as Mac swigs at his drink and 'slips down in my seat' as he tries to stay at the bar another hour to delay going home to an empty house. A whole cacophony of keyboards appear on this track which again is more complex than usual.
Overall, then, 'Rise and Shine' is more good-time piano playing but with a sadder and more vulnerable feel to it that suggests the good time rock is here for escapism from the blues more than anything else. Well played, well made and well produced the only thing it lacks is variety but even there it has more of a range of styles than Mac's other albums. Another recommended set.
The Faces "Five Guys Walk Into A Bar..." (Box Set)
(Warner Brothers/Rhino, July 2004)
CD One: Flying/On The Beach/Too Bad/If I'm On The Late Side/Debris/Jealous Guy/Evil/As Long As You Tell Him/Maggie May (BBC Session)/Cindy Incidentally/Maybe I'm Amazed (BBC Session)/Insurance/I Came Looking For You/Last Orders Please/Wyndlesham Bay/I Can Feel The Fire/Tonight's Number/Come See Me Baby
CD Two: Pool Hall Richard/I Don't Want To Discuss It/Glad and Sorry/Shake Shudder Shiver/Miss Judy's Farm/Richmond/That's All You Need/Rear Wheel Skid/Maybe I'm Amazed/I Don't Want To Be Right/Take A Look At The Guy/Flags and Banners/Bad 'n' Ruin/Around The Plynth/Sweet Lady Mary/Had Me A Real Good Time/Cut Across Shorty
CD Three: You're So Rude/I'm Losing You/Love Lives Here/I'd Rather Go Blind/Hi Heel Sneakers-Everybody Needs Somebody To Love/Gettin' Hungry/Silicone Grown/Oh Lord I'm Browned Off!/Just Another Honky/Open To Ideas/Skewiff (mend The Fuse)/Too Bad/Rock Me/Angel/Stay With Me/Ooh La La
CD Four: The Stealer (BBC Session)/Around The Plynth (BBC Session)/You Can Make Me Dance Sing Or Anything/I Wish It Would Rain/Miss Judy's Farm (BBC Session)/Love In Vain (BBC Session)/My Fault (BBC Session)/I Feel So Good/Miss Judy's Farm/Three Button Hand Me Down/Cindy Incidentally/Borstal Boys/Flying/Bad 'n' Ruin/Dishevelment Blues/Stay With Me
"Dancing madly round the room, singing loudly and sorta out of tune"
A fine, fun retrospective that sees Mac, the band's de facto archivist, try to make sense of The Faces' four albums together across four nicely lengthy discs. Now, this is in no sense a complete career collection the way that 2015's 'You Can Make Me Dance...' box set is and debut album 'First Step' is particularly badly treated with only half the record here, though the emphasis on the band's middle two records 'Long Player' and 'A Nod Is As Good As A Wink' is at least the right way round, even if the chaotic non-linear track listing makes that hard to spot. The extra material comes from a whole range of alternate takes, BBC sessions (31 unreleased in total!) and a complete set of those hard-to-find, harder-to-listen to blues jam B-sides (frankly I'd rather listen to all the actual albums than that lot, but most of them are making their CD debuts here so the collector in me understands, even if the listener in me is off to the side being violently ill). Oddly a lot of these BBC sessions 'technically' feature Rod being backed by The Faces on his solo appearances plugging 'Maggie May' 'Gasoline Alley' etc, though at least these are both rare and well performed, so that's not the tragedy it might have been.
The 'new' material is a typical ragbag Faces assortment, some of them (such as an alternate 'Flying' that's softer and slower, an unheard studio outtake of 'Jealous Guy' with honky tonk piano from the first 'First Step' sessions in 1969, the tight and punchy rocker 'Wyndlesham Bay', the slow and moody 'Ooh La La' outtake 'The Cheater' ) well up to standard and perhaps a little higher - some of them (such as an endless poorly recorded rehearsal of Willie Dixon's 'Evil', unheard two Ronnies collaboration 'Insurance' where nothing happens very very slowly and an off-key live version of 'Too Bad' apparently played down a wind tunnel) are even more dreadful than normal. Critics fell over themselves (a bit like the band then?) to praise this set where many magazines named it 'best compilation of the year' and a few named it 'best box set ever', which seems to be going a bit far really given how lifeless, odd or worthless a good half of this set can be. However all of the band's best moments are on here somewhere, joined by many more fans didn't even know existed at the time and if nothing else 'Five Guys Walks Into A Bar' offers a pretty decent summary of what the band were all about, with space not only for the primal rocking but the more insightful Ronnie Lane songs, the experiments and the endless blues drudges all here. The best thing about this set though? The name, surely, which sums up the band's image and character better than any of their 'real' album titles or other compilations do! Not perfect then - and no substitute for just owning the albums properly - but still pretty good. Now where is Humble Pie's box set then, eh?!
"The Masters Collection"
(Universal, March 2005)
Sha-La-La-La-Lee/All Or Nothing/My Mind's Eye/Hey Girl/It's Too Late/I've Got Mine/I Can't Make It/Almost Grown/Understanding/Own Up Time/That Man/Plum Nellie/Come On Children/Grow Your Own/You Better Believe It/Sorry She's Mine/Shake!/What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?
"Go on, change my grey skies into blue!"
Decca and Universal have always had close links and for a time in the early 21st century Universal hit upon rather a good deal where they could re-release as many of Decca's artists as they could get the rights to on cheap-ish compilations that impressed by featuring a more unusual range of material than normal, usually in pretty good sound, but depressed through their short running times and their feelings of 'incompleteness'. The Small Faces' isn't one of the better selections in the range, if only because they don't have the Immediate tracks to play around with as well and Decca had already released far better compilations of their own material. Still, there are some good finds here that are hard to track down on CD outside their parent albums, with the likes of B-side 'Understanding' and album track 'Come On Children' more than deserving the extra appreciation. Be warned, too, that a number of the songs including 'What'cha' don't feature the 'original' versions but the 'French EP' ones, which is a bonus for collectors but a pain for people trying to track down the 'real' versions.
"The Essential Collection"
(Metro, April 2005)
CD One: Here Come The Nice/I Can't Make It/Itchycoo Parl/Tin Soldier/I Feel Much Better/Lazy Sunday/Wham Bam Thank You Man/Wide Eyed Girl On The Wall/There's Something I Want To Tell You/Things Are Going To Get Better/Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass/Green Circles/Tell Me Have You Ever Seen Me?/Long Agos and Worlds Apart/Don't Burst My Bubble/I'm Only Dreaming/Up The Wooden Hills To Bedfordshire/Ogden's Nut Gone Flake
CD Two: Happiness Stan/Rollin' Over/The Hungry Intruder/The Journey/Mad John/Happydaystoytown/Get Yourself Together/The Universal/Red Balloon/Eddie's Dreaming/The Autumn Stone/Talk To You/All Our Yesterdays/Happy Boys Happy/My Way Of Giving/Rene/Just Passing/Afterglow (Of Your Love)
"More than love it's a way of living - what more would you have me do?"
What's the difference between 'ultimate' 'definitive' and 'essential'? Not a lot it syntax wise it seems, although actually this set is different simply by featuring the Immediate songs together without any Decca recordings to interrupt the flow. In that sense this compilation is a spitting image for 'The Darlings Of Whapping Wharf Laundrette', the difference being that the earlier compilation comes in strict chronological order - and this one doesn't. Better stick with that one then or the two Decca-Immediate hybrids mentioned above , but the music of course is more than fine and the packaging might even be a tad stronger on this set, with The Small Faces standing in front of a moddish 'target' logo.
Steve Marriott "Rainy Changes: Rare Recordings 1973-1991"
(Whapping Wharf Launderette, June 2005)
CD One: They Call It Love/Run Rudolph Run/Nobody But You/Phone Call Away/If You Find What You're Looking For/Say The Word/Sweet Nuthins/Looking Through At You/Happy Birthday, Birthday Girl/Some Kind Of Wonderful/Save Your Love For Me/An Itch You Can't Scratch/Two Lane Fever/Paying The Price/I Never Loved A Woman/Stay With Me Baby/Oh Well/Out Of The Blue/I Won't Let You Down/The Bigger They Come The Harder They Fall
CD Two: Intro/Poor Man's Rich Man/Dialogue/Thirty Day Shuffle/Heartbreaker/Midnight Of My Life/Get Down To It/It's All Over/Think/Dialogue/Sea Of Change/I Need Your Love Like A Fish Needs A Raincoat/Let's Spend The Night Together/Infatuation/Jesus Loves Me/Soldier/Rainy Changes/Toe Rag/Poll Tax Blues/Dialogue #2
"There's nothing new, there's nothing changed and if I told you the same old stories just once more would it be strange?"
Marriott's final years weren't pretty with the man who once sang 'It's all too beautiful' was in survival mode for most of his last decade. But talent never dies, it just gets mis-placed and there's enough of substance here in a lovingly made collection to prove that Marriott might yet have re-discovered his long missing muse had he lived another decade. At the time everything bar 'Poll Tax Blues' in this set was unreleased, which is quite remarkable given the long running times of both discs, although most of it had appeared on grainy bootlegs that used to be a fairly common sight at record fairs. These recordings could in truth have gone either way, as proof of how Marriott had lost his way or as a moving eulogy and thankfully it's the latter, with the set compiled with loving care by John Hellier, the editor of the Small Faces fanzine Darlings Of Whapping Wharf Laundrette and every available source scoured for the best sound and most interesting outtakes dating right back to Humble Pie's peak period.
The first disc is a kind of free-for-all containing unreleased Humble Pie grooves, unusual cover songs and unfinished Marriott demos. None of it's earth-shattering but most of it is good, with a fiery harmonica version of 'Thirty Day Shuffle', a powerful cover of 'Midnight In My Life' where Marriott admits that he's fallen on harder times, a cover of The Stones' 'Let's Spend The Night Together' treated like a Humble Pie song but thankfully not slowed down too much, the hilariously straight-faced comedy 'I Need Your Love Like A Fish Needs A Raincoat' and even funnier minute long snippet 'Toe Rag', which started life as a touching song to friends and family before getting imbued with ribald cockney humour and orders ('That's your mum and I'm your dad and this is my guitar - hands off!') Best of all are two cracking songs that really do suggest that Marriott was finding a new source of power in his performance: Joe Brown's 'Soldier' (leftover from 'Marriott' in 1976) in which the 'tin soldier' admits that he long ago forgot what he was fighting for but doesn't know how to do anything else, while the 'Rainy Changes' title track sounds like a fond olive branch to Ronnie Lane during the bass player's years of ill health as Marriott sings in Ronnie's acoustic fiddle-playing style and laments that he should be with a good friend instead of sitting 'all alone'. Though Marriott sings most of this album on auto-pilot, his delivery of these two tracks is right up there with his best as the music coaxes a better performance out of his weary body. Sadly there's also the set's un-wisest inclusions - drunken ramblings from Marriott (the most interesting of which discusses the taste of fish and chips!) and only slightly more together reminiscences from those who knew them. Speech rarely works together with music and really doesn't repeated listenings (maybe it should have been lumped together at the end of the disc?)
The majority of the album though is taken up, on the second disc an album Marriott had tried to release with The Official Receivers in 1987, marking his first studio work since Humble Pie's 'Go For The Throat' in 1981. Marriott felt mixed emotions about making this un-named record: he longed to make music and desperately needed the money but by the mid 1980s he'd grown so upset and frustrated about the way The Small Faces and Humble Pie had been taken for a ride by managers and record labels that he hated the idea of being taken advantage of again. Chances are the record would have seen the light of day at some stage, but for four years Marriott tinkered with it on and off, unsure what to do with it. Though far from the best thing Marriott ever made in his lifetime, it is as at least more focussed than anything he'd been making in the second half of his career with Humble Pie and Marriott has regained some of his old voice and swagger after years of struggling (and thankfully usually winning) to stay off the cigarettes, drugs and booze. You don't really need to own this album, but it's a nice one to have with several highlights that all seem to touch on Marriott's latest fading marriage to Pam Stephens including such strong performances as the acoustic lament 'Nobody But You' written in a rare moment of sobriety, bandmate Jim Leverton's sweet pop song 'Say The Word' and the relentless funk of 'An Itch I Can't Scratch'. The rest of the album sadly suffers from 1980s syndrome with too many artificial drums, synthesisers and backing singers which cover up all these wonderfully raw and heartfelt songs with too much spit and polish as well as covering up Marriott himself. In Steve's case raw really was more and it's on the more solo numbers he shines. The three collaborations with Peter Frampton, which ended up being the last Marriott would ever make just months before his untimely death, are also interesting with 'I Won't Let You Down' a rare 1980s pop that actually works in all its bright shoulder-padded excessive glory. The 'extra tracks' at the end of the disc are even more of a mixed bag but Marriott's rocking version of Fleetwood Mac's 'Oh Well' makes up for the other three.
Overall, then, 'Rainy Changes' is a flawed but more than fine enough memorial to a great lost talent with just enough there to prove Marriott's greatness without being able to shake off the feeling that the singer's best work was always going to be behind him. Full of some very sudden stylistic shifts and a lot of soggy weather, 'Rainy Changes' is a name that suits both the compilation and the man rather well. This set was never going to be a huge seller, but it was too good to exist merely in muddy sound on bootlegs all its life and it certainly enhances rather than harms Marriott's legacy, however reluctant the singer was to release most of it.
The Jones Gang (Featuring Kenney Jones) "Any Day Now"
The Time Of Your Life/Mr Brown/Angel/She'll Never Know/With You/Gypsy Lane/Lucy/Six To Midnight/Hole In My Soul/Where Are You Now?/Red Hot
"There was strength, there was truth, but I just couldn't get it!"
Kenney Jones has had a quiet time of it since his days as Keith Moon's replacement, The Who coming to a first natural end in 1982. Stints in Rod Stewart's band, a brief time performing with Status Quo and charity gigs for Ronnie Lane aside, Kenney had all but retired from music making when he decided to form his own band for the first time in 2001. More of a bunch of friends in The Faces mode than a supergroup like Humble Pie, featuring two old mates in Rick Wills (who was once Lane's replacement in The Small Faces reunion and ended up, much to Marriott's chagrin, in Peter Frampton's band) and Robert Hart (the original singer with Bad Company and then with Manfredd Mann's Earth Band), the band got together for charity gigs but stayed long enough to record this one lone album. Very early 21st century, in the same way that Ronnie and Steve's work around the 1980s were very 1980s, it certainly doesn't sound much like either of Kenney's previous bands and despite the billing Kenney plays a backseat here, providing only three co-writinv credits and drums - and not many of them to be honest. Instead it's Hart who takes the reigns here, with scratchy vocals that sound like The Stereophonics' 'Kelly Jones' as performed through a megaphone.
The record has its moments, particularly when it's involving itself with contemporary culture. One of the biggest things in Kenney's life outside music has long been politics and - almost uniquely for AAA bands - is a big supporter of Conservative policy. This album's 'Mr Brown's is a damning portrayal of the then-Labour prime minister and Kenney's attempts to get his heads round his policy ('Inside out and round and round' he still can't follow it though). All I'll say in reply is that the penniless Marriott and Lane, who lost their fortunes through no fault of their own (and a little help from Conservative policy on tax and disability) would probably have disagreed whole-heartedly, but Kenney deserves his chance to speak out and 'reply' to Marriott's 'Poll Tax Blues'. 'She'll Never Know' is a fun fast acoustic number too, with a Ronnie-style swing and a Steve-style direct performance, while Kenney's only wholly original song 'Six To Midnight' would have made a great Faces single, recalling Marriott's own '30 Seconds To Midnite' as Hart's narrator is 'cold and lonely' at a station and wondering what he's doing with his life. Most of the rest though is as disposable as every other album released in 2005 (which is to say 'very') and even these album highlights would have sounded better taken down a production peg or two. The Jones Gang sound like a good one to be a part of, though, with some top-notch performances in there somewhere - other bands out there still going from the olden days will have to go a long way to keep up with the Joneses' fire and energy!
Ian McLagan "Spiritual Boy"
(Maniac Records, April 2006)
Spiritual Babe/Itchycoo Park/Nowhere To Run/Annie/Debris/April Fool/Kuschty Rye/Show Me The Way/You're So Rude/Glad and Sorry/Hello Old Friend
"Hello old friend, I'll see you in a while, we'll sit and laugh and you'll make me smile"
Although a few people at the time accused Mac of cashing in on the death of an old friend, the keyboardist's career had been picking up nicely and this series of Ronnie Lane covers sound heartfelt and natural. Mac's voice is an interesting hybrid of his two most famous partner's: at times it has the rough edges and aggressiveness of Marriott's, but he also shares a folky ethereal quality with Lane's that makes Mac an excellent choice of singer for a tribute album. Being such an old friend, Mac also knows the Lane catalogue well and though there's a couple of fan-pleasers like 'Itchycoo Park' (the one Small Faces hit single which was more Ronnie's than Steve's) and Small Faces album track 'Show Me The Way' there's also a run of forgotten and neglected songs from the 'Slim Chance' and 'See Me' periods and some less than obvious Faces songs too.
In truth the Small faces covers are oddly wretched for someone who saw the originals being made: 'Itchycoo Park' has never sounded more horrid or out of tune (it's all far from being 'too beautiful!'), 'Show Me The Way' sounds lost and Mac's harsher voice might have made a better bet at times covering Marriott's work. Still, at other times, this album is genuinely lovely: 'Rough Mix' songs 'Nowhere To Run' 'April Fool' and 'Annie' are tense and nervy beasts, delivered with the purity of the originals but a power all their own. Better yet the two Mac originals that bookend the album ('Hello Old Friend' having already featured on Mac's 'Best Of British' album) are knockout songs, Mac spot-on with his observations about his friend's mixture of down-to-earthness and mysticism and telling his own personal connection to Ronnie when his dad remarked, long before he joined The Small Faces, how much his son looked like the bassist on the telly. 'I thought I was the only fool I knew' Mac sings in reference to Ronnie's April fool's day birthdate. Mac wrote the song in the 1990s when he knew his friend was dying and played it for him - Ronnie was both moved to tears and felt deeply awkward from hearing a friendship related in song. I'm glad he heard it though: it's a true song by a true friend. If nothing else this album served as a useful introduction to Ronnie's solo work back at a time when it was near-impossible to find and along with the 'Passing Show' documentary made around this time helped re-establish Ronnie as a cult figure rather than forgotten has-been. You can tell from this record what good friends Mac and Ronnie were and you can't ask for more from your friends than a heartfelt tribute reminding the public how great your often-forgotten work is. 'What is finer than love, babe?' the album starts. Only respect - and here Mac offers both in a poignant, often beautiful album that may be a little rough around the edges but is delivered with heart.
"The Very Best Of Humble Pie: The Immediate Recordings"]
(Metro Recordings, February 2006)
Natural Born Bugie/Wrist Job/Desperation/Growing Closer/As Safe As Yesterday Is/Bang!/Alabama '69/A Nifty Little Number Like You/What You Will/The Sad Bag Of Shakey Jake/Every Mother's Son/Heartbeat/For Your Love/Shakin' All Over
"I hope you pull through, but you're locked in your social zoo!"
Hard as they try to disguise it, with a generous track selection and some excellent packaging, Immediate can't escape the fact that they only have access to three Humble Pie albums - the first two studio cuts and the posthumous live album tagged onto the end. At least this time, unlike 'Come Back Home', the track selection is sensible, including the band's only bona fide hit single in this period with more fan favourites like 'Shakey Jake' and 'A Nifty Little Number'. The bonus track of 'For Your Love' is pretty exceptional too. However there are still far too many rotten track selections like the countryfied 'Alabama '69' and the Buddy Holly cover 'Heartbeat' while some of the band's strongest songs like 'Buttermilk Boy' and the 'proper' take of 'Every Mother's Son' (replaced here by a shorter acoustic version) - yes them again! - are absent. Humble Pie are too wide and sprawling a band to be done justice by a single disc compilation - especially one that only has access to the first fifth of their collected work together. This set though doesn't even make the most of the limited tracks Immediate had access to.
"The Immediate Recordings"
(Weton Wesgram, '2007')
Itchycoo Park/I'm Only Dreaming/Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am/Afterglow (Of Your Love)/All Or Nothing/I Can't Make It/Here Come The Nice/Feeling Lonely/Tin Soldier/Become Like You/The Universal/Call It Something Nice/Lazy Sunday/The Autumn Stone/Every Little Bit Hurts (Studio)/Don't Burst My Bubble/Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass/Red Balloon
"You don't need money to open your eyes!"
A cheap 'n' cheerful compilation that puts together a pretty random selection of Immediate recordings for spare change. Given the costs this is rather good value for money with several of the band's best work here, as opposed to simply their best known work (with songs like 'Afterglow' 'Every Little Bit Hurts' and most of the Autumn Stone tracks making semi-rare appearances). There's surprisingly little from the Immediate 'Small Faces' album though or even 'Ogden's (represented by just two songs) so this is in no way a replacement for the longer, more 'definitive' compilations out there. Sometimes, though, cheap is the way to go with compilations even if they're not perfect - The Small Faces, of all bands, would understand if this is all you can buy.
Steve Marriott "Tin Soldier - The Anthology"
(Sanctuary, February 2008)
CD One (Small Faces Plus): Consider Yourself (Oliver Cast Recording)/Give Her My Regards (Solo)/Money Money (The Moments)/What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?/I've Got Mine/Hey Girl/You Need Loving/All Or Nothing/Understanding/I Can't Dance With You/I Can't Make It/Here Come The Nice/Get Yourself Together/Green Circles/Don't Burst My Bubble/Tin Soldier/Lazy Sunday/Rollin' Over/Afterglow (Of Your Love)/The Universal/Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass/Me You and Us Too/The Autumn Stone/Every Little Bit Hurts
CD Two (Humble Pie): Natural Born Bugie/Buttermilk Boy/Alabama '69/Down Home Again/Every Mother's Son/I'll Drown In My Own Tears/Big Black Dog/Live With Me/Theme From Skint/A Song For Jenny/I Don't Need No Doctor/You're So Good For Me/30 Days In The Hole/Get Down To It/Say No More/Groovin' With Jesus/Funbky To The Bone/Fool For A Pretty Face/Teenage Anxiety
CD Three (Solo Plus): Midnight Of My Life/Early Evening Light/Lookin' For Love/Lend Us A Quid/Soldier/Cocaine/High and Happy (Small Faces Reunion)/Brown Man Do (Small Faces Reunion)/Daddy Rollin' Stone/Lonely No More (Majic Mijits)/Cockney Rhyme/Big Train Stop At Memphis/My Girl/Watch Your Step/If You Find What You're Looking For/Phone Call Away/Knockin' On Your Door/Poll Tax Blues/I Won't Let You Down/The Bigger They Come/Stay With Me Baby/Toe Rag
"Happy, sad, good and bad, this is exactly what you are"
A near perfect three-pronged attack on Marriott's back catalogue, which somehow (negotiation? Bribery? magic?!) becomes the first set ever to negotiate not only the Decca and Immediate years, but the A&M, Atlantic and many minor label eras as well. The triple set is sensibly divided into three, for The Small Faces, Humble Pie and solo/assorted extras, each CD a strong best-of-with-extras in its own right but heard together offers pretty much every great track Marriott ever recorded (though you'll still want to dig out 'Come On Children!' from the debut LP and Humble Pie B-side 'Wrist Job' if you really want to get everything top-notch Marriott ever recorded). The 'Small Faces' disc adds relative rarities like B-sides 'Understanding' and 'I Can't Dance With You' that don't always appear on compilations as well as the studio version of 'Every Little Bit Hurts' and an outtake (with more Marriott) of Ronnie's 'Green Circles' track oddly. Oh and three excellent tracks from a time before Marriott even joined the band, heard as the greatest Artful Dodger there ever was back in 1960, the A side of his solo teen balladeer moment in 1963 and the B-side of his stint as lead singer with rock group The Moments in 1964. The second disc, covering Humble Pie, is even better: as well as the obvious tracks (the glorious 'I Don't Need No Doctor' and hit singles 'Natural Born Bugier' 'Big Black Dog' and 'Fool For A Pretty Face') come the real cream of Humble Pie that always seem to get short shrift from compilers: the moody yet magnificent 'Live With Me', the oh so sweet 'Jenny's Song' and the gloriously self-deprecating 'Theme From Skint'.
Admittedly not every track selection here is a classic ('Funky To The Bone' and 'Alabama '69' are in truth the worst of Pie) but, well, it wouldn't be Pie without getting things wrong somewhere and at least you get to sample every record, not just the famous ones. The third CD is, as so many people have said, the weakest entry containing Marriott's decline from his eponymous solo album in 1975 through the disappointing Small Faces reunions, the Majik Mijits with Ronnie Lane in 1981 and on through the live club date recordings through to '30 Seconds To Midnite' in 1989 and Marriott's final ever work, a few weeks before his death, on a Peter Frampton album (finally released posthumously in 1991). But even if the material it's taken from is less inspired and a lot more tired than the first two discs, the best of it is pretty much all here with an excellent intelligent selection (though a couple more from the Majik Mijits album wouldn't have gone amiss). Together with a fantastically cheap price on first release (£8! Perhaps my second greatest AAA bargain - Marriott would have approved!), the clever and fitting name-check of Marriott's greatest ever song in the title and the heartfelt attention to detail most everywhere, 'Tin Soldier' is the place to kindle your Marriott obsession. The only minor point - and it's a very minor one - is a bit of clumsy proof-reading in the so-small-print-I-need-me-glasses booklet, which accidentally puts some track info in the wrong order and end mid-sentence (something the AAA would never do of cour-). That aside, though, this is a classic and it deserved to make a far bigger splash at the time than it did. Now all we have to do is wait for the sister set on Ronnie Lane and I'll be happy...
Ian McLagan "Never Say Never"
(RED Distribution, March 2009)
Never Say Never/A Little Black Number/I Will Follow/Where Angels Hide/Killing Me With Love/An Innocent Man/My Irish Rose/I'm Hot You're Cool/Loverman/When The Crying Is Over
"The sun is glistening - and it's blinding my view"
I'm not quite sure what it was that made this album stand out - a better publicity budget maybe, a sudden outpouring of love for The Small Faces in the wake of 'The Ultimate Collection' or recoiling horror at the Rod Stewart American Songbooks - but suddenly after decades in the shadows Mac's latest album was everywhere. By and large tracking down the previous Mac albums involved a bit of detective work and a lot of luck, but suddenly this album was being reviewed everywhere and everyone was falling over themselves to say how much the unassuming keyboard player was always their favourite Faces member, yes honest. With Kenney now quiet, Wood part of a seemingly retired Rolling Stones (four years after their latest tour/album), Ronnie and Steve both gone and Rod now an establishment figure crooning the likes of 'Moonglow' and 'The Very Thought Of You' as if the 1970s had never happened, it fell to Mac to keep the Faces tradition going.
Which he does, with typical aplomb on an album that's of a standard really with all his others. No, Mac still isn't the world's greatest vocalist but in this period especially he was getting better and his raw, vulnerable soulful vocals were a million miles away from what former partner Rod was churning out - to most fans' relief. No there isn't a lot of variety on offer here, with more pub rockers and soulful ballads, although there is a slightly softer more melodic approach this time around. No The Bump Band aren't the most virtuoso group on the planet, but virtuosity is over-rated anyway compared to feeling and Mac's band have that in spades. No, the songs aren't up to The Small Faces' best but then what is? In plus terms this album even digs a little deeper than most of Mac's works, with an inherent sadness from the recent death of wife Kim (who died in a car accident when her vehicle was hit by a truck in 2006) and the keyboard player's own failing health, although this is still far from an introspective work in the Ronnie Lane mould, just a little more mournful and regretful than normal. 'Never Say Never' has many highlights, few lowlights and re-establishes The Faces' style into a new century most successfully. Even if there was a sense in the reviews of the time that 'this is as good as we Faces fans have got these days', in truth it's plenty good enough with Mac adding another excellent album to his discography.
'Never Say Never' itself is one of the strongest songs here, a heartfelt ballad about a lost love coming back as a ghost, something Mac's narrator fears he might have imagined but still takes some comfort from. Mac's gorgeous soulful delivery is the polar opposite of the note-perfect-but-wet Rod albums of period years - raw, naked, honest and dripping with emotion. Even Ronnie and Steve would have been proud to have written this one.
'A Little Black Number' is a perky little rockabilly number about a middle-aged woman getting her confidence boosted by attention from lads young enough to be her son. A typical Faces song then, but Mac's slowed and lightened the sound so that it feels more like moving tribute than booze-swilling good time.
'I Will Follow' is The Faces to a tee - or closer yet the 'Wham Bam' late period of Small Faces. A typically Marriott style song of devotion, no matter what, it's another classy track with a rousing piano riff.
'Where Angels Hide' is the song most overtly about the loss of wife Kim as Mac tries to offer comfort to others in a similar position. 'There's nothing I can write to help you through the night' Mac sings sadly, but sweet heartfelt songs like this one help all the same.
'Killing Me Love' is something of an oddity, a ukulele number that mixes The Faces with George Formby - the two aren't quite as far apart as you might suppose. This song never quite gels though and is perhaps one of the weaker songs here.
'An Innocent Man' is a lovely Ronnie Lane style acoustic ballad as Mac invites 'us' to take a walk with him where he gets to say everything he always wanted to say but never quite cold. Another quite lovely song, with Mac's strained vocals only adding to the poignancy.
'My Irish Rose' is the closest in style to previous albums - a noisy full band performance with a slurred vocal and generic lyrics of love. There's still something compelling about the song's stumbling, half-speed riff though that makes this more than mere parody.
'I'm Hot, You're Cool' is one of those Jools Holland style boogie woogie numbers that takes a long time to get going but finally hits a groove once the band cut in and has Mac defying his critics, mentioning the people he's played to and how he's still 'going strong' after so many of his contemporaries have quit.
'Loverman' is a retro 50s style number with Buddy Holly hiccups where Mac's vocal croak is perhaps a little too raw for comfort and weith some pretty bland lyrics compared to the rest of the album, but the melody's a good 'un at least.
The album ends with another mini-classic as 'When The Crying Is Over' looks forward to happier days when storms have passed and Mac looks forward to his own death when he's reunited with his soulmate. It's with a heavy heart you realise that the keyboard player only had another five years to wait before getting his wish.
Overall, then, 'Never Say Never' is as defiant as its title, but also tempered with a softer melancholy that underpins many of the songs. It's hard to grade Mac's albums as all are so similar but this one has perhaps an extra few dimensions compared to the others and a few less filler tracks. It's certainly Mac's most heartfelt and emotional solo album, without ever betraying that sense of fun and carnival that had always been so intrinsic to the Faces sound. A career highlight? Well, perhaps not quite but never say never - this album has become even more poignant after Mac's death and might yet grow with the passage of time into his masterwork...
Steve Marriott "Lend Us A Quid!"
(Whapping Wharf Laundrette, July 2010)
CD One: Think/Shake!/Charlene/High and Happy/Star In My Life/Snakes and Ladders/Lend Us A Quid!/Midnight Of My Life/Be My Baby/Hambone/Rain/Cocaine/To Ramona/Think (Alternate Take)/Anyhow I Love You x 2
CD Two (Humble Pie Live 1983): What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?/Fool For A Pretty Face/Hallelujah I Love Her So/Walking The Dog/Five Long Years/The Fixer/Drum Solo/30 Days In The Hole/I Don't Need No Doctor
"Ain't nobody else going to take my place!"
This is a set of two halves. The first disc is another stab by the Whapping Wharf Laundrette fanzine to release the 'Scrubbers' sessions of 1975 with a few tracks unheard on the longer 'Sessions' album of 1996, sadly this set will set you back more than a quid nowadays and is one of the rarer albums in this book despite it's relatively recent vintage. To be honest, you're better off with the earlier set anyway as it contains all you're ever likely to want to hear (and more besides), but the curious are rewarded with a few extra recordings of interest. The unheard 'Think' is Marriott trying hip hop, of all things and sounding rather better than he did doing reggae, though it's the second version here with more of an R and B groove and a lengthy harmonica solo that works best. The quirky 'Charlene' with a curious stop-start riff is another song that deserved release on the earlier CD with a very Marriott lyric about poverty with the memorable opening line 'Man, when I was rich I was a sonofabitch!' 'Snakes and Ladders' is a typical mid-70s Pie groove that's a good start but needs something extra happening in there. An early version of 'Midnight Of My Life' is much better than the re-recording in 1989 with Marriott still in control of his vocal, despite the often dodgy sound. Acoustic Dylan cover 'To Ramona' is unique in the Marriott lexicon as Marriott carries off a complex multi-layered song with his voice kept down low. You can also hear two rehearsals of the unfinished 'Anyhow I Love You' which are less interesting than they ought to be, with long periods of silence as Marriott gets feedback from his engineer. Very much for obsessive fans rather than general music collectors then, although this set was released through a fanzine after all (albeit a very well loved, respected and popular one) so that shouldn't be too surprising. Personally though I'd just stick with the 'Scrubbers' set as there's nothing un-missable here.
The second disc is a concert from Humble Pie in 1983 that captures the band at one of their last gigs (at least, with Marriott in the band). It's a lot better than the two reunion albums, with a sense of structure and discipline behind all that noise and Marriott is on good form throughout, certainly a lot better than any of the 'Packet Of Three' and 'Official Receivers' sets from later in the decade out officially. Though Marriott shines again on later individual songs at different gigs, this is the last live concert captured for posterity where the singing still comes naturally and has a sense of dynamics behind the power and shouting. Together with some excellent material (including a fifteen minute cover of 'Five Long Years', a smokin' 'Fixer' from Pie album 'Smokin', a nine minute '30 Days In The Hole' with a new heavy drum pattern and a fourteen minute 'I Don't Need No Doctor', which is the last performance of his signature Pie song where that statement sounds true). Most interestingly of all, Pie play a Small Faces song for the only time: a punkish 'What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?' which is about the only one of their songs that could withstand such a heavy metal makeover and come out on top. The only problems are the poor sound, which is all too obviously taken from a lo-fi tape recorder and a never-ending drum solo that takes up five precious minutes of the short set. Never mind, though - there's enough here on this second side to delight all Marriott maniacs and to keep the singer's memory alive for that bit longer. Though not for casual fans, 'Lend Us A Quid' is a bargain in anyone's money.
'The Small Faces' (Decca) (Deluxe Edition May 2012):
Album: Shake/Come On Children/You Better Believe It/It's Too Late/One Night Stand/What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?//Sorry She's Mine/Own Up Time/You Need Loving/Don't Stop What You're Doing/E Too D/Sha La La La Lee
Bonus Tracks: I've Got Mine/What's A Matter Baby?/Grow Your Own/Patterns/Come On Children (Alternate)/Shake (Alternate)/You Better Believe It (Alternate)/It's Too late (Alternate)/Sorry She's Mine (Alternate)/Own Up Time (Alternate)/E Too D (Alternate)/I've Got Mine (Alternate)/Grow Your Own (Alternate)/Sha La La La Lee (Stereo)/Don't Stop What You're Doing (Alternate)/Patterns (Alternate)/What's A Matter Baby? (Alternate)/What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It? (Alternate)
'From The Beginning' (Deluxe Edition May 2012):
Album: Runaway/My Mind's Eye/Yesterday Today And Tomorrow/That Man/My Way Of Giving/Hey Girl/(Tell Me) Have You Ever Seen Me?//Come Back And Take This Hurt Off Me/All Or Nothing/Baby Don't You Do It/Plum Nellie/Sha-La-La-La-Lee/You've Really Got A Hold On Me/Whatcha Gonna Do 'Bout It?
Bonus Tracks: Almost Grown/Understanding/I Can't Dance With You/I Can't Make It (Tracking Session)/Just Passing/Runaway (Alternate)/That Man (Alternate)/Yesterday Today and Tomorrow (Alternate)/My Mind's Eye (Alternate)/Picanninny (Backing)/ Hey Girl (Alternate)/Take This Hurt Off Me (Alternate)/Baby Don't You Do It (Alternate)/All Or Nothing (Alternate) /Understanding (Alternate)/Talk To You (Alternate)/All Our Yesterdays (Backing)/Tell Me Have You Ever Seen Me? (Alternate)/Show Me The Way (Backing)/I Can't Make It (Backing)/Things Are Going To Get Better (Alternate)
'The Small Faces' (Immediate) (Deluxe Edition May 2012)
Album: (Tell Me) Have You Ever Seen Me?/Something I Want To Tell You/ Feeling Lonely/Happy Boys Happy/Things Are Going To Get Better/My Way Of Giving/Green Circles//Become Like You/Get Yourself Together/All Of Our Yesterdays/Talk To You/Show Me The Way/Up The Wooden Hills To Bedfordshire/Eddie’s Dreaming
Bonus Tracks: Here Comes The Nice/Itchycoo Park/I'm Only Dreaming/Tin Soldier/I Feel Much Better/Tell Me Have You Ever Seen Me? (Alternate)/Eddie's Dreaming (Alternate)/Green Circles (Alternate)/Tell Me Have You Ever Seen Me? (Stereo)/ Something I Want To Tell You (Stereo)/Feeling Lonely (stereo) /Happy Boys Happy (Stereo)/Things Are Going To Get Better (Stereo)/ My Way Of Giving (Stereo)/Green Circles (Stereo)/Become Like You (Stereo)/Get Yourself Together (Stereo)/All Our Yesterdays (Stereo)/Talk To You (Stereo)/Show Me The Way (Stereo)/Up The Wooden Hills To Bedfordshire (Stereo)/Eddie's Dreaming (Stereo)/Just Passing (Stereo)/ Itchycoo Park (Stereo)/Here Comes The Nice (Stereo)/Don't Burst My Bubble (Stereo)/Things Are Going To Get Better (Alternate)/I Can't Make It (Tracking Session)/Green Circles (Alternate)/Tin Soldier (Stereo)/If You Think You're Groovy (Backing)
'Odgen's Nut Gone Flake' (Deluxe Edition May 2012)
Album (Mono and Stereo): Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake/Afterglow (Of Your Love)/Long Agos And Worlds Apart/Rene/Song Of A Baker/Lazy Sunday/Happiness Stan/Rollin’ Over/The Hungry Intruder/The Journey/Mad John/HappyDaysToyTown
Bonus Tracks: Ogden's Nut Gone Flake (Alternate)/Afterglow (US Mix)/Long Agos And Worlds Apart (US Mix)/Rene (Alternate)/Song Of A Baker (US Mix)/Lazy Sunday (US Mix)/Happiness Stan (Backing Track)/Bun In The Oven (Early Session Mix)/The Fly (Backing)/Mad John (Early Version)/HappyDaysToyTown (US Mix)/Every Little Bit Hurts (Early Studio Mix)/Ogden's Nut Gone Flake ('Phased' Mix)/Happydaystoytown (Extended Version)
"Clap twice, lean back, twist for a while..."
In an unusually co-ordinated move between Decca and Immediate, both sides agreed to release 'deluxe' two disc versions of all three of The Small Faces' completed LPs plus the 'From The Beginning' compilation all at the same time back in May 2012, just two years before both halves of the band's career end up as pricey box sets. The general consensus on these re-masters is that they're good, but could have been so much better for the price: there are way too many not-that-different alternate mixes and most of the running time is taken up by repeating songs in mono and stereo, which even given the short length of albums in the 1960s doesn't leave that much room for unexpected extras. When these sets are good though, they're very good indeed: The Decca 'Small Faces' album benefits from the original unedited versions of many of the album's best songs (why on earth did they ever cut 'E Too D' down?!) and shorter, less intense versions of 'Come On Children' and 'Shake' that still sounds great in any form. 'From The Beginning' is less interesting but it does include a muddy acetate mix of an early take of 'Hey Girl' played in the cutesy style of 'Sha La La La Lee' and early backing tracks for 'Talk To You' and 'All Our Yesterdays'. The Immediate 'Small Faces' album from 1967 features an early hazier crazier stab at 'Green Circles', an early aborted 'Things Are Going To Get Better' and the backing track for PP Arnold collaboration 'If You Think You're Groovy' (though weirdly not the finished product). Ogden's, meanwhile, gets extended to three whole discs with the middle one containing an entire cobbled-up extra album containing rare mixes of all the album tracks, of which only the backing tracks (for 'Happiness Stan', 'Hungry Intruder' and 'Rollin' Over - here listed under working title 'Bun In The Oven') are really all that different. The set does include the first 'new' (or at least unheard) Small Faces song in a decade and a half, though, with the 'Picaninny' style instrumental 'Kamikhaze', which is good but not great. These sets remain the best and most complete way of hearing these albums at the present time. However, there's not a lot of extra butter for your piles of extra bread really and if you were enough of a Small Faces fan to buy the previous lot of CDs (which also came with bonus tracks, just not quite so many) then you're not really missing out on an awful lot. Sadly the re-issue frenzy seemed to end before Immediate could add 'The Autumn Stone' to the roster: a shame because that double-album complete with the complete 1968 concert and a chance to hear alternate versions/mixes of the non-album A and B sides like 'Itchycoo Park' and 'Tin Soldier' would have been quite valuable too.
Ian McLagan "United States"
All I Wanna Do/Pure Gold/Don't Say Nothing/I'm Your Baby Now/Mean Old World/Love Letter/Who Says It Ain't Love?/Shalalala/How Blue?/He's Not For You
"I don't have much, but I got enough!"
The album that ended up being Mac's last, recorded a year before his untimely death, is sadly a slight step downwards from his quite excellent run across the rest of the 21st century. It's not that anything here is bad and the more practice Mac has the better a vocalist he becomes - it's just that this record doesn't feel quite as 'special' as either 'Rise and Shine' or 'Never Say Never'. Lyrically this is another album touching on nostalgia for the past (both band and wife Kim) while trying hard to recover in the present and move on with life with a number of songs about ending up uncomfortable back in the dating scene and going back and forth between finding comfort short-term in the present and worrying about the future. The name of the album is an intriguing clue to what this alum is about, with Mac ending up moving to his adopted home more full-time (bar tours) and trying to start a totally new life without old memories. But this album is chock full of old memories, suggesting Mac never quite adopted to a new way of life. Musically it may have been made in a new continent but with the same line-up of The Bump Band behind him, Mac sounds as English as he always has with no change to the sound the way that there was, say, on Marriott's mid-70s recordings in the States. I'd stick with this album's two predecessors if I were you, which had a bit more about them somehow - but if you loved them and want more then this record is far from awful.
'All I Wanna Do' starts with Mac admitting that he spends his time thinking about those he's lost, but this song about old ghosts is a bit too similar to 'Never Say Die' without being quite as memorable or heartfelt.
'Pure Gold' adds a touch of ska to a song that finds Mac trying to find a new lover and wondering why nobody seems to want to stay when he's got so much to offer. In a parallel world somewhere you can hear Rod Stewart still doing this one with The Faces.
'Don't Say Nothing' is one of the more unusual songs here, written to a descending chromatic riff that seems to keep undoing all the things Mac has put together. 'I don't have much' he sighs at the start and across the song even that seems to keep being taken away. Perhaps the best song here.
'I'm Your Baby Now' starts with a Ronnie Wood style slide guitar riff and some percussion and military drumming before it sadly slips back into a more normal groove on a track where Mac struggles to move on.
'Mean Old World', a collaboration with Jud Newcomb, is a heartfelt ballad about a past lover (whose surely Kim) and all the dancing around each other with 'white lies' they used to tell. Mac clearly regrets it, but reflects that the world is such a difficult place it makes you do these things and takes it a lesson for future relationships. Quite lovely.
'Love Letter' is sweet too, Mac trying hard to write a love letter to his 'next' soulmate, but he doesn't know who to address it to because nobody matches up to past standards of perfection. Anyone whose ever lost someone will find this a very moving, vulnerable track delivered with just the right level of rawness and a catchy tune. Another highlight.
'Who Says It Ain't Love?' is a reggae-rocker that like many AAA reggae-rockers doesn't quite come off, as Mac gets defensive and claims he's not on the rebound. The listener, though, thinks he protests to much it must be true.
'Shalalala' has Mac lamenting his turn of fortune, Marriott style, as he's left 'without a dollar' - but it's all worth it when he comes home to 'you-ou-ou-ou'. Slightly forgettable.
'How Blue' is the most Faces-like song here as slide guitar, honky tonk piano and melancholy add up to a typical song about regrets and mistakes.
The album - and Mac's career - closes with 'He's Not For You', where Mac effectively warns all his future suitors away from him. 'The facts of life becoming fiction' is the basis of a clever lyric about Mac wondering whether he's been spoilt by his marriage or whether grief has exaggerated his wife in his eyes.
A heartfelt album then, just perhaps a little less original than Mac's previous works as he struggles to comes to term with loss and move on his life, sadly unaware that he won't have long to move on with. Mac was always a most under-rated talent, overshadowed vocally, musically and compositionally by his better known partners, but he too had a great talent in all those areas and he alone kept the Faces candle burning into the 21st century. Mac's new respect from fans and critics across his last twenty years of music making was one of the few times where we realised just how special a talent was while he was with us and Mac deserved every bit of that extra success and acclaim during his final years. This isn't a perfect goodbye, but it's a good one, which sadly is something Steve and Ronnie never had.
Steve Marriott "Like A Fish Needs A Raincoat - The Anthology"
(Whapping Wharf Records, August 2013)
CD One: Louisiana Blues/Nobody But You/You're A Heartbreaker/Street Rat/Bluegrass Interval/Signed Sealed/Seylarvee/Brown Man Do/Wossname/My Lover's Prayer/Baby Don't Do It/Restless Blood/Tin Soldier/You Spent It!/Law Of The Jungle/I Just Want To Make Love To You/I need Your Love Like A Fish Needs A Raincoat/Gypsy Woman/Out Of The Blue/The Bigger They Come The Harder They Fall
CD Two: Give All She's Got/Imaginary Love #1/Give Her My Regards/Blue Morning/You Really Got Me/Money Money/You'll Never Get Away From Me/Imaginary Love #2/What'd I Say?
"My life is such a weary thing, but it might be old pressure bringing on rain"
In truth we needed this messed around re-issue of 'Rainy Changes' like a bird needs a step-ladder, with more barrel-scraping than barrel-rolling after most of the releasable material already appeared on the previous compilation, much of which is repeated here anyway. Nothing Marriott did, even posthumously, could ever be bad and the highlights from the last time around like 'Nobody But You' and the comedy title track sound as fine as ever. There are a couple of interesting new additions to the Marriott catalogue too: a soulful heartfelt cover of Otis Redding's under-rated flop single 'My Lover's Prayer' (if only Marriott had recorded Otis' similar 'I've Got Dreams To Remember' as well!) on the first disc is the best of the nercomers. On the second and very shot running disc there's a whole run of Marriott's rare pre-Small Faces singles highlighted by 'You Really Got Me' (the first ever Kinks kover?) and 'Give Her My Regards' , although this collections' pure 1950s Buddy Hollyness sounds at odds after a disc full of a bunch of the most 1980s recording you'll ever hear. But even if the world was after more Marriott they probably weren't calling for a drunken demo of the worst Small Faces reunion track 'Brown Man Do', the thirty second 'Law Of The Jungle' (which is basically drums and the title), a mis-shapen late period live 'Tin Soldier' that's been in one war too many and the over-harsh sequel to 'Theme From Skint', 'You Spent It!' The set promises to cover all eras of Marriott's craft, which is true in the sense that it features both his first and last recorded material 'proper' (although the even then not quite as the 'Oliver!' cast recordings are still absent, regrettably!) However there's nothing really in the middle from the peak years as represented by all periods of The Small Faces and peak Humble Pie. Marriott deserved a better tribute than this ragbag collection of odds and ends.
"Greatest Hits - The Immediate Years 1967-1969"
(Immediate/Sanctuary, January 2014)
Here Come The Nice/Talk To You/Tell Me Have You Ever Seen Me?/I've Got Something I Want To Tell You/Get Yourself Together/Become Like You/Green Circles/Eddie's Dreaming/Itchycoo Park/I'm Only Dreaming/Tin Soldier/I Feel Much Better/Lazy Sunday/Rollin' Over/Mad John/The Journey/The Universal/Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass/Afterglow/Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am
"People who once passed me by will turn their heads round!"
Another compilation for another generation, with every song you'd expect from the Immediate era on one disc all in the right order (though 'The Autumn Stone' gets short shrift unusually). This time around Immediate have gone for the collector's market, with every track here appearing in its original mono rather than the more world-friendly stereo and an olde-timey cover that looks as if it comes straight from the 1960s, recycling the shot of three of the band standing behind Ronnie perched uncomfortably on a stool. Released at the same time as the Small Faces box set, this is a cheaper way for intrigued new fans to hear what all the fuss is about without having to sit through eleventeen mixes of 'The Hungry Intruder' to discover it. Longer sets are clearly better and it's hard to beat the 'Whapping Wharf' compilation, but the music's special, the price is cheap, the packaging's fine, the water's lovely and anyone who hadn't already dipped a toe into the Small Faces waters should be diving in headfirst!
"Here Come The Nice" (Box Set)
(Immediate/Sanctuary, January 2014)
CD One (Singles and EPs): Here Come The Nice/Talk To You/Tell Me Have You Ever Seen Me?/Something I Want To Tell You/Get Yourself Together/Become Like You/Green Circles/Eddie's Dreaming/Itchycoo Park/I'm Only Dreaming/Tin Soldier/I Feel Much Better/Lazy Sunday/Rollin' Over/Mad John/The Journey/The Universal/Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass/Afterglow/Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am
CD Two (Sessions Disc One): Shades Of Green (Instrumental)/Green Circles x 2 mixes/Anything (Tracking Session and Backing)/Show Me The Way (Unplugged Mix)/Wit Art Yer (Tracking Session and Backing)/I Can't Make It (Alternate Mix)/Doolally (Tracking Session)/What's It Called? (Overdub Session)/Call It Something Nice? (Alternate Take)/Wide Eyed Girl (Alternate Take and Mix)/Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass (Unplugged Mix)/Red Balloon (Alternate Take and Mix)/ Sasiede Mamoon (Tracking Session)
CD Three (Sessions Disc Two): Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am (Unplugged Mix)/I Can't Make It (Unplugged Mix)/The Feeling Of Spring/All Our Yesterdays (Backing)/Talk To You (Alternate Mix)/Mind The Doors Please/Things Are Going To Get Better (Alternate Mix)/Mad John (Tracking Session)/Collibosher (Alternate Take)/Lazy Sunday (Alternate Mix)/Jack (Backing Track)/Fred (Backing Track)/Red Balloon (Unplugged Mix)/Kolomodolemo (Alternate Take)/Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass (Alternate Mix)/Jenny's Song
CD Four (Outtakes and Concert): Itchycoo Park (Alternate Take)/Here Come The Nice (Stereo)/I'm Only Dreaming (Stereo)/Don't Burst My Bubble/I Feel Much Better/Verdi Gurdy/Yesterday Today and Tomorrow (Alternate Mix)/Picanniny (Alternate Mix)/Get Yourself Together (Alternate Mix)/Eddie's Dreaming (Alternate Mix)/Tell Me Have You Ever Seen Me? (Alternate Mix)/Up The Wooden Hills To Bedfordshire (US Mix)/Afterglow (Alternate Version)/If You Think You're Groovy/Me You and Us Too/The Universal (Alternate Take)/Mini-Concert: Rollin' Over/If I Were A Carpenter/Every Little Bit Hurts/All Or Nothing/Tin Soldier
Bonus 7" Material: Excerpts From The Small Faces LP/Here Come The Nice EP (France)/Itchycoo Park EP (France)/Mystery...(aka 'Something I Want To Tell You')
"I said flowers are breaking through the concrete! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Listen everybody, I can hear them breathing! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! "
Some twenty years after their last box set, Immediate try the idea again, extending the same two-and-a-half albums into four full discs in a whole new variety of weird and wacky ways. Technically speaking there's a lot of unreleased stuff here - and yet if you've heard any other Immediate Small Faces release it will all sound familiar. The band weren't round long enough to clog up the vaults with pristine outtakes and the best of these had already been released as long ago as 'The Autumn Stone' in 1969, so instead what Immediate have done is include pretty much every alternate mix they've released so far (starting with the ones on the 'Quite Naturally' comp back in the 1980s) and revisit the master-tapes for yet more jiggery-pokery. The result is a dizzying display of songs you thought you knew inside out getting a makeover (or more accurately yet with the make-up removed) and it's amazing quite how intensely passionate you can get as you sit through the same three minute track you've known and loved for years just to hear the extra three seconds included at the end.
Let's be honest here: you have to be a soul as passionate as Steve Marriott to want to pay good money to hear what collectively amounts to maybe a quarter hour of truly unheard material, while the vast majority of the alternate mixes simply place The Small Faces in different parts of the stereo spectrum to reveal intriguing subtle differences rather than offer jaw-dropping must-have alternatives that match the power of hearing the real thing for the first time. Even the songs listed here that you might not recognise (such as 'Shades Of Green' 'Anything' 'Doolally' 'Wit Art Yer' 'What's It Called?' 'The Feeling Of Spring' 'Kodolemo' 'Saiedie Mamoon' 'Jenny's Song' and the double-act 'Fred' and 'Jack') are just working titles for songs that have been out for decades: they are respectively early not-that-different versions of the songs 'Green Circles' (bet you guessed that one!), 'Tin Soldier' (bet you didn't guess that one!), 'Things Are Going To Get Better', 'I Can't Make It' 'Call It Something Nice' 'Just Passing' 'Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass' 'Wham Bam Thank You Man!' 'The Autumn Stone' 'War Of The Worlds' and 'Picaninny'. The only fully 'new' recording here is 'Mind The Doors Please!', a noisy elongated Kenney Jones drum solo that changes gears in the second half so Marriott can de-tune his guitar as well which is about as good as it sounds. Repetition is also a big problem for this set - there's a first disc containing 'straight' versions of most of the band's most famous Immediate songs which anyone interested enough to own this box must already have several times over and you'll quickly grow sick of hearing, say, four versions of 'Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass' - especially having paid yet another fortune to Immediate for the pleasure (this is a very pricey box set after all!) The result is a bit like a ginormous musical game of 'Where's Wally', trying to track down the subtle little detail that makes this mix different to any other heard before, which even for an anorak collector like me seems a bit much ('I heard Marriott cough just then! He only gives a slight hiccup on the finished version! And Mac played an extra two notes on the organ fade! And I'm sure Ronnie overdubbed that one bass note right there! Hallelujah!')
Before I get too grouchy though there are some great moments in this set which would have made for a fascinating hour long special in some parallel world. 'Wham Bam' sounds magnificent in a new mix that beefs up Marriott's vocal so you can actually hear what he's singing. An early faltering take of 'Green Circles' features a prematurely old Ronnie surrounded by a swirling Marriott lead that's tremendously affecting without all the effects added. The backing track for 'All Our Yesterday's really swings without all that 'Whapping Wharf' nonsense and I'd never noticed what a lovely tune or brass arrangement it had before. It's a moment of monumental historical importance to hear Marriott teaching the band 'Tin Soldier', still titled 'Anything', as he tries to explain the arrangement he hears in his head and plays around with the song's key; there's even an acoustic guitar part that quickly got dropped. Ronnie Lane has a much louder and more awkward guitar riff for 'Mad John' makes the song even more, well, mad. 'Collibosher' runs an extra thirty seconds or so after the song usually fades, ending in a raucous guitar-horns jam that's more thrilling than the rest of the song. There's a glorious early 'Tell Me Have You Ever Seen Me?' before the overdubs with Marriott the only vocalist getting ever more manic and pumped up. Ronnie fluffs the opening to 'Call It Something Nice' and swears like a trooper - which given the context of this 'apology' song is all the more poignant. Better yet, unusually, are the 'stripped down mixes', a sort of mucking around with history which shouldn't work (it didn't work when they did to The Beatles Anthology) but The Small Faces packed so much into their arrangements they sound great even if they were never intended to sound like this. 'I Can't Make It' goes from a good second-tier song to a triumph as Marriott yells his lungs out accompanied only by backing vocals and Mac's piano. 'Things Are Going To Get Better' becomes a Ronnie Lane style folk number with the drums, guitar and organ taken away. 'Red Balloon' loses its late-track electric overdubs to become a 'Universal' style solo acoustic song. Best of all though 'Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass' goes from noisy oddball comedy to cute and cosy intimate song of vintage memories with far more vocals (Marriott's is pure gold, especially his ad libs at the end cut from the record! 'I love I love I do my do my every day every night, yeah!') and a terrific psychedelic freak-out middle featuring Marriott's guitar and harmonica in tandem adrenalin rush. It's glorious unexpected discoveries like these that make this set such a compelling listen, even if you know these songs really well.
Of course anyone interested in hearing these new mixes already knows these songs really well and there's still no excuse for recycling so many previously heard mixes that all sound the same on a set of this price. The first disc can be entirely disregarded as can much of the fourth (made up partly of the five-song concert from 1968 heard on 'Autumn Stone') and even then only around half of the middle two discs are truly 'new'. Whether that is enough to entice you to splash your cash yet again (when, surely, Immediate aren't going to leave it at that: I'm waiting for the 20 box set in about 2035 that features every single 'track' of the multi-recorder one after each other for every song - seriously we're only a couple of steps away from that now)is up to you, your conscience, your mod obsession and your bank manager. This could so easily have been a knock-out single disc set: it's a shame it ended up another way of milking money from a band who've already given more than enough by now. Sometimes less really is more - this is The Small Faces we're talking about after all, so you should know by now great things often come in small packages.
"The Decca Years" (Box Set)
(UMC, October 2015)
CD One: What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?/What's A Matter Baby?/I've Got Mine/It's Too Late/Sha La La La Lee/Grow Your Own/Hey Girl/Almost Grown/All Or Nothing/Understanding/My Mind's Eye/I Can't Dance With You/I Can't Make It/Just Passing/Patterns/E Too D/Don't Stop What You're Doing/Come On Children!/Shake/One Night Stand/You Need Loving
CD Two: Shake/Come On Children!/You Better Believe It/It's Too Late/One Night Stand/What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?/Sorry She's Mine/Own Up Time/You Need Loving/Don't Stop What You're Doing/E Too D/Sha La La La Lee
CD Three: Runaway/My Mind's Eye/Yesterday Today and Tomorrow/That Man/My Way Of Giving/Hey Girl/Tell Me Have You Ever Seen Me?/Take This Hurt Off Me/All Or Nothing/Baby Don't Do It/Plum Nellie/Sha La La La Lee/You Really Got A Hold On Me/What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?/I Can't Make It (Backing Track)/Things Are Going To Get Better (Alternate Take)
CD Four: Come On Children!/Shake/You Better Believe It/Own Up Time/E Too D/Don't Stop What You're Doing/What's A Matter Baby?/What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?/Sha La La La Lee/Runaway/ That Man/Yesterday Today and Tomorrow/Picanniny/Hey Girl/Take This Hurt Off Me (Alternate)/Baby Don't You Do It (Alternate)/My Mind's Eye (Alternate)/Talk To You (Backing)/All Our Yesterdays (Backing)/Tell Me Have You Ever Seen Me? (Alternate)/Show Me The Way (Backing)
CD Five (BBC Sessions): Steve Marriott Interview/What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?/Jump Back/Baby Don't You Do It/Sha La La La Lee/What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?/Comin' Home Baby/You Need Loving/Pop Profile Steve Marriott Interview/Shake/Steve Marriott Interview #2/Sha La La La Lee/You Need Loving/Steve Marriott Interview #3/Hey Girl/E Too D/One Night Stand/You Better Believe It/Understanding/Steve Marriott Interview #4/All Or Nothing
"I don't like you now but I love you, seems that I'm always thinking of you, you treat me wrong now, but I love you strong now, you really got a hold on me - and my bank balance!"
Decca love spoiling the party for Immediate, even nearly fifty years on - no sooner do The Small faces release a boc set from the second half of their career than the first half gets a box set too and one that runs a whole disc longer despite covering far less material! The Small Faces only ever completed one actual album for the Decca label before jumping ship for Immediate, so this five disc set seems a little excessive, effectively ten times longer than everything the band wanted released. If you're only a casual Small Faces fan then those CD albums-with-bonus tracks (both 'Small Faces' and compilation 'n' outtakes set 'From The Beginning')from about ten years ago or the two disc Decca Anthology will do you nicely - most of this is just repetition, in the sense that having your favourite pudding is great but you start really going off it by the time you've had it five times in a row. I never ever thought I would get sick of, say, 'What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?' but after four similar versions I was getting close, while songs that aren't good in the first place like our old friend 'Sha La La La Lee' feels like a punishment for doing something wrong in an earlier life, not something you should be spending good money on.
However this set does do the best job yet of trying to make sense of all the many dozens of alternate mixes, takes and recording talk snippets released on dozens of Decca Small Faces compilations down the years and includes the whole bang lot, including many new ones unheard before (none all that breath-taking, but quite a few make you see the songs in a whole new light). The best of these are a whole disc of BBC sessions previously only heard in part which are an intriguing listen, especially those taken from the short lived line up with Jimmy Winston on keyboards (Steve Marriott also sounds shy for the one and only time as he's interviewed about the band and any holidays he's got booked. 'I dunno, Southend?' a penniless Marriott still jokes). Sadly back in the Decca studio an alternate take of 'My Mind's Eye' is all we get that's new in terms of pure performance, which might make you question whether investing in quite this many alternate mixes is a sensible waste of your income when you could be buying, I dunno, the rare Ronnie Lane albums or early Humble Pie.
Frustratingly The Small Faces seem to fall between two stools: the cheap and cheerful near-complete sets or the complete overkill expensive ones like this with nothing really in the middle (though as ever 'The Decca Anthology' and 'Darlings Of Whapping Wharf Laundrette' are good starting points). Mark Paytress, one of the better music scholars around, has put together a fascinating and lengthy booklet which fills in several gaps about this early period though, so if you treat this set as a-book-with-some-new-mixes-on it then it doesn't seem quite such a rip off somehow. Something tells me that Decca (or Immediate for that matter) aren't quite finished with The Small Faces yet though and there'll probably be a ten disc box to buy all over again in years to come...