When The Small Faces’ singer and guitarist Steve Marriott left the band in 1969 to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton, the remaining trio – bassist Ronnie Lane, organist Ian McLagan and drummer Kenny Jones – carried on, recruiting guitarist Ronnie Wood and vocalist Rod Stewart, both ex-Jeff Beck Group. Shortening their name to The Faces, their laddish bonhomie led to a huge live following, but many believe they underachieved on record.
The essential 2004 Faces box set Five Guys Walk Into A Bar…, compiled non-chronologically by McLagan, dealt with this by cherry-picking from their catalogue and adding copious unreleased rarities, including rehearsals and live recordings to capture the true spirit of the band. This new box pursues a more traditional approach, containing expanded versions of each of their four studio albums in their original artwork, with a disc mopping up all their non-album singles and B-sides. There’s a lavish vinyl version available but the CD set feels low-budget, with no sleeve notes and discs enclosed in simple card sleeves in a small clamshell box. The music, though, makes a powerful argument that their albums were undervalued.
The Faces’ debut First Step from 1970, credited to The Small Faces in the US, flopped on release, was under-represented on the previous box and remains under-appreciated. Though still developing their sound, there are plenty of gems, including their blues-rock take on Bob Dylan’s Wicked Messenger, debut single Flying, slide guitar-led Around The Plinth, funky instrumental Pineapple And The Monkey and infectious boogie Three Button Hand Me Down.
Previously unreleased bonuses include rocker Behind The Sun and blues instrumental Mona – The Blues, both great finds. Highlights on 1971’s scrappy but brilliant Long Player include Lane’s gently melancholy, country-tinged Richmond, an astounding live cover of Paul McCartney’s Maybe I’m Amazed, a nearly nine-minute live jam on Big Bill Broonzy’s I Feel So Good and the rollicking Had Me A Real Good Time.
Though the Faces are mainly remembered for boozy, riotous rockers, such as the seemingly on-the-edge-of-collapse classic hit* Stay With Me*, they had another, more contemplative side, exemplified by Ronnie Lane’s fabulous songs such as the poignant Debris. Both songs are from the Glyn Johns-produced A Nod’s As Good As A Wink… also from 1971, the album that best captured the band, taking them into the Top 10 in the UK and US.
After 1973’s Ooh La La, which contained their biggest UK hit Cindy Incidentally and the lovely, bittersweet Lane-penned title track sung by Wood, Lane left, upset by Stewart’s criticism of the album, and by the band being overshadowed by Stewart’s solo success.
Raucous rehearsal takes of album standouts Borstal Boys and Silicone Grown are enjoyable additions here. The Faces replaced Lane with Tetsu Yamauchi but never made another studio album – only two excellent singles, Pool Hall Richard and You Can Make Me Dance, Sing Or Anything, before dissolving in 1975. This box encapsulates a legacy that’s well worth revisiting.