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Small Faces: Reissues

Handsomely packaged, generously expanded and annotated: mod maestros in their pomp.

Newly released from the restrictions of the distinctly old-school Decca label, the East End’s finest came into their own upon signing to the hip and happening Immediate label in late ‘67. Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham’s stable took the happy chappies to Barnes’s hallowed Olympic Studio, its eight-track board manned by such venerable sonic enablers as Glyn Johns and George Chkiantz.

There Are But Four Small Faces (810), the band’s first US album for the label, features the startlingly evocative psychedelic phasing of Itchycoo Park (courtesy of Chkiantz), alongside the phenomenal Tin Soldier, a self-produced, impassioned storm of swirling Ian McLagan organ that showcases Steve Marriott’s vibrant soul-shredding vocals brilliantly.

Never making that crucial transatlantic trip (stage school kid Marriott’s lack of confidence in his rudimentary guitar playing being a major factor) meant a cult, rather than an all-conquering Stones/Who status Stateside. And yet with time the Small Faces’ unique spirit and dynamism duly triumphed, with the Marriott/Ronnie Lane songwriting partnership ultimately appreciated as a creative powerhouse equal to more fêted contemporaries.

Drug-laced experimentalism and seamless assimilation of some of the most compelling music of the era (Stax and Motown particularly) ensured that their influence was deeply imprinted on many American listeners, including future stars from Kiss to the Black Crowes.

Though duplicating first album classics, Greatest Hits The Immediate Years 1967 – 1969 (910) shows why the band exercised such a breadth of influence. From lyrical B-side I’m Only Dreaming, through a chaotic piledriving Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake excerpt, to the dizzying utopian final hurrah of Afterglow Of Your Love, the Small Faces’ best stand as mind-blowingly brilliant, in any era.

Late NME, Daily Mirror and Classic Rock writer Gavin Martin started writing about music in 1977 when he published his hand-written fanzine Alternative Ulster in Belfast. He moved to London in 1980 to become the NME’s Media Editor and features writer, where he interviewed the Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer, Pete Townshend, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Ian Dury, Killing Joke, Neil Young, REM, Sting, Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, James Brown, Willie Nelson, Willie Dixon, Madonna and a host of others. He was also published in The Times, Guardian, Independent, Loaded, GQ and Uncut, he had pieces on Michael Jackson, Van Morrison and Frank Sinatra featured in The Faber Book Of Pop and Rock ’N’ Roll Is Here To Stay, and was the Daily Mirror’s regular music critic from 2001. He died in 2022.