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 (8⁄10), 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 (9⁄10) 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.