On September 5 of this year, Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood and Kenney Jones reunited publicly for the first time in 22 years as Faces, paying tribute to their fallen comrades Ronnie Lane and Ian McLagan with a seven-song set benefiting a prostate cancer charity. The performance came on the heels of the release by Rhino of 1970-1975: You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything... (Rhino R2 550009), a box set-in-miniature collecting all four of Faces' long players in expanded editions plus a bonus disc of B-sides and one-offs. In total, the set premieres 17 previously unissued tracks across its five CDs. (An edition is also available on vinyl. See here for details.)
The moniker of The Small Faces still adorned U.S. pressings of Faces' 1970 debut The First Step. But with lead vocalist Steve Marriott out, and Rod Stewart and Ron Wood in, the character of the band irrevocably changed. The Small Faces' mod psychedelia had yielded to happily ragged rock-and-roll with a heavy dose of the blues as The Small Faces became the no-adjective-needed yet larger-than-life Faces. This was evident from the very first track of The First Step, a reinvention of Bob Dylan's John Wesley Harding track "Wicked Messenger." The original's sparse instrumentation gave way to a full-throttle blues-rock wail to open this jauntily loose album otherwise consisting of group originals. (The Faces composed together in various permutations - Ronnies Wood and Lane, Rod and Woody, Kenney and Ian, Rod and Ian, etc.)
If too varied to be entirely cohesive, First Step showcases the band's varied influences across the spectrum. Lane's "Stone" is a banjo-flecked British folk excursion; Wood's "Pineapple and the Monkey" is, by Faces standards, a fairly laid-back instrumental groover with Jones and McLagan's "Looking Out the Window" a more aggressive instrumental. Pronounced stereo imaging brings the band's interplay to vivid life on "Around the Plynth," especially Wood's searing, virtuosic slide guitar. (The song was based upon "Plynth (Water Down the Rain)," written by Stewart and Wood for their final album with Jeff Beck, 1969's Beck-Ola.) The raucous vibe of "Three Button Hand Me Down" was inspired by American R&B and Motown. Five previously unissued bonus tracks have been appended to First Step including alternate takes of the elegiac "Flying" and "Nobody Knows" plus a BBC performance of "Shake, Shudder, Shiver" (heard in a rehearsal take on the 2004 Faces box set Five Guys Walk Into a Bar...) and two outtakes: the driving "Behind the Sun" and the instrumental "Mona - The Blues" highlighting Wood's slide and McLagan's piano.
Faces hit their stride with 1971's sophomore effort Long Player, featuring another array of band compositions plus a trio of well-selected covers. Faces' raunchy revelry sounded downright celebratory on songs such as Stewart and McLagan's opening salvo "Bad 'n' Ruin." McLagan's Memphis-style keyboard supports Stewart's whiskeyed rasp, perfectly cast in service of the troublemaker asking, "Mother don't you recognize me now?" upon his return home. Yet the versatile vocalist is equally gentle on the album's wistful "Sweet Lady Mary" and powerful on the heavy reinterpretation of Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed" (then less than a year old) on which his fierce, gravelly howl wrings every drop of emotion out of the ballad. (Both "Amazed" and the epic jam on Big Bill Broonzy's "I Feel So Good" were culled from a live gig at the Fillmore East, adding to the ramshackle feel of the album emphasizing immediacy over precision and polish.) Rather than McCartney, Ronnie Lane (who shared vocal duties on "Amazed" with Stewart) channels another Beatle - George Harrison - in the vocals to his own song "Richmond," a blues-folk fusion with rather sensitive playing for Faces. The warmhearted party vibe of Long Player is perhaps best encapsulated in the Fats Waller-inspired standout rocker "Had Me a Real Good Time," which was embellished with horns. Its sentiment was doubtless shared by listeners. Five bonus tracks round out the expanded edition here including two previously issued tracks from the Fillmore East shows (Lane's "Too Much Woman" and Robert Johnson's "Love in Vain"), outtakes "Whole Lotta Woman" and the instrumental "Sham-Mozzal" and the first take of "Tell Everyone" with Lane, rather than Stewart, on lead vocals.
After having self-produced The First Step and Long Player, Faces turned to Glyn Johns for Albums Nos. 3 and 4. With A Nod is as Good as a Wink to a Blind Horse, released later in 1971, Johns was able to get Faces their much-desired hit single (Wood and Stewart's ferociously snarling address to a groupie, "Stay with Me") as well as craft the band's tightest and most explosive album. By the time of A Nod, Rod Stewart had rocketed to superstardom with the release of Every Picture Tells a Story and "Maggie May" (both of which featured Faces participation) - and all eyes were on Faces.
A Nod is a tight record that crackles from start (the swaggering "Miss Judy's Farm") to finish (another good-time anthem, "That's All You Need") with welcome doses of humor (the Lane-sung "You're So Rude") and even tender heartbreak ("Love Lives Here," "Debris"). The album's one cover, too, was well-chosen: Chuck Berry's "Memphis," made over in storming Faces style. Two previously unissued live BBC performances, of "Miss Judy's Farm" and "Stay with Me," conclude this reissue of an album that still has few equals for sheer rock-and-roll merriment.
Faces had difficulty following up the high watermark of A Nod with 1973's Ooh La La, the band's final studio album. Though Rod Stewart's voice is the first one heard on the album, he was increasingly distracted by the needs of his own solo career. Still, Stewart managed to get together with his mates and producer Glyn Johns to make one final musical free-for-all. Stewart and Wood's "Silicone Grown," with rollicking piano from McLagan, made for a suitably boisterous opener, and the driving pop of "Cindy Incidentally" by Stewart, Wood and McLagan, even became the Faces' biggest U.K. hit. Rod carried "My Fault" ("So if everything goes wrong/And I drink all night/It's gonna be my fault and no one else!") and per norm, an instrumental ("Fly in the Ointment," credited to all four Faces) was both a breather and an opportunity to concentrate on the band's tightly-attuned interactions.
But Ronnie Lane's influence most dominates Ooh La La. Though the taut "Flags and Banners" (co-written with Stewart) on the album's original Side One is first-rate folk-rock, Lane came into his own on the second side of the LP, writing two songs and co-writing another two. Stewart employed his pop-soul tones on his "If I'm on the Late Side" and "Just Another Honky," while Lane's laconic, relaxed "Glad and Sorry," percolating on its McLagan piano groove, could almost have been the work of another band. The closing track - and the album's title song - might well be Lane's finest. Co-written with Ronnie Wood, "Ooh La La" drew the curtain on The Faces' studio career on an upbeat yet bittersweet note. Further distinguishing the song, Wood sang a rare lead vocal. (In tribute to Lane, Rod Stewart finally sang the lead in 1998 for his When We Were the New Boys album, and turned "Ooh La La" into a hit.) Five previously unreleased bonus cuts have been added including a BBC performance of "Cindy Incidentally," fly-on-the-wall rehearsal takes of three songs (a furious "Borstal Boys," crackling "Silicone Grown" and pretty, rough-hewn "Glad and Sorry") and a live cover from 1973 of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy."
In addition to the wealth of bonus material spread among the four albums, the box set also includes a fifth disc. This bonus CD, Stray Singles and B-Sides, brings together the nine single sides issued during Faces' lifetime such as the studio recording of "Maybe I'm Amazed" and a live cover from Reading Festival (the same venue as "Jealous Guy") of The Temptations' shattering "I Wish It Would Rain," complete with brass. Stewart, Wood, Jones, McLagan and Lane's replacement Tetsu Yamauchi's catchy (and surprisingly string-laden) "You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything..." is presented in its full U.K. single version along with Stewart and Wood's soulful, Memphis-inspired B-side, "As Long As You Tell Him." The latter single was released early in 1975 in the U.S.; by the time the year was out, Faces was officially no more.
1970-1975 was co-produced by Bill Inglot, who remastered the set with Dan Hersch. Inglot and Hersch, veterans of the Five Guys box set and Rhino's stellar 1999 Best of Faces, have brought out the nuances in these familiar recordings. The set is packaged in the same compact style as Rhino's other complete albums box sets, with each album in a mini-LP replica sleeve (with no spine). Like the collections for Chicago, America, The Doobie Brothers and so many others, liner notes are all too unfortunately absent. However, this release is distinguished by the very welcome presence of a foldout insert which at least has full credits (songwriting, producing, personnel, discography, etc.) for all discs and tracks as well as the box set itself. In addition, original green Warner Bros. labels are handsomely replicated on each disc, with a "Burbank"-style label for the bonus disc.
With its addition of 17 tracks to the Faces canon and the fresh remastering of the original album material and more, 1970-1975: You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything is indispensable and affordable one-stop shopping - not to mention an ideal companion to the rarities-packed Five Guys box set. With Rod Stewart hinting that there may be future Faces activity down the road, now is the time to raise a pint (or three) to fallen comrades Ian McLagan and Ronnie Lane, and revisit the group's spirited legacy in song.