The Faces – 1970-1975: You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything (Warner Brothers) review
Furious rockers or sloppy drunkards – the Faces were both
The Faces were the class clowns who decided to form a band. But, underneath the partying and goofiness was an incredible rock n’ roll outfit. After the departure of vocalist/guitarist Steve Marriott, the remaining members of Small Faces recruited singer Rod Stewart and guitarist Ronnie Wood, who were fresh from a stint in the Jeff Beck Group. Dropping the “Small,” they became just The Faces – and thus began the brief, but legendary career of one of the most under-appreciated bands of all time. Warner Brothers has just released 1970-1975: You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything, compiling the band’s four proper studio albums, complete with bonus material, plus an additional disc titled “Stray Singles & B-sides.”
Their debut, First Step sounds somewhat like a work in progress – things haven’t quite gelled yet. The album opens with a blistering take on Dylan’s “Wicked Messenger.” Here, the band sounds like an extension of Beck’s group, minus the virtuostic guitar. Mind you, Wood was no slouch – his smoldering slide work is on display, especially on “Around the Plynth.” “Stone,” sung by bassist Ronnie Lane, was traditional country blues, complete with banjo and harmonica. “Shake, Shudder and Shiver” is closer to the sound they would perfect; with a chugging guitar riff, they settle into a great groove.
The original side two contains not one, but two instrumentals: the organ-driven, very melodic “Pineapple & the Monkey,” and the Deep Purple-esque “Looking Out the Window.” The album ends on a high note, the ragged, bluesy “Three Button Hand Me Down.” Of this disc’s five bonus tracks, “Behind the Sun” shows why Rod Stewart was once a monster vocalist – his prowess on this track is jaw-dropping. Also of note is an early take of “Nobody Knows” which is less-produced than the studio version.
It didn’t take long for things to fall into place. Their second album, Long Player, finds the band fully formed. Although it’s a mixed bag between studio and live tracks recorded at the Fillmore, it’s still a huge leap forward. Beginning with the rockin’ “Bad N’ Ruin,” the album moves from high point to high point. Standouts are the gritty, Lane ballad “Tell Everyone” (sung by Stewart), and the gorgeous “Sweet Lady Mary.” With its 12-string and organ, it would predict the direction Stewart would venture on his solo career.
Lane turns in another country blues in “Richmond,” but this one manages to mesh with the feel of the entire record. Their live version of McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” is stunning – the Faces impart an emotional power that Sir Paul was unable to do in his original. “Had Me a Real Good Time” is about as autobiographical as you can get: working class guy crashes an upper class party and gets asked to leave. The dubious quality of the spoof “On the Beach” just adds to its charm.
The bonus cuts here really show off the band’s personality, especially on the rollicking “Whole Lotta Woman,” and an early version of “Tell Everyone,” sung by Lane. Plus, there’s two more live cuts from the same Fillmore show – the incendiary “Too Much Woman,” and a take on the Robert Johnson track “Love in Vain.”
A Nod is as Good as a Wink…is the Faces high-water mark – a little more polished than the previous two records. The LP kicks off with the fiery “Miss Judy’s Farm,” which increases tempo to a furious ending. The real difference here is that Lane’s material is equal to Stewart’s. “You’re So Rude” is his best lead vocal – the tale of taking a bimbo back to meet his folks. Yet, the melodic “Debris,” and the countryfied “Last Orders Please” are great tracks as well. Everything here works, from the slow burner “Love Lives Here,” to an update on Chuck Berry’s “Memphis,” dominated by slide guitar. “Too Bad” was some of the hardest rock Stewart ever committed to tape. Of course, everything culminates with “Stay With Me,” their lone hit single in the US, a rollicking number, which sounds at times like it’s going to fall apart.
The bonus cuts consist of a couple of ferocious live cuts from the BBC of “Miss Judy’s Farm” and “Stay With Me.”
Their fourth and final record, Ooh La La, features some of the band’s most melodic material. Things start off in spirited fashion with the tongue in cheek “Silicone Grown.” “Cindy Incidentally” is one of the band’s finest songs – driven by McLagan’s piano, it sounds like nothing else in the Faces’ catalog. “Fly in the Ointment” was a passable instrumental, but they seemed to be repeating themselves. “If I’m On the Late Side,” the acoustic “Glad and Sorry,” and “Just Another Honky” showed off a gentle side rarely seen from the band. The album closes with the superb, through the ages ode “Ooh La La.”
The bonus tracks here are a pair of BBC Sessions, plus a off-kilter take of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy.”
Stray Singles & B-sides has some real surprises too – “Pool Hall Richard” is one of their best rockers, while their cover of the Temptations’ “I Wish It Would Rain” proves that the band could do just about anything they wanted and knock it out. “Rear Wheel Skid” is a funky instrumental. But, the studio version of “Maybe I’m Amazed” is missing the spontaneity of the live setting. “You Can Dance, Sing or Anything” has a hint of reggae and is very polished. Yet “As Long as You Tell Him” is even better and very soulful. There’s a whopping three instrumentals here.
Part of the charm of the Faces was that you never knew what you were going to get – furious rock band or sloppy drunkards. While there are heavy doses of both elements on this set, You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything proves that the Faces were capable of dizzying heights. Their small catalog is definitely worth exploring. –Tony Peters