'The Decca Years 1965-1967' (5CD box)
Release Date: 9th October 2015
As has oft been said, The Small Faces were one of the premier guitar groups of the 60s, and alongside The Who, led the Mod/Rock 60s sound. And as part of the British Invasion, they would have influenced anyone who picked up a guitar in the 60s as well setting the template for the 90s Britpop scene.
Formed in 1965 by Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Kenny Jones (later of The Who) and Jimmy Winston, they signed to Decca in 1966 and released two albums ('Small Faces' and 'From The Beginning'), before signing to Immediate and finding further fame. Between those two albums in full, a Greatest Hits (that includes non-album A-Sides, a rarities/oddities disc and a full CD of BBC sessions, this is the Decca years complete works, the dogs bollocks, kitchen sink and mutt's nuts all rolled into one.
The Small Faces formed in East London in 1965, featuring vocalist/guitarist Steve Marriott, bassist Ronnie Lane, keyboard player Jimmy Winston and drummer Kenny Jones. Many early live sets gave a hard edge to soul and R n' B covers and their energy soon saw them to signing with manager Don Arden who then saw the band signed with Decca.
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The band's debut was a cover of 'Wat'cha Gonna Do About It', with a memorable guitar riff borrowed from 'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love'. The single was a success but the Marriott/Lane penned 'I've Got Mine' didn't fare so well. The band released a number of singles and became a serious live draw, and the eponymous debut (the first album here) sold well.
Problems within the band (especially Winston's attitude) allegedly led to the latter's firing, replaced by Ian McLagan.
Drug problems and other issues within the band were worsened by Don Arden's management and the band split with both Arden and Decca.
The band's second album From The Beginning was effectively an unofficial compilation featuring all their hits (including several non album singles) and unfinished demos, some of tracks the band were working on for their second album.
The band subsequently signed to Immediate and released 'Small Faces' (not to be confused with the debut), 'Ogden's Nut Gone Flake' and 'The Autumn Stone', before splitting. 'Ogden's Nut Gone Flake' is probably the band's most celebrated release, its distinctive circular sleeve part of the tobacco tin parody.
With Marriott joining Humble Pie, the rest continued with Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood as The Faces.
The band's eponymous debut album was recorded between June 1965 and February 1966, opens with 'Shake', a punchy number with some great guitar sound, although the production is a little muddy. 'Come On Children' is a blistering number with Jones having a real thrash (easy to see why he later joined The Who).
'You Better Believe It' and 'It's Too Late' are very typical of the time, fitting in between The Who and The Rolling Stones, with a more stripped down sound. The debut single closes side one, and with borrowed riff or otherwise, it's still a great, fuzzy and catchy rendition.
Side 2 continues in similar fashion, and 'Sorry She's Mine' is a bright starter and 'You Need Loving' a slower, chunky and bluesier number. The keyboards are quiet in the mix but do sound good.
Album closer 'Sha La La La Lee' is another belter, closing on a high note.
'From The Beginning', as aforementioned, is largely a compilation, featuring non album singles and works-in-progress. This can be considered contractual as the band soon decamped to the Immediate label and further acclaim and success. Opener 'Runaway', the Del Shannon classic, is a good version and showcases McLagan's keyboards.
There are several tracks from the debut, and mix well with others, including 'My Mind's Eye' (some good vocal harmonies) and 'Yesterday Today And Tomorrow' (which is a little Beatle-esque).
While it's unusual for a compilation/new tracks compilation, especially as a second album, but I can tell you it's worth it in this case.
The debut is so full of classics and with non-album singles being so good, it just works.
The music business is a funny old game, and yes the band did get Ardened early on, but the music remained fantastic.
The Greatest Hits, while full of hits, misses and classic tracks, is a little odd. Only because some of the tracks are duplicated within this 5CD set. 'What'Cha Gonna Do About It' opens and with 'Sha La La La Lee', 'I've Got Mine' and 'You Need Loving', it's a good CD by anyone's standards. 'Just Passing', 'I Can't Make It', 'Don't Stop What You're Doing' and 'Come On Children' exist in alternate (some mono) versions, the latter exclusive to a French EP.
The final two discs are those most interesting to fans and collectors. 23 tracks that are largely alternate versions and takes and a couple of backing tracks. Interestingly 'Sha La La La Lee' is in stereo as previous album and single versions were mono. The BBC Sessions disc opens with an interesting Steve Marriott interview from 1965, recorded in 1965 for BBC Saturday Club (a programme many of the following 20 tracks were recorded for over the following year). There's several tracks from the Joe Loss Pop Show too. The live feel is good and definitely hit the spot in filling a collection.
The packaging is as wonderful and complete as the 5 discs, and while some of the hits were misses and the second album was largely superfluous (due to the aforementioned Arden shenanigans), this set show both how good and influential the band were as being everything you need to know about this era of the band.
Too much of a good thing? This set does push those boundaries but we do need similar coverage of the Immediate years.