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Music Review: Small Faces – From The Beginning

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The Small Faces were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame a little over a month ago. In conjunction with that honor, their first four albums are being reissued as two-disc expanded CD sets.

The band formed in 1965 and by 1967 their most famous line-up of guitarist Steve Marriott, bassist Ronnie Lane, drummer Kenny Jones, and keyboardist Ian McLagan was set. Their success was almost instantaneous in their home country. Their self-titled debut album, recorded within two months of their formation, was a commercial success and their singles consistently reached the upper levels of the British charts.

Their success led them to accept a big contract offer from the Immediate label. Unfortunately, they left a number of tracks behind and their old label, Decca, cobbled together From The Beginning, which became another big seller. While the band originally sued Decca to prevent the album’s release, there is some good material to be found here.

The foundation of the original release was a series of hit singles issued in their home country where the band was always extremely popular. “What ‘Cha Gonna Do About It,” “Sha La La La Lee,” “Hey Girl,” “All Or Nothing,” and “My Mind’s Eye,” gave it the flavor of a greatest hits album. While their music was catchy in places, the singles represented the increasingly sophisticated nature of their material. Marriott’s writing skills and guitar playing were always a little outside the norm and, when combined with the other members, it took on a somewhat quirky psychedelic style, while managing to remain within a rock structure that was commercially appealing and successful.

They were still at a stage in their career where they were performing and recording American soul covers and the Decca label added a number of them to fill out the album. “Baby Don’t You Do It” (Marvin Gaye), “Take This Hurt Off Me” (Don Covay), and “You Really Got A Hold On Me” (The Miracles), were at best competent interpretations that paled next to the originals. The oddest track was their cover of “Runaway,” which they made almost unlistenable.

The second disc is mainly different studio takes of the material contained on the first. It is for a completest only as many people will not need an alternate take of “Baby Don’t Do It,” of take 11 of the obscure bonus track, “I Can’t Make It.”

From The Beginning is probably the weakest of the four reissues mainly due to the lack of cohesiveness. Still, there are a number of tracks that catch the Small Faces at the beginning of the most creative period of their career. It is an album on which to pick and choose as the best was yet to come.

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