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Music Review: Small Faces – Small Faces [Deluxe Edition]

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Guitarist Steve Marriott, bassist Ronnie Lane, drummer Kenny Jones, and keyboardist Jimmy Winston (who was later replaced by Ian McLagan), formed The Small Faces in East London during 1965. While they were considered a part of the British mod movement, their sound was very close to American psychedelic music.

They received moderate commercial success in the United States, but in their native England they were stars. By the end of the decade, the band would be gone only to quickly reform as The Faces when Jones, McLagan, and Lane recruited guitarist Ronnie Wood and lead singer Rod Stewart. That era of the band had commercial acclaim worldwide.

The Small Faces/Faces were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame April 14, 2012. In conjunction with their latest honor, The Small Faces’ first four albums are being released in an extended two-CD format. If you are a fan of the band, the era, or just like good music, then this is a series for you.

Their first self-titled debut was issued during the spring of 1966. Disc one contains the 12 tracks from the original vinyl release in all their mono glory. Four bonus tracks, mainly single release sides at the time, complete the line-up. While McLagan was pictured on the original cover and listed prominently in the liner notes, it was actually Winston who performed the keyboards and second guitar parts on most of the material.

The music has a raw sophistication to it. “Come On Children” and “It’s Too Late” remind one of the early Who. The singles “Sha La La La Lee” and “Whatcha Gonna Do About It” are energetic but already find the band moving toward a psychedelic rock style and would dominate their best work. The band had not been together very long when it went into the recording studio, so many of the tracks, both original and covers, reflected their stage act. That being said, the improvisational nature of the performances comes across well.

The second disc consists of 14 alternate takes of songs originally issued on the album. While there is nothing spectacular about them in general, the stereo versions of five songs are a curious listen. “It’s Too Late,” “You Better Believe It,” “Sorry She’s Mine,” and “Patterns” have stereo mixes that range from odd to feeling processed. On the other hand, “Sha La La La Lee” has the feel of true stereo, which enhances The Small Faces’ music and leaves you wanting more.

The sound has been cleaned up as much as the original tapes allowed. There is a booklet with extensive liner notes that covers the early history of the band and each track.

The Small Faces are sometimes a forgotten band in the United States. Their recent induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has garnered them some attention. Hopefully this fine reissue will keep them in the limelight. It is an essential release for anyone interested or curious about one of the more influential bands of the second half of the 1960s.

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