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

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The Small Faces left the Decca label during early 1967 and quickly signed with Immediate Records. Their first self-titled release for this new label that year caused some confusion as their 1966 debut release with Decca had also been self-titled. Listening to the two albums quickly clears up the confusion, as their sound had progressed far beyond the mostly straight-forward rock and roll and cover material of the Decca years. In their place were deep textures, intricate arrangements, and more introspective lyrics. The group’s time with the Immediate label would establish their reputation as one of the more creative bands of the 1960s.

The Small Faces may have been British, but their music fit in with the American psychedelic movement. Songs such as Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman,” The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” and The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” helped to introduce a new sound to the American radio airwaves. The Small Faces expanded it even further with hit singles, “Itchycoo Park,” and “Tin Soldier.”

This second self-titled album was issued twice in 1968, in both mono and stereo versions, and both are included on this 2012 remastered reissue. The stereo version is the gem as the music is more vibrant and contains hidden delights that are missing from the mono version. The mix also is clearer, which enables the various instruments to take on a life of their own, both individually and collectively.

There are a number of outstanding tracks. Steve Marriott’s guitar play on “Talk To You” demonstrates why he should be considered one of the better guitarists of his generation. “Green Circles” is a psychedelic rock tour de force. “All Our Yesterdays” is a track that benefits greatly from the stereo mix as the brass now seems to take the music in new directions.

This reissue centers on the original British release. As was the norm at the time, it was issued in the United States under a different title, There Are But Four Small Faces, and with a number of different tracks. Many of these U.S. songs have been included as bonus tracks.

Two of the tracks are the aforementioned “Itchycoo Park” and “Tin Soldier.” The first was one of the defining singles of the era in the United States. It featured Marriott’s distorted guitar runs and an odd sounding lead vocal that was a trip in and of itself. The melody, however, made it commercially successful. “Tin Soldier” is just as interesting but lacks the melodic quality. Other songs making a return are “Here Come The Nice,” “I’m Only Dreaming,” and “I Feel Much Better.”

As with all the albums in the series, the rest of the release is filled in with alternative versions of a number of songs. While they are interesting, they are only for the person who wants everything by the band from this era.

Small Faces is one of the great lost albums of its generation. This deluxe edition should please both fans of the band and people who appreciate creative music.

About David Bowling