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The Decca Years (5-CD Box Set)

Small Faces

Polydor 2015

Review by David Bowling

 

The Small Faces formed during 1965. Guitarist/vocalist Steve Marriott, bassist Ronnie Lane, keyboardist Jimmy Winston (replaced by Ian McLargan 1966), and drummer Kenny Jones proved to be an influential band that fused an American psychedelic sound with British pop. Marriott left in 1969 but the band carried on by adding vocalist Rod Stewart and guitarist Ronnie Wood, changed their name to just Faces, and created a body of work which led to their 2012 induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Now to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the bands formation, an extensive 5-CD box set titled The Decca Years will be released October 9th. It contains their entire output for the Decca label recorded 1965-1967. The 91 tracks contain all their album material and singles, live sessions for the BBC, alternative tracks, and a number of rarities.

The only regret is the material predates their move to the Immediate label, where with songs such as “Itchycoo Park” and “Tin Soldier,” they issued music that was some of the most creative of their era and helped change the course of British pop and rock.

Disc One is titled Greatest Hits and contains 21 tracks that provide a good overview of their early career. It catches them as a straight ahead rock band with some blues influences. The music is basic and is centered around Marriott’s guitar and its interaction with Winston’s and then McLagan’s keyboards. Songs such as “Shake,” “What’Cha Gonna Do About It,” “What’s A Matter Baby,” “Sha La La La Lee” present a very different side of the 1960’s British Invasion.

Discs Two and Three are reissues of their two studio albums for the label. Their self-titled debut and 1967’s From The Beginning are nice slices of the burgeoning British psychedelic and hard rock scene. The quality is a bit uneven in places but they both were big sellers in their native country. The single, “All Or Nothing,” reached number one on the British Pop Chart and there is an excellent cover of Del Shannon’s “Runaway.” Whether strong or weak, Marriott’s voice commands your attention. Both albums are a good look into the mind of an evolving band.

Disc four is the weakest of the five unless you are a true disciple of the band. There is a cornucopia of alternative tracks and some early versions of songs that would ultimately appear in a different form. However, when you get to take 3 backing track to “Show Me The Way” or take 11 backing track to “I Can’t Make It,” the songs tend to run together and one wonders how many times anyone will listen to these tracks.

Disc Five is a compilation of their BBC Sessions, plus two interviews with Steve Marriott. The 21 tracks are taken from four sessions from August 1966 to August 1967. Many of the songs have appeared before but take on different textures because of the live spontaneity of the recording process.

The sound has been remastered from the original tapes and is surprisingly good considering the technology of the late 1960’s. Except for short term member Winston; Kenny Jones is the only member left alive and he provides a lot of the leadership and direction for the box set.

The Decca Years is a fine chronicle of the first phase of the Small Faces career. A necessary purchase for fans of the band or era.

 

Rating: ****

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