SMALL FACES The Best Of Small Faces (Summit)
Someone once remarked in these pages that Neil Finn of Crowded House "can do both Lennon and McCartney"...well, the Small Faces can do Blur and Oasis! This budget-priced compilation contains all their British hits and a smattering of b-sides and album tracks. Hailed as "the second best mod band in Britain", they went from early R & B stompers via mid period amphetamine anthems to the kind of social observation and effect-riddled whimsy that Blur seem so keen on. Although the stylistic changes make it less of a cohesive listen than their "Ogdens Nut Gone Flake" swansong, any album that contains "Afterglow Of Your Love", "Tin Soldier", "Lazy Sunday" and "Itchycoo Park" more than deserves its shelf space.
SMALL FACES Small Faces (Sequel)
This is the second of the original Small Faces three albums, and, according to the sticker on the cover: "Remastered collectors edition 180g heavyweight vinyl. Rarity issued with bonus tracks and promo sampler 7"", all of which is impressively true.
Sometimes known as "Green Circles", this album may contain no singles among its 14 tracks but it wends a seductive path through half-an-hour, as the almost childish simplicity of some of the earlier songs becomes twisted out of shape by huge ingestions of soul and psychedelia, so that by the time you reach the concluding "Up The Wooden Hill To Bedfordshire" and "Eddies Dreaming" its become something genuinely astonishing. As the precursor to the classic "Ogdens Nut Gone Flake" you can almost hear the roots of that album evolving and coming together in these grooves. If you feel cheated by the covers claims to greatness after a few tracks, stay with it, because by the end its become something else entirely.
Following the album proper Castle have generously tagged on all the remaining A- and B-sides of the bands 1967 Immediate singles, which means "Here Come The Nice", "Tin Soldier" and the still astonishing "Itchycoo Park", as Ive said before in these pages all fairly conclusive proof that the Small Faces were doing Blur and Oasis before most of Blur and Oasis were even born. Added to all this good works is a free 7" album sampler, basically an extended contemporary advert for the album, full of ridiculous Fab FM voiceovers and truncated excerpts of songs: hilarious and very welcome, especially the attention to detail that sees it packaged in a 60s Immediate sleeve, with the logo "Happy to be part of the industry of human happiness"!
Sonically this audiophile reissue is a treat - Ive never heard "Itchycoo Park" fill my lounge the way it does here - and better than most of the Simply Vinyl issues that have come my way recently, although I dont remember the drunken tempo during the last half of "I Feel Much Better" from other versions of the song. That minor blip notwithstanding, "Small Faces" is a great album lovingly presented, available, as it says on that Immediate sleeve, "at better record stores everywhere".
SMALL FACES Ogdens Nut Gone Flake (Get Back)
The third and final long player from the first incarnation of The Small Faces, Get Backs vinyl reissue of Ogdens Nut Gone Flake mimics the originals circular packaging. Its a brilliant wheeze up until you break the shrinkwrap to discover that the only protection afforded the delicate vinyl is in the form of two sheets of circular paper, between which the disc is intended to be sandwiched.
The delicious title track opens proceedings, a lolloping, Hendrix-y psychedelic instrumental laced with strings and phased trickery. Afterglow Of Your Love is an ornate little psych-R & B-pop masterpiece, a bit like Tin Soldier given an extra stir, perhaps, and the whimsical, Barrett-esque Long Agos And Worlds Apart is a fairytale precursor to the albums second side. The East End well, I hesitate to dignify it with the description - character study Rene hasnt worn the years well, especially when compared to the consciousness-raising likes of Arctic Monkeys When The Sun Goes Down. Song Of A Baker, though, is arguably the albums hidden masterpiece: heavy like Zep, lumbering and snotty like The Troggs, and driven by a primal urge to make bread. And what can possibly be written about Lazy Sunday that hasnt been said already? Theres Parklife right there.
Then theres the song cycle that envelops the second side, woven together by Stanley Unwins deft free-associating verbal tomfoolery (which makes the bands own lyrics to the likes of Happiness Stan seem comparatively clunky and clumsy). The aforementioned Stans insect-assisted quest to determine where the moon spends the daytime is hardly Tommy, and few of the songs seem substantial enough to function satisfactorily outside this flimsy context, but it should be saluted for at least attempting to extend the boundaries of the medium. Arguably, though, its at its best on the relatively straightforward and anomalous Rollin Over.
Get Backs reissue tags an apparently unrelated extra track on the end of each side. Donkey Rides, A Penny, A Glass was the b-side of the contemporaneous single The Universal (itself omitted here, unfortunately). More English modadelica, albeit of a lesser standard than that demonstrated by the first side proper, its modest manifesto Fish cakes/Cabbage and mash/Oh the world is mine still raises a smile. The bluesy, blue-eyed soul of Every Little Bit Hurts, apparently unreleased at the time but a compilation staple since, wouldve inveigled itself quite neatly onto Dusty In Memphis had Ms Springfield had a mind to let it.