Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Small Faces -1965-1968 BBC Sessions


It took some time coming but the Small Faces BBC radio sessions are now available on CD. All the songs with one exception are already available in some form or other but these are in live performance. Very little Small Faces live material is available so this CD fills a large gap. Some of the songs have appeared on bootlegs over the years. This fact highlights "the ones that got away" such as The Temptations' Get Ready. However, Jump Back is a new tune to Small Faces listeners, credited to Steve Marriott on the track listing but, in fact, a Rufus Thomas song. Other cover versions include Brenda Holloway's Every Little Bit Hurts, Marvin Gaye's Baby Don't Do It and Tim Hardin's wonderful If I Were A Carpenter. Sam Cooke's Shake is one of the CD's highlights. This was often a Small Faces set opener with the late Ronnie Lane belting out the vocals. 

The Small Faces were a great R&B band, whether it was their own songs or covers of standards. Most of the tracks on this CD come from the first album or thereabouts when the band was signed to Decca Records. In the live context of the BBC Sessions, the songs take on an extra raw edge that cannot be duplicated on record, even though they got very close. Those not familiar with the Small Faces may even recognise the sixth track You Need Love (surely You Need Loving) as the inspiration for Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love. Nevertheless, the Small Faces' version was not entirely original, having been "heavily influenced" by a Willie Dixon song.

BBC Sessions covers most of the early singles including Whatcha Gonna Do About It and Sha-La-La-La-Lee before moving on to Marriott/Lane material such as Hey Girl and the number one hit All or Nothing. The b-side of the latter, Understanding, is one of the highlights of this CD. The first three tracks feature the group's original organ player Jimmy Winston before he was replaced by Ian McLagan.

There is a gap of almost two years between most of the songs and the final three. These tracks show a distinct change in the band's style from the raw R&B of the Decca years to the Ogden's era. Of the three songs in the final session for the BBC's Top Gear, only one is a Small Faces' original, Lazy Sunday. However, the two cover versions highlight the strength of Marriott's vocal performance.

The CD finishes with interviews with Steve Marriott and Kenney Jones. These help to give the songs an historical context although they would have sounded better "in context." The interviews end by introducing the next song so why not lead into the song rather than the next interview? the interviews sound far more dated than the music which has lasted and still sounds fresh and raw.

This CD contains the first "new" Small Faces material for over 30 years. However, it it worth a place on the shelf as it takes the Small Faces sound beyond what is already available on record or CD. Wonderful though the studio material is, the Small Faces were a live act and the BBC Sessions goes some way, though not all the way, to capturing this. This is how the Small Faces really did sound and it highlights just how good they were as musicians.
****
A solid compilation of 1965-68 BBC performances. It's heavier on their early mod years than their later psychedelic ones, which are essentially only represented by three songs from a 1968 broadcast (of which only one, "Lazy Sunday," is an original). Still, this has energetic (and, by the standards of BBC archive tapes from the 1960s, good-sounding) versions of the early singles "Whatcha Gonna Do About It," "Sha-La-La-La-Lee," "Hey Girl," and "All Or Nothing," as well as a few first album-era songs, highlighted by "You Need Love," the template for Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." "Whatcha Gonna Do About It," from a 1965 broadcast, is a particularly incendiary performance, about the equal of the hit single version. As for songs that are otherwise unavailable on Small Faces releases, there are just a couple, and they're good ones. "Jump Back" is a heavy mod-soul cover of a song first done by Hadda Brooks, and later covered by Gene Vincent, though the Small Faces most likely learned it from Rufus Thomas' soul version. One thing's for sure: although Steve Marriott is given the songwriting credit in the liners, he did not compose it (it's been credited to both Brooks and Thomas on other reissues). There's also a mighty fine cover of Brenda Holloway's soul ballad "Every Little Bit Hurts" from 1968, with P.P. Arnold (uncredited on the sleeve) on backing vocals. This does miss some BBC cuts that have shown up on bootlegs (notably a cover of "You Really Got a Hold on Me"); perhaps good-fidelity tapes could not be found. What they did find blows previous bootlegs of Small Faces BBC sessions away, soundwise.  (AllMusic)
*****

1. What'cha Gonna Do About It?
2. Jump Back
3. Baby Don't You Do It
4. Shake
5. Sha-La-La-La-Lee
6. You Need Loving
7. Hey Girl
8. E Too D
9. One Night Stand
10. You'd Better Believe It
11. Understanding
12. All or Nothing
13. If I Were a Carpenter
14. Lazy Sunday
15. Every Little Bit Hurts
16. Rare Interviews With Steve Marriott
17. Rare Interviews With Steve Marriott
18. Rare Interviews With Steve Marriott
19. Rare Interviews With Steve Marriott
20. Rare Interview With Kenny Jones
******
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