Guide to British Music of the 1960s
The Small Faces - Here Come The Nice
This Small Faces boxed set has been long-awaited and does not disappoint. There are two distinctive periods in the Small Faces career which divides more or less into the two different record label periods. Here Come The Nice is a fairly comprehensive round-up of the second half of the band's output after they had signed to Andrew Loog-Oldham's Immediate Records. However, as a live track, All or Nothing from the Decca period does make it onto CD4.
Recent years have seen a major improvement in the availability of Small Faces material. The band recorded three "official" albums during their brief career, the latter two on Immediate Records. However, their legacy had been marked by countless budget compilations with low prices and low quality. Furthermore, the band members (and their estates) were not receiving their deserved royalties. This started to change with the band's affairs gradually put into order. Royalty cheques finally started to arrive and new versions of the classic albums with much improved sound quality have been released. Remastered "Deluxe" editions of the two Decca albums (From the Beginning included) and the two Immediate albums issued in 2012 meant that the Small Faces music was finally being heard as it should. The culmination of this exercise, at least for the Immediate material, is this 2014 treasure trove of goodies for all Small Faces fans.
The hardback book includes a forward from Pete Townshend, a long time friend and fan of the band. Mark Paytress of Mojo provides an excellent biography of the band that is illustrated with "new" photographs. Numerous artists then pay their own tributes to the Small Faces. However, series producer Rob Caiger's essay on how the box set was compiled makes fascinating reading. This was no easy job. When Immediate Records was dissolved some master tapes had been reused due to the high cost of recording media, others were disposed of in a skip, others simply seemed to disappear or were destroyed on orders. Furthermore, the dissolution of the label included a clause that artists would not be paid royalties on the recordings. Other tapes had been spliced together, turned back to front, etc. This is quite staggering with hindsight and a masterpiece of mismanagement of this classic music. It has taken years to sort out this mess, not helped by record companies going bust, being taken over and ownership or even location of genuine master tapes being extremely difficult to ascertain. It has been a major project on a worldwide scale simply to locate the tapes even before work was started on restoring and remastering them. A massive thanks is due to Rob and the team who worked on this including Kenney and Mac who have been heavily involved in the project to ensure that their legacy is properly presented.
The collection has a hefty price tag but there is a tremendous amount of outstanding material included that makes it a must for any dedicated Small Faces fan. Some of the "newly released" tracks are particularly interesting as they show how such well-known songs evolved in the studio.
Not all of the tracks recorded for Immediate are included. Some of the Ogdens Nut Gone Flake tracks, for example, are not covered nor is the narrative and the listener should turn to the 2012 remastered Deluxe Edition.
The first disc is a comprehensive collection of A and B sides of worldwide mono singles on Immediate. This is more than just an outstanding collection of Small Faces tracks. While there is nothing here that will be new, the quality of the sound surpasses anything that has been available before with the remastering paying dividends on these classic tracks. The clarity of the instruments and vocals emphasises that the four members were all excellent musicians. Nowhere is this more evident than on Tin Soldier where everything comes together and a superb song is highlighted by all four band members playing at their absolute peak.
Discs two and three are studio outtakes and alternative versions. During the first part of the Small Faces career at Decca the records were more akin to the band's live sound. However, one of the benefits of signing with Immediate Records was that the band was given virtually unlimited time in the studio. This gave them space to develop ideas rather than recording material fast as studio time and tape were expensive. Surely without this freedom masterpiece albums like Ogdens Nut Gone Flake could not have been created. Consequently, the studio outtakes are an interesting insight into life in the studio and how these wonderful songs were created. Green Circles is a track that is associated with Ronnie Lane but listen to how it sounds with Steve Marriott taking the lead vocals. Their styles of singing were very different. Both had wonderful soulful voices but in a different way and Ronnie's style was perfect for this track. Incidentally, disc four has a version of this track sung in Italian! Another curiosity is Mind The Doors Please, the only recorded Small Faces instrumental that is effectively a Kenney Jones drum solo. This is closest the Small Faces came to a version of Toad! No wonder Pete Townshend calls Kenney "the best f**king rock and R&B drummer" he has played with.
The partially-completed songs and the discussions taking place give an idea of what it was like in the studios when the Small Faces were recording. It is hardly surprising that there is one overriding voice, that of Steve Marriott. These songs have become modern classics and so it is interesting to hear, to some extent, how they developed in the studio. The Tin Soldier backing tracks sound like the band were evolving the start of the song although this sequence now sounds more like the end.
Early versions of songs that were never released during the Small Faces career are included. An album was being recorded that would probably have been called 1862 but this never appeared. The tracks were issued later as The Autumn Stone. An early version of the title track appears here as Jenny's Song, Jenny being Steve's girlfriend who was also the subject of Tin Soldier.
The fourth CD contains alternate mixes, mostly stereo versions. There is also PP Arnold's debut single (If You Think You're) Groovy. It was planned that that the Small Faces would become the house band for Immediate Records, much like Booker T & the MGs at Stax. Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane wrote (If You Think You're) Groovy and the Small Faces backing is very clear. The following track will sound familiar to everyone although Me You and Us Too has different lyrics to Wham Bam Thank You Mam. This has been previously available on CD but not easy to find.
The final five CD tracks were previously available on the German In Memoriam LP. Recorded at Newcastle City Hall the sound quality has been greatly improved from what was on the LP and it is now possible to recognise what the group is playing. By now they had become firm fans of Tim Hardin with If I Were a Carpenter part of the live set along with the recorded Red Balloon.
This is a superb collection which justifies the incredible amount of time compiling it and a fitting tribute to the East End's own Fab Four. Now where are those Decca master tapes......
Release date: 27 January 2014
Charley Records (US)
Limited edition of 3,000 copies.
This box set is available through Wapping Wharf (www.wappingwharf.com). The price will be £125 and a £21 deposit payable via Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org will secure a copy when it is released in January 2014.
This boxed set has been produced with the co-operation of the band. Each of the CDs has been remastered. Alongside the CDs and vinyl records the package also includes:
Disc One - Mono Worldwide A & B sides Plus EPs
Live from Newcastle City Hall, 18 November 1968
Mystery (One-sided acetate - alternate version of Something I Want to tell You)
Album sampler (One-sided replica Immediate promo album sampler)
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