been a long time coming but the Steve Marriott Anthology, Tin Soldier, is
finally available. This was originally due to accompany the Steve Marriott
biography It’s All Too Beautiful. The 3-CD set covers three distinctive
times in Steve Marriott’s career. However, this is not a greatest hits CD. There
are major hits that are missing while the CD does include a number of rarities.
first CD consists mostly of Small Faces tracks. This was, arguably, Marriott’s
most successful period when the East End’s Fab Four produced a string of classic
singles and their highly original albums. However, even before the Small Faces
entered the chart, Marriott was a recording artist. He made his debut in the
original cast of Lional Bart’s Oliver playing the Artful Dodger, a
classic piece of casting. Some might say that the Marriott version of Consider
Yourself sounds out of place here. However, this could not be further from the
truth. Apart from the importance of “completion”, the Cockney charms of the song
from Oliver recurred frequently throughout Marriott’s career, most notably on
Lazy Sunday. He was signed as a solo artist, issuing Give Her My Regards
with Imaginary Love before forming his first band The Moments. Money
Money/You Really Got Me failed to break the band, particularly as the
Kinks version of the latter was much better. By now, Marriott had become a Mod
and he teamed up with some other Mods to form their own band, the Small Faces.
time in the Small Faces not only showed that he was one of England’s greatest
singers but also, with Ronnie Lane, one half of a great songwriting partnership,
for many on a par with Lennon/McCartney and Jagger/Richards. He was also a
pretty good guitar player. The Small Faces tracks included here are a good
indication of the breadth of musical direction covered by the Small Faces from
the R&B powerhouse of the earlier “Decca” years to the more experimental and
heavier direction of the time on Immediate Records. The French EP version of the
debut single What’Cha Gonna Do About It kicks off the Small Faces tracks.
This is more powerful than the versions on the single and the first album. The
follow-up single, a group composition called I’ve Got Mine, inexplicably
failed to chart but, after Ian McLagan replaced Jimmy Winston on keyboards and
the group had a hit single written for them, there then followed a string of
great Marriott/Lane compositions. Hey Girl, the sole number one single
All or Nothing and I Can’t Make It showed that this was a hit-making
machine. Even the blatant drug references of Here Come The Nice were
missed by the BBC’s censors. A strange omission is probably the Small Faces’
best–known single Itchycoo Park. While Ronnie Lane may be due more of the
credit for the song, it is a great Marriott vocal performance and one of the
anthems of the 1967 Summer of Love. The inclusion of the Italian version of
Green Circles is also somewhat surprising, not because it is a rare
Italian-language version, but the fact that it is clearly a Ronnie Lane song
with less input from Marriott.
Small Faces honed their craft in the Immediate studios, the musical direction
became heavier. Tin Soldier is, without doubt, Steve Marriott’s greatest
moment although the appeal of the song relates to exemplary performances from
all the band members. This was all four Small Faces on top form to create a
classic piece of rock music. Rollin’ Over and Don’t Burst My Bubble
were also guitar driven heavier pieces that were indicative of one of the
directions in which music was moving in towards the end of the decade. Don't
Burst My Bubble was released relatively recently despite being recorded at
the time of the Small Faces Immediate album. It has since become a
favourite of Small Faces fans. Another rare track included here is
Me, You and Us Too. This was the demo version of Wham Bam Thank You
Mam. However, the Mijit also showed that he is more than capable of writing
love songs with the great Afterglow (Of Your Love) and The Autumn
Stone. The final track on the first CD is a cover of Brenda Holloway's
Every Little Bit Hurts. The version included is taken from the BBC Sessions
release and includes PP Arnold on backing vocals. A standard number in Small
Faces live shows, this shows off Marriott's voice at its absolute peak.
The sound of Marriott changed dramatically in 1969 when he
launched Humble Pie with Peter Frampton. Marriott had been looking to broaden
his horizons he felt that the Small Faces was not the place where he could
achieve this. Recruiting Jerry Shirley from Apostolic Intervention and Greg
Ridley from Spooky Tooth, Humble Pie debuted with Natural Born Bugie.
This showed that Humble Pie would be very different to the bands from which
the members had come. Certainly there was a heavier sound which had become
apparent in the latter days of the Small Faces but this was mixed with other
influences such as blues and country. Not surprisingly, Humble Pie went down a
storm in America even if UK audiences did not warm to their sound to the same
extent. There are highlights of the second CD that include a live version of
Ashford & Simpson's I Don't Need No Doctor which is taken from Humble
Pie's superb Performance - Rockin' the Filmore. 30 Days in the Hole is
also a Pie classic with its throaty Marriott vocals. Go for the Throat
indeed. Get Down To It is a superb track from the Eat It album.
This features the backing vocalists the Blackberries who, like PP Arnold, had
previously been Ikettes. A notable omission at this point is the excellent
Black Coffee where Marriott was accompanied again by the Blackberries. Here
he was returning to his love of soul music. The pace and tone change again for
the following track Say No More. The folky feel of this song, much like
the Small Faces' version of Red Balloon, suits Marriott's voice extremely
well and shows that this is another vocal style that he can handle with ease.
The third disc covers a mix of different bands headed by
Steve Marriott. He never regained the position he was in with the Small Faces
and Humble Pie but the quality of his singing was always there. Early Evening
Light provides ample proof of this. Similarly, Joe Brown's Soldier
tells the story of a soldier questioning his role. An unusual element of this
track is the lack of guitar as he is backed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic
Orchestra. However, the quality of the songs had become more patchy. Looking
for a Love is played well with some excellent guitar work but, although he
puts much into it, this is not Steve's best vocal performance. His singing is
closer to screeching and this means that the sensitivity in his voice is lost.
This is despite the help of former Pie men Clem Clempson and Greg Ridley forming
part of Steve Marriott's All Stars.
The Small Faces reformed in the mid-1970s. Ronnie Lane
lasted only briefly and was replaced by Rick Wills. This line-up made two
albums, of which there are four tracks here. These are certainly decent tracks
but, apart from the personnel involved, there is little resemblance to the 1960s
version of the band. However, Marriott and Lane did get back together for the
Majic Mijits album. For many years, this was unreleased and the subject of myths
but, as Lonely No More testifies, it was worth waiting for.
During the 1980s, much of Steve's time was spent touring
around the pubs of the UK with the Packet of Three. This included Jim Leverton
and Jerry Shirley. Packet of Three played a mix of Small faces, Humble Pie and
other material. Other line-ups with Steve Marriott included the Next Band, the
DTs and the Official Receivers. Again, Marriot's vocals dominate both his own
material and a set of superb covers such as The Temptations' My Girl and
Bobby Parker's Watch Your Step.
Two of the final tracks are taken from Steve Marriott's
reunion with Peter Frampton shortly before he died. Since leaving Humble Pie,
the band he founded with Marriott, Peter Frampton had gone on to massive success
as a solo artist, particularly in the US while Marriott ended up penniless and
playing pubs and clubs.
This is a superb collection of tracks that does full
justice to the talent of Steve Marriott. There will always be arguments about
which are the best tracks to include but the compilers have done a good job of
showcasing the mijit's talents.