Quality: 3.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3 out of 5
The Small Faces were a reasonably successful group in 60's Britain, but they never really managed break into the States, and for whatever reason they haven't been particularly well remembered. As such, they have become superstars of the obscure, if you will. You'll probably run into them as soon as you start digging into the 60's and they have sort have gained some additional allure as a result of this.
The band started out as a wailing R&B influenced beat group with Steve Marriott's powerful pipes leading the charge. As we enter their more psych-period on this Immediate Records debut, we find some additional depth from vocals from Marriott's songwriting partner Ronnie Lane. He is technically nowhere near Marriott's singing level, but his somewhat happily lethargic vocals probably fit the psychedelic mold that the Small Faces were working for around this time.
Truth be told, this isn't a particularly psychedelic album. The flourishes of 1967 are certainly present, but the modus operandi are folk rock and the harder hitting mod sound. Much of this favorably compares to early-Who tracks. In fact, drummer Kenny Jones would eventually end up in the Who as Keith Moon's replacement. Much of his drumming here is very Moon-like.
This is an extremely short album at 30 minutes. Nothing here overstays it's welcome; songs like "Feeling Lonely" (at 1:37) could probably stand to be longer. It does cohere very well as an album and makes for a great blast of 60's pop.
"(Tell Me) Have You Ever Seen Me" starts of the album with a single-worthy track with some aggressively strummed acoustic guitars and a catchy-as-hell chorus. "Happy Boys Happy" is a slightly wacky instrumental stuck in the middle of side one of the album. All in all, the first side of the album stands as mildly gritty folk rock.
The psychedelia creeps in a little stronger with side one's closer "Green Circles." We hear a little bit of a baroque arrangement and a fine chorus that the Who would rip off ten years later for "Who Are You." "Become Like You," a enjoyable psych-folk track, starts off the next side.
Side two does a fair amount more experimenting with sound. As many British bands of the era do, the Small Faces tackle music hall on "All Our Yesterdays" while "Talk To You" adds a little fuzz to the sound (and has a little musical quote that the Who would use on Tommy; it was nice of these fellows not to sue). With the album closer "Eddie's Dreaming," the band throws in some horns, flutes, and bongos for a more produced sound.
Once again, both the mono and stereo mixes are available on CD. And once again, I've got to opt for the mono myself. One of my pet peeves is sticking the drums completely in one channel, and unfortunately that was the stereo norm at the time. I think the added punch of mono does a lot for these guys too.
Small Faces is a fine album. My only real problem with it is that it doesn't seem to have much staying power for me. I'm not sure why. Marriott and Lane are a fine songwriting team. I suppose it'll all click for me someday. Maybe it'll be quicker for you.
Feb. 2010 edit: I've been listening to this one again recently - I guess it finally clicked for me and I would crank the ratings up to 4.25 for quality and 3.5 for the Trip-O-Meter. The songwriting stands out even more to me now and I love the completely ridiculous chord progression of "All Or Yesterdays."
Small Faces - 1967 - Small Faces