Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Faces – A Nod is as Good as a Wink…to a Blind Horse…

Rod and the Faces first came to my notice when “Stay With Me’, from this essential album, came blasting out of the radio at me in the early 70’s. This band continues to be incredibly influential and they left behind a mighty body of work.

This record starts off with Ron Wood’s superb sounding, chunky guitar on “Miss Judy’s Farm” before the band explodes in a burst of energy. They mix 50’s r’n’r and Stones-y swagger with their own drunken exuberance to create a style that has been copied countless times, but never equaled.

As much as I like Ronnie Lane and his bass playing, his songs have always been a bit weaker to my ears that the other tunes on the Faces records. “You’re So Rude” is no exception. It tells a funny tale and a nice blues-rock groove, but doesn’t go much of anywhere. The band plays well, though and puts in some nice lines throughout.

The band was never afraid of ballads, but always did them with real feeling, such as “Love Lives Here”. Ian McLagan’s organ is highlighted on this and Wood’s guitar playing is restrained and melodic instead of nasty and distorted. Rod Stewart proves that he can sing from the heart as well as from the gut.

The big difference between the Faces and Stewart’s solo albums is the inclusion of Lane’s tunes. “Last Orders Please” is another one and again, nothing objectionable here, but just not as strong as the others. Especially when the following tune is the huge hit, “Stay With Me”, the frantic tune about the groupie that wants to over-stay her welcome. Fantastic playing by everyone on this one, with everybody getting a chance at brief spurts of brilliance. This is the epitome of great, fun 70’s rock, with drummer Kenny Jones kicking it into high gear at the end.

Starting side two of the album was one of Lane’s best tunes, “Debris”. This is a sweet, melodic ballad with some great harmony vocals by Rod. I wish that Lane had been able to write more like this one.

The group shows its admiration for 50’s r’n’r with a nice cover of “Memphis, Tennessee” before moving into “Too Bad”, a rocker about the band not getting any respect and apparently getting turned away from a gig.

Closing with “That’s All You Need”, Wood gets to show off his slide-guitar prowess as he as Rod perform the first verse by themselves before the band kicks in. This also has the patented Faces’ “chunk”, it allows Ron to let loose and show off a bit before ending with a memorable, repetitive chorus.

I can’t really imagine any rock’n’roller not being familiar with the Faces, but if you want one of their best, this is the one to get!
For more on the Faces, check out their web site (i think this is the official one).