smallfaces

The Small Faces – The Decca Years (Decca)

smallfaces-480x631It’s easy to overlook how much of an impact The Small Faces had on the sixties music scene. Of course, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and, to a slightly lesser extent, The Kinks all rather overshadowed the achievements of the lovable rogues that made up our bunch of streetwise East End urchins.

With the sad passing of former member Ian McLagan at the tail end of last year, this five album boxset comes as a poignant and timely reminder of just what a force The Small Faces truly were.

Disc one is dedicated to the hits, though of course, this being The Decca Years, there is no sign of the celebrated ‘Itchycoo Park‘, the superb ‘Tin Soldier‘ or the mockney satire of ‘Lazy Sunday‘. No matter, for there are enough bona fide classics in the Steve Marriott/Ronnie Lane canon to render these omissions inconsequential. Take their sole UK chart topper, ‘All Or Nothing‘, for instance, a brilliant, fevered slab of soulful rock, or the insanely catchy ‘Hey Girl‘, with its irresistible “Hey, hey, it’s alright” refrain. Perhaps surprisingly, ‘Sha La La La Lee‘ has dated extremely well and sounds like a breath of fresh air, whereas you’ve got to wonder what the British public was thinking when the moody ‘I’ve Got Mine‘ failed to chart.

Discs two and three are the fantastic eponymous debut album and the unofficial retrospective album ‘From The Beginning‘ that Don Arden of Decca put out after the band had jumped ship to Immediate, comprising of their original label hits and various demos. Not that you’d know they were demos. In fact, ‘From The Beginning‘ is the album I’ve been revisiting the most from this treasure trove. These two discs, in particular, do a grand job of capturing the raw, unbridled energy that was the very essence of The Small Faces’ being. Just listen to the scintillatingly glorious ‘My Mind’s Eye‘ that graces both these albums and then look me in the eye and tell me they couldn’t stake a very reasonable claim for the title of ‘Best Band Of The Sixties’. No, no you can’t, can you?

The remaining two discs are made up of various radio sessions, rarities and curios, as well as a handful of interview snippets with Marriott, who comes across as charming, eloquent and humble in equal measure. Some of the Joe Loss sessions are rather scratchy, as though you’ve recovered and restored some unsleeved seven inches from your mum’s garage, but really it all adds to the set’s nostalgic timbre.

It’s worth noting that, over the five discs, there is a total of ninety one tracks here. There are, however, so many versions of certain songs (‘Sha La La La Lee‘, for example, playfully rears its head on SIX occasions) that the number of different compositions here numbers just forty. I’m not sure we required such indulgence, for the truth is, you don’t need to hear many of these recordings more than once to realise you are, aurally at least, in the presence of utter genius.

[Rating:4]

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.