The Small Faces -‘Here Come the Nice – The Immediate Years’

by | Jul 10, 2016 | 0 comments

Today in the ‘rock room’ I am taking a courageous jump into the substantial
2014 Small Faces box set, Here Come the
Nice.
After years of sub-par compilations, best of collections and
generally below-standard packaging and repackaging of their recorded output,
those mod dignitaries the Small Faces received a respectful and proper tribute with this box set.

Here Come the Nice, covering the band’s 1967-69 tenure with Immediate
Records years and limited to an edition of 3,000 copies worldwide, features
four discs crammed full of rarities and alternatives, as well as four unique
vinyl records, posters, art prints, lyric book and other stunning ephemera. The
added bonus is that each of the limited edition sets has been signed by the
remaining two members of the band, drummer Kenny Jones and keyboard legend Ian
McLagan.

The revolutionary forerunners of the 1960s mod movement, in conjunction with
the Who and the Kinks, the Small Faces have been severely underrated and under
appreciated until their recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in
2012. Hence, the impetuous for the rediscovery, reappraisal and reissuing of
their influential catalog. In addition to the restructuring of the bands
musical output through specialized Record Store Day releases and re-masters,
this definitive collection also showcases the best of the rest, making for a
welcome expansion of the Small Faces legend through outtakes, live tracks and
rarities, each of them important glimpses into a band caught unaware in times
of creation, intimate moments and live on stage.

The Small Faces brand of music is a raucous, pulsating R&B/rock hybrid.
No one in rock could bellow like the late Steve Marriott, whose voice and
guitar work will always be some of the most expressive in modern music history.
Ronnie “Plonk” Lane coaxed heavy warm drones from his oversized bass, while
writing melodies that still reverberate. McLagan is an anomaly, one of the
finest piano/keyboard players to grace a rock ‘n’ roll stage, and always
uniquely expressing melodies in unusual ways. Finally, Jones’ corpulent feet
and arms, the solid rock on which the band would stand steady.

Ranging from rave ups to rhythm-and-blues instrumentals, the Small Faces
mirrored the changing times and regurgitated them through their stunning
interpretation. The band’s terribly short career contained a super-concentrated
blast of creativity, fiery and successful, but also volatile and unpredictable.
Unfortunate issues with management, as well as musical differences, ultimately
started to wear on the group. The Small Faces would eventually fracture,
splitting into two of the 1970s towering rock acts, the Faces and Humble Pie,
respectively.

Punk, funk, rave up or jam on, the Small Faces excited and incited the mod
youth with their stony and groovy aesthetic. The partnership of Marriot/Lane
was quite prolific, creating a plethora of mod/pop standards included on disc
one of this collection, which compiles the a- and b-sides of their worldwide singles,
as well as EP releases, all presented in pristine quality.

A cursory look at this collected group of singles shows one obvious thing:
The Small Faces wrote some amazing music all while painting a virtual portrait
of Swinging London in the 1960s.

The druggy insinuation of ‘Here Come the Nice’, the slightly naïve yet pure
psychedelia of ‘Green Circles’, the pleading soul groove of ‘Talk to You’ and
the definitive Small Faces epic ‘Tin Solder’ are all songs of such power and
grace that the band’s failure to detonate in America is still confusing. How’did
their music continue to linger out of sight excepting hard core fans until this
recent resurgence? The pastoral tripiness of‘Itchycoo Park’ and “Lazy Sunday’,
two of the Small Faces’ most popular tracks, gloriously protrude from the
speakers, a reminder of their pop sensibilities, as well as the image they were
vigorously trying to escape.

These aforementioned singles were all carefully remastered from the
thankfully recovered original mono master tapes, investing them with a vibrant
new life. Enjoying these tracks at high volume encourages me to make statements
like, ‘These guys may have been the best band in Britain in 1966!’ The wealth
of forward thinking arrangements and collaborative songwriting taking place in
such a stunted period of time is stunning and a testament to the talents of the
group.

Discs 2 and 3 contain pleasantly diverse and intimate session tapes, alternate
mixes, and unreleased songs hailing from Olympic, IBC, and Trident studios.
These rarities originate from the multi-track recording tapes. The sound quality
is definitive, the access unlimited, some of the edges jagged, but the view of
the band exclusive. The long and involved search for many of these tapes only
increases the drama and joy in listening to the set. Tapes were discovered in
various states scattered across the globe, in varying vaults, boxes, even
appearing in Kenney Jones’s battered luggage from his Small Faces touring days.

Stunning highlights of these discs include an enlightening glimpse of the Small Faces
recording Tim Hardin’s ‘Red Balloon’, wonderful and rare clips of studio
dialogue peppered across both discs, as well as the experimental freak out ‘Mind the Doors Please’ and the unfinished backing track ‘Fred’ hailing from May
1968. These two CDs represent an epiphany for Small Faces fans or admirers of
mod era of rock ‘n’ roll. Check out the stripped-down mix of ‘Things Are Going
to Get Better,’ as an example of the rare aural treats to be unearthed.

Disc 4 of Here Come the Nice: The Immediate Years features additional
out takes, as well as a speed corrected and remastered concert performance from
November 18, 1968 at Newcastle Hall. This disc not only contains the PP Arnold
single “(If You Think You’re) Groovy” featuring the Small Faces, but also the
rare mono version of the ebullient “Don’t Burst my Bubble” and the sludgy
backing track of “Piccanniny.” The aforementioned 1968 concert recording
fittingly closes the set with an exclusively reborn capture, which in the case
of the Small Faces is a unique proposition in regards to existing live shows:
The performance ruptures with the aggressive slam of “Rollin Over,” as
Marriott’s artfully shredded vocals are supported by Mac’s grindy and gritty
overture on the organ. Heavy.

The concert tracks are best described using superlatives such as: monstrous,
grand and explosive. Included in the set is also a hair-raising version of “All
or Nothing” that encapsulates the Small Faces musical experience for the
listener. This small slice of live  transitional and essential Small Faces is guaranteed
to be the greatest thing you will hear on any given day.

While that concludes the compact-disc segment of the box, there are also four
seven-inch singles of music on vinyl to be enjoyed. Included is a promo Small
Faces album sampler listed as a very rare collectible, two French EPs, and a
replica acetate of the song “Mystery” which would eventually reappear as
“Something I Want to Tell You.” While these revolve on the turntable, I spread
out across the floor this set’s impressive display of Small Faces goods. What a
way to accompany my musical journey.

While there is a substantial amount of magic to be conjured from this deep
box, the ‘rock room’ truly believes that including the Small Faces original
releases into your listening habits must be part of the deal. Familiarize
yourself with their catalog and aesthetic before diving into session tapes. It
takes a certain kind of ‘rock geek’ to sit through the recording sessions of
any artist and knowing that artists catalog is often a bonus. As musical big
box collections go, this one is top shelf and while limited in production
numbers it can still be found by those willing to search!

Kenney Jones talks about the box

Afterglow

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