Small Faces – The Decca Years (Universal/Decca)
It’s 50 years since Small Faces became big news and styled themselves as poster boys for the Mod revolution. Fronted by the irrepressible Steve Marriott and energised by the addition of keyboard wizard Ian McLagan, the hard rocking, fast living Londoners set the world alight – for a while, at least.
Half a century down the line and The Decca Years casts Small Faces in an edgy, unpredictable light: Marriott was clearly coming to terms with the vocal power at his disposal and his band mates were happy to experiment – on and off the stage.
Disc one – Greatest Hits – is a fast-paced race towards oblivion with opener What’Cha Gonna Do About It setting the confrontational tone and big hits Sha-La-La-La-Lee, Hey Girl and chart topper All Or Nothing offering a timely reminder of just how exciting Small Faces could be. Ronnie Lane’s pounding bass lines and Marriott’s ear for a biting riff often push the band towards hard rock – years before the genre became established.
Disc two presents the band’s self-titled debut in full and the top three UK album doesn’t disappoint. Brash, bold and brilliantly conceived, it remains a testament to Marriott and Lane’s no-holds-barred attitude with opener Shake preceding many of the band’s biggest hits. Released in the same year as England won the World Cup, it’s an ageless album built to last.
Disc three revisits From The Beginning – the retrospective record released by uber producer Don Arden as a retaliatory blast in the wake Small Faces’ defection from Decca to Immediate. Opening up with a cover of Del Shannon’s Runaway, it may have done Marriott and co. no favours in their bid to begin an ambitious new chapter. But it’s a raw and endearing record underpinning the band’s huge potential as a no-risk cash cow for Arden and his team.
True fans will lap up the 23-track fourth disc of remarkable rarities and outtakes. Various alternate versions, rare takes and fascinating snippets create a picture of a band growing at a rapid rate – and occasionally failing to stay with the pace. Marriott and Lane knew where they were headed and clearly couldn’t get there soon enough.
The complimentary BBC Sessions collection (disc five) is the true treasure trove for the Small Faces aficionado. From August 1965 to August 1966 the band were regular visitors to the BBC Saturday Club and permanent fixtures on the Joe Loss Pop Show. Even within 12 months their transformation from chart hopefuls to assured professionals seems incredible – the session tracks interspersed with Marriott interviews that offer a first-hand insight into a rollercoaster ride.
Make no mistake – Small Faces are one of the most important bands in British rock history. Why? These five discs provide all of the answers and more.