Sunday, July 25, 2010

April 7, 2010: Psychobabble recommends ‘Small Faces: All or Nothing 1965-1968’

A few days ago I reported that Reelin’ in the Years Productions had released a retrospective DVD called Small Faces: All or Nothing, 1965-1968 as part of their “British Invasion” series. As the DVD cover trumpets “27 Complete Performances,” I was expecting a basic performance compilation. However, this is a complete and highly illuminating documentary about a group whose story is not nearly as oft-told as those of The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, or a number of other British Invasion vets. The performances, which can be viewed on their own, serve as leaping-off points to discuss the major beats of the band’s career. All five Small Faces (that includes keyboardist/guitarist Jimmy Winston, who was only around for their earliest recordings) tell their own story uninterrupted by superfluous narration. They talk about everything from their stint as Mods to drugs to signing on with Andrew Oldham’s Immediate Records to inter-band and managerial conflicts to their legendary dandyism, which is complimented by delightful footage of the band shopping on Carnaby Street.

The bulk of the interview footage belongs to the two surviving Small Faces that spent the most time in the group: an amiable Kenney Jones and a smiley, yet rather bitter, Ian McLagan. The keyboardist takes issue with a lot of his band’s output, expressing horror over having released songs as pop as “Hey Girl”, as pro-drugs as “Here Come the Nice”, as “anti-education” as “Itchycoo Park”, as comedic as “Lazy Sunday”, and as lightweight as “The Universal”. The footage of these tracks completely contradicts McLagan’s gripes. These are Brit Pop and Rock classics, and the sound here is crisp and powerful despite the age of these clips. Several of them are 100% live and find the Faces in fiery form. The “Happiness Stan” suite from Side B of Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, complete with Stanley Unwin’s narration, is here in its entirety from an appearance on the British TV show “Colour Me Pop”. Though the music is canned, Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane sing along live and are as playful and watchable as ever. I have a bootleg of this performance, which looks like a seventh generation Betamax dub. On the Reelin’ in the Years disc, it’s pristine. I was almost inspired to toss my bootleg out the window until I remembered that it also contains some cracking footage of The Move from “Colour Me Pop”. But if Reelin’ in the Years ever releases a Move documentary as part of its British Invasion series, and you happen to be passing my apartment, be alert because you might get beaned.

Buy it here: British Invasion: Small Faces - All or Nothing, 1965-1968

Additional thoughts:
• The disc includes a lovely, full-color, 22-page booklet with track-by-track notes—a real rarity these days!
• Possible DVD feature of the year: subtitles… which finally reveal Stanley Unwin’s exact words during the Happiness Stan saga.
• Pete Townshend and Keith Moon can be seen grooving along to the performance of “Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake” on French TV’s “Surprise Party”. They're sitting on the floor behind Kenney Jones, who, of course, joined The Who after Moon's death.
• A 1984 interview with Steve Marriott and Stanley Unwin conducted by the president of the Banarama fan club? Amazing!
• Steve Marriott may be the all-time least-convincing lip-syncher.
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