Saturday, October 17, 2015

Review: Small Faces' 'The Decca Years 1966-1967'


Small Faces’ Decca catalogue has been reissued and reissued and reissued, but that situation seemed like it had come to an end in 2012 with the release of double-disc deluxe editions of the band’s two official Decca albums remastered on CD from the original master tapes for the first time. Not so. Three years later, Decca and Universal are bringing out Small Faces and From the Beginning and their numerous bonus tracks yet again as part of a five-disc box set called The Decca Years 1966-1967.

Just to save the faithful some time, I will be up front about the question on all of your modishly mop-topped minds: these masters of Small Faces and From the Beginning, as well as all their bonus tracks, sound identical to the 2012 ones to my ears. Yes, they still sound fabulous… if a bit loud, though Rob Caiger assures us in his liner notes that the loudness is all due to the band’s tendency to crank it up in the studio and not remastering engineer Nick Robbins’s heavy hand. However, if you’re happy with your 2012 CDs and aren’t overly desirous of cool packaging and a few recently unearthed radio sessions, then this might not be the box set for you. If you never dropped your pence on those previous deluxe editions, and you want to grab all of Small Faces electrifying Decca recordings in one sweet package, then The Decca Years 1966-1967 is the ideal way to do it.

Augmenting Small Faces and From the Beginning, which are both on their own discs, is a disc of all the bonus tracks from the 2012 deluxe discs (the only deletions are eight fake stereo tracks, the absence of which won’t exactly cause purists to weep), a Greatest Hits disc that collects essential tracks from the two albums with all the single A and B sides missing from them (this box’s tendency to repeat tracks is one notable flaw… the original versions of “Sha La La La Lee” and “What’Cha Gonna Do About It” each appear three times!), and a disc of BBC sessions. Perhaps it was the discovery of four tracks recorded for the “Joe Loss Pop Show” that were not included on 2000’s The BBC Sessions that justified this box set, but these are the roughest sounding recordings on the set (on the up side, they include the groovy instrumental “Comin’ Home Baby” unavailable in any version elsewhere on The Decca Years).

Unlike Rhino’s recent Faces box set, which sounds great but suffers from chintzy packaging, all attention to detail has been paid to Mac, Kenney, and Plonk’s early work. The Decca Years arrives in a high quality, though not-oversized, box with four over-sized, full-color postcards you’d be a dope to post. Each disc is housed in a mini-LP sleeve about the quality of the ones in the Faces box. There’s a great 74-page booklet full of color photos, essays, and profiles of each band member, their two Decca records, and their biggest hit songs for the label. So despite redundancy issues that may prevent you from wanting to spin the whole thing in one sitting, The Decca Years 1966-1967 is still a fab re-packaging of some of the best hard soul and rock & roll of the sixties… and if there’s one thing a bunch of mods should appreciate, it’s a slick package.

Get The Decca Years 1966-1967 on Amazon.com here:
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