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Review: Small Faces — The Decca Years, 1965-1967

The Small Faces were wildly charismatic vocalist/guitarist Steve Marriott, bass player/vocalist Ronnie Lane, keyboard player Ian McLagan and drummer Kenney Jones, the only member of the classic lineup still alive. The band came together in London 1965 and signed with Decca Records that same year.

This beautifully packed collection includes five CDs including everything the group recorded for Decca between 1965 and 1967 (remastered, of course), sessions recorded live at the BBC, an interview Steve Marriott did with Brian Matthew that has officially never been heard in the UK before and an amply illustrated, 72-page booklet.

CD One is entitled GREATEST HITS: Worldwide singles As, Bs & EPs and as one might expect, this 21-track collection features many of their best known hits, plus a few lesser known classics.

Bouncy opening number – the very first single they ever put out – “What’Cha Gonna Do About It” is a great introduction to Marriott’s powerful vocal delivery and makes it clear why his first outfit (he would go on to enjoy further success with Humble Pie) have always been considered one of the finest mod groups of the 1960s.

The energetic four-piece’s love for American soul and R&B is also brilliantly displayed on songs like “What’s A Matter Baby,” “It’s Too Late,” “I Can’t Dance with You” and a storming cover of Sam Cooke‘s “Shake.”

Other highlights include the number three hit “Sha-La-La-La-Lee,” “All or Nothing” (their only number one, written by the prolific pairing of Marriott and Lane), “Don’t Stop What You’re Doing” and “Come on Children.”

Nine of these tracks appear on the 12-track second disc, the Small Faces’ explosive, self-titled debut album, produced by Ian Samwell, Kenny Lynch and their manager, the notorious Don Arden, and released in 1966.

Disc Three is the band’s slightly disappointing second album for Decca, released after they had jumped ship and gone over to Andrew Loog Oldham‘s label Immediate Records.

Stand out moments among the at times-more-psychedelic 14 tracks here include “Take This Hurt off Me,” Smokey Robinson‘s “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” and Del Shannon‘s “Runaway.”

The fourth disc offers different and alternative versions – plus backing tracks – of 23 songs, some of which pop up on each CD (how many times do we need to hear “Sha-La-La-La-Lee?!”). Of the 23, I particularly enjoyed “Come on Children,” “E Too D,” “What’s A Matter Baby,” “Take This Hurt off Me” and “Baby Don’t You Do It.”

The final disc, BBC Sessions, is 21 songs and interviews recorded at the world famous broadcasting house on August 23 1965, January 14 1966, March 14 1966, May 3 1966 and August 3 1966 and will surely be of interest to anyone interested in the band’s legacy as it contains, as mentioned earlier, a previously unheard interview with Marriott.

This is a comprehensive collection that ought to please completists and die-hard followers of this often underrated act. For newcomers to the Small Faces, however, a “greatest hits” album that also features tunes from later long-playing efforts, like Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake, would perhaps be a better place to start.

Small Faces: The Decca Years 1965-1967 will be available to buy or download from October 9.

For more information, visit the band’s official website.

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