The Small Faces “First Step”

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#995 in the Series) is The Small Faces, First Step

Being married to, or even dating a super model may give you a lot of bragging rights with the boys down at the local watering hole, and it certainly gives you a “checkmate” in the game of one-upmanship when you and your buddies are on your fifth pint and trading war stories about the hottest girlfriend you ever dated.  But if you are a rock star, and history tells us anything, it’s that that Super Models are responsible for ruining more careers than drugs, alcohol and Yoko combined, and that maintaining a relationship with one or more of these long legged vixens may be on the list of bad career moves right along-side Abraham Lincoln’s decision to attend the play at Ford’s Theatre instead of staying home and watching a chick flick with the wife.

The gold standard of a career derailed by the scent of a woman is Billy Joel.  Coming off a string of some pretty strong efforts that yielded the concert staples “Pressure”, “You May be Right”, “My Life”, and “Big Shot” he documented his relationship with Super Model Christie Brinkley with an album noted only for its mediocrity, it’s use of 50’s doo-wop music that was so gimmicky it made Sha-Na- Na cringe, and one smokin’ hot video.   Three sub-par albums followed in short order and then kapow!  He essentially fell off the new release map.  Since 1993, there have been more rumored sightings of Jim Morrison and D.B. Cooper than talked about fresh music from the Joel camp.  Is it all Christie’s fault?  Probably not, remember for the last 10 years Billy’s BFF has been Elton John.

David Bowie is famous for being the husband of Iman, the stunningly beautiful Somali-American Super Model. Bowie is also famous for reincarnating himself by rising from the ashes and taking on various eclectic personas such as Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke. Since his marriage to Iman he has once again reinvented himself, this time as a New Caledonian rail, a smallish bird indigenous to New Caledonia, Melanesia.  The New Caledonian rail, much like David Bowies career, has been essentially extinct since 1990.  In the interest of full disclosure, there is no evidence to support the rumors that Iman once vacationed in New Caledonia in 1989.

Rod Stewart is the “Dexter” of Super Model relationships with his “dark passenger” being an unavoidable attraction to long-legged beautiful blondes rather than the dismemberment of human bodies. The partial list of his bevy of model conquests includes wives Alana Hamilton, Rachel Hunter, and Penny Lancaster along with girlfriends Britt Eckland, Kelly Emberg, and Dee Harrington. In other words, he has dated more models than he has written new songs in the last 10+ years.  Six to zero if you are scoring at home.  Fortunately Lois Lane was not a supermodel since this particular race of females seems to have kryptonite-like effects on Rod Stewart’s songwriting skills and his ability to generate any new music.  Super Models have single handedly turned “Randy Rod” from Ronnie James Dio to Michael Bolton.

But I digress.

The album First Step was either the last Small Faces album as the name on the album cover implies or the first Faces album.  On this recording the embryo of the classic Faces line-up was being formed with the brilliant Steve Marriott out, and Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood in, to complete the classic Faces line-up of Wood, Stewart, Ian Mcglagan, Kenney Jones, and Ronnie Lane.

Ronnie Lane

Released in 1970, the album features the scarf wearing, soccer playing, Freddie Mercury like stage presence version of “Rod the Mod” and not the model chasing, cover song stealing, standard ruining Rod Stewart that we know and don’t so much love today.  Providing a glimpse of the party band this group of blokes was to become, this eponymous album also shows some of the ballad like subtleties that Rod would brilliantly put on display once he went solo and recorded such classics as “Maggie May”, “You Wear it Well”, and “Handbags & Glad Rags”.

Considering that Wood and Stewart had just come off a series of recordings with Jeff Beck it is understandable that their first effort with a “proper” band might sound a bit messy, and that is exactly what this album sounds like.  Not that messy is a bad thing and in this case the band is simply trying to perfect that raunch & roll sound while still taking full advantage of Rod’s soulful singing style and Ron Woods dirty blues guitar approach. The experiment works quite nicely with the aching ballad “Devotion”, the upbeat “Shudder”, and the brilliant “Around the Plynth” that features some downright swampy Ron Wood slide guitar soloing.

The future Faces classics are here with the mostly Ronnie Lane penned “Flying” and “Three Button Hand Me Down” with a delicious Hammond organ riffing in the background. “Stone” is a classic Ronnie Lane style good time song with some tuneful harmonica blowing.

This album is a perfect time capsule of what will be become of the Faces as the hardest partying bar band in the business and what should have been with Rod Stewart.

At the end of the day, someone much wiser than me said it best………Women…..Powerful medicine.

— Bernie Sparrow San Francisco, California USA

Track listing

  1. “Wicked Messenger” (Bob Dylan) – 4:05
  2. “Devotion” (Ronnie Lane) – 4:54
  3. “Shake Shudder Shiver” (Lane, Ronnie Wood) – 3:14
  4. “Stone” (Lane) – 5:38
  5. “Around The Plynth” (Rod Stewart, Wood) – 5:56
  6. “Flying” (Lane, Stewart, Wood) – 4:15
  7. “Pineapple and the Monkey” (Wood) – 4:23
  8. “Nobody Knows” (Lane, Wood) – 4:05
  9. “Looking Out The Window” (Kenney Jones, Ian McLagan) – 4:59
  10. “Three Button Hand Me Down” (McLagan, Stewart) – 5:44

Personnel

  • Kenney Jones: drums
  • Ronnie Lane: bass, rhythm guitar, lead and harmony vocal
  • Ian McLagan: piano, organ, harmony vocal
  • Rod Stewart: lead and harmony vocal, banjo
  • Ronnie Wood: lead and rhythm guitars, harmonica, harmony vocal

 

Posted by Larry Carta


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