Mod Fathers' Small Faces music makes one feel reverential. It’s no exaggeration to say they were one of the core foundation sounds of the most culturally important decade the world has known. The Decca Years (1965-1967) were not long but explosive and gifted us with several of the band’s greatest hits, their first two albums and some wonderful rare and session footage.
Stand-out tracks and hits cover various genres and show the bands’ love of an eclectic array of music. From instrumental ‘Own Up Time’ tipping its hat to the likes of giants like ‘Green Onions’, hop and skip to the perfectly Sixties, ‘Sha La La La Lee’; sexy, bluesy ‘Don’t Stop What You’re Doing’; the reflective, Bowie-precursor ‘That Man’; soulful ‘You Need Loving’; rock, doo-wop, ‘It’s Too Late’ and king track, ‘All Or Nothing’.
‘All Or Nothing’ is one of the tracks featuring in several different places throughout the collection with slightly different versions each time. It gorgeously marries vocalist Steve Marriott’s truffle-rich soulful voice with its gospel organ and rock ‘n’ roll sensibilities. In particular the version from the BBC Sessions disc which closes the collection is aptly climactic and tingle-inducing. Other treasures include Small Faces’ cover of Del Shannon’s ‘Runaway’ originally from their second album and ‘Plum Nellie’ by Booker T. & The M.G.s. Small Faces’ version of ‘Shake’, originally by Sam Cooke, is arguably better than the original.
There are some annoying omissions as is often the case with such sets. ‘Itchycoo Park’ (There Are But Four Small Faces, 1967, USA version) and ‘Lazy Sunday’ (Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, 1968, both belonging to the Immediate label) are noticeable examples. Someone clever upstairs clearly thought it would be fitting to issue five albums because it’s the fifty year anniversary; it’s a nice idea but taken together, one is left potentially feeling short-changed in this respect. However this is compensated for somewhat by additional extras included in the boxed set: rare photos, booklet and memorabilia which will always please fans.
What is an even greater compensation however is the treasure that is the BBC Sessions album. Although re-mastered along with the rest of the collection, the sound is still a lot less polished, it’s a lot more authentic and captures the feel of the era and importantly it is unusual and feels personal. The album runs the course of a year of recorded sessions from the summer of ’65 to ’66 which adds to the authenticity and it means the album simply flows well. The awesome sound-bites of original radio intros is golden, lending colour for newer fans and more than likely auto-filling blanks for those who were there for the first swinging time around. The experience is somehow richer, multi-faceted, so much so that you can almost taste the cold tea or coffee that’s surely sitting on Joe Loss’s station desk. Fans get what they really desire here, being able to listen to Marriott’s soft, cockney, self-effacing voice, polar to his tuneful, Americana roar (“shouting” as he calls it). His answers reveal a humble and knowing man and a great insight into a fickle yet bizarrely wonderful industry – a most winning piece of kit for any fan to possess indeed.