Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Faces - First Step (1970)


Released March 1970

Recorded at De Lane Lea Studios, London

From early 1970, this debut album from Ronnies Lane and Wood, Kenney Jones, Ian McLagan and Rod Stewart is a gloriously raw, edgy and beautifully slapdash affair. It sounds as if it were laid down in one whisky addled take. Therein lies its appeal, and indeed the appeal of Faces as a group in  their actually quite short recording career.


1. Wicked Messenger
2. Devotion
3. Shake, Shudder, Shiver
4. Stone
5. Around The Plynth
6. Flying
7. Pineapple And The Monkey
8. Nobody Knows
9. Looking Out The Window
10. Three Button Hand Me Down

The opening cover of Bob Dylan's "Wicked Messenger" is a marvellous, noisy thrash. No gentle folk rock here - loud, crashing drums, blues guitars up to the max, swirling organ and Rod Stewart's throaty rasp all make a superb concoction. The quiet tones of "Devotion" give way half way through to some thumping drums and strident, cutting guitar. "Shake, Shudder, Shiver" makes your speakers do just that. Stewart is n fine form here, sounding similar to on his debut solo album the previous year. "Stone" is a folky, fiddle-picking, early Dylan imitation of a song written by Ronnie Lane with him on vocals. Unfortunately, I find his songs a little like Keith Richards ones on Rolling Stones albums - they are ok, but I'd rather have Jagger on vocals, let's be honest. The same is true here - I would rather hear Rod Stewart blasting out some blues rock than this country romp with Lane's undistinguished, trying to ape early Dylan, voice. Sorry to all those who love it. Actually, I am being somewhat harsh, it does have its appeal, but, for me, the Stewart cuts are the better ones.

"Around The Plynth" is actually rather chaotic, with some madcap slide guitar sounds, thumping percussion and a rudimentary vocal. It sounds like a demo, to be fair. There are some genuine great bits of slide interplay, however, and, as I said earlier, this unpolished sound adds to the appeal. If Led Zeppelin had released this people would have been falling at their feet. In many places, it sounds very Zeppelin-ish. "Flying" is classic Faces blues funky rock. A bit hissy, sound-wise in places (despite being remastered), but again, it doesn't really matter - just turn it up. Check out that organ break in the middle. "Pineapple And The Monkey", an instrumental, is big, booming and beautifully bassy. It sounds bloomin' great, I have to say.

"Nobody Knows" is a slightly rambling Stewart/Lane composition/duet. It captures Stewart's voice sounding quite sad at times. "Looking Out The Window" is a frantic blues rocker and is another instrumental, which, though it is solid, powerful and convincing, with excellent sound quality, does make you wonder if the band were a little short of material at the time. As the album's title suggested, though, it was a "first step". Maybe they viewed it as that and were happy to intermingle vocal cuts with instrumentals, Cream-style. "Three Button Hand Me Down" is an absolute copper-bottomed Faces classic to close the album. A rocking tribute from Stewart to his other for handing him down a suit. It has a Status Quo style riff, played on acoustic and bass guitars and a killer vocal from Stewart. The guitars throughout the track are exhilarating, as indeed are the organ breaks. It still sounds great today. BBC Radio Newcastle's new wave "Beat Surrender" Saturday evening show regularly play this. I am not surprised. This was Faces at their very best, loud, slightly disorganised and captivating.


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