Thursday, 8 November 2018

Faces - A Nod's As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse (1971)


  

Released November 1971

Recorded at Olympic Studios, London

After a debut album that was at times inspired, at times raw and edgy, at other times a bit slapdash, and a second album in the same vein, this one was more like the real thing from this lovable bluesy rock group. They had begun to establish their identity now, releasing work in tandem with singer Rod Stewart's solo career, although in many ways the albums were pretty interchangeable. The Faces ones were more rocking, more bluesy and a bit less folky is probably the best way of differentiating them. The remastered sound on this album is excellent too - full, bassy and resonant. It is actually quite an improvement on the rough and ready sound of the "First Step" album.

Many consider this album to be the "go to" Faces album. It is certainly the most consistently good and has a general feeling of fulfilment about it, of a band on top of their game enjoying themselves.

There is certainly some copper-bottomed, muscular, bassy blues rock on here. The opener, "Miss Judy's Farm" is a Faces classic, packed full of riffs, heavy bass and a sublime, rasping Stewart vocal. I have never been as big a fan of Ronnie Lane's songs as much as the Rod Stewart-led ones, and on the debut album, I find his ones by far the worst. However, "You're So Rude" is a really good one - bluesy, rocking and powerful, despite Ronnie's less than robust voice. It is back to Stewart for the melodic but solid ballad, "Love Lives Here", which is also an impressive cut. "Last Orders Please" is another Ronnie Lane song, and despite my frustrations with his voice, it is another punchy, convincing number. Lane's songs on here are far more rocky and bluesy, far less acoustic and folky as they were on the previous offering, I prefer them for that. Apparently, Lane was growing increasing frustrated at his sharing vocal duties with Stewart. He should have considered himself lucky to have been allowed any at all, as Stewart was many times the superior singer. Ronnie Lane was clearly an excellent guitarist and a wry, often witty and observant lyricist, but, in my view, as a singer he was just not particularly good. Powerful songs like "You're So Rude" and "Last Orders Please" would have been twice he songs with Stewart on vocals. I feel bad saying that, but there is a convincing argument for it.

What can I say about the iconic "Stay With Me". It is five minutes of Faces perfection - magnificent Ronnie Wood guitar, great drums and piano and one of Stewart's best ever vocals. The buzzy riffage throughout is thoroughly infectious. It is simply a marvellous, uplifting, energetic track. "Debris" is a Ronnie Lane track, again with a solid backing and some genuinely touching lyrics about his father. It is the best of his three tracks on the album, with some great guitar in the middle. The cover of Chuck Berry's "Memphis" is rockingly languid and Stewart's vocal comes over as extremely bright, fresh and quite welcome after Ronnie Lane's low-key offering on the previous track, however moving the song was. There is something inspiring and rousing about The Faces' extended instrumental workouts at the end of songs like this, as on "Stay With Me" too. They just make you think "Lordy, this is a great album".

"Too Bad" is The Faces and Rod Stewart at their absolute crashing, Jack Daniels-soaked best and some seriously bluesy slide guitar introduces "That's All You Need". Add this album to Stewart's "Gasoline Alley" and "Every Picture Tells A Story" and you have the best of both of them from the early seventies. It didn't get much better than this.

B+

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