Friday, March 16, 2012

A Little (More)Face Time

The Faces
Five Guys Walk Into A Bar
Ripped at a glorious 320 for your ears delight
Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

There has never been a better box set than the Faces' Five Guys Walk into a Bar.... There has never been a box that captures an artist so perfectly, nor has a box set taken greater advantage of unreleased and rare material, to the point where it seems as essential and vital as the released recordings. Simply put, there's never been a box set as necessary as this, since it tells the band's entire tale and explains exactly what the fuss is all about. Unfortunately, some explanations are in order, since the Faces never made it big, resigned to cult status in America and Britain alike. Nevertheless, if you love rock & roll with an all-consuming passion, you may consider the Faces the greatest rock & roll band ever. And you'd be right. Other bands were certainly bigger and plenty wielded a stronger influence, but the Faces were something unique, an endearingly ragged quintet that played raw, big-hearted rock & roll as hard as the Rolling Stones, but with a warm, friendly vibe that would have sounded utterly foreign coming from the Stones. At the turn of the '60s, that warmth was unusual in rock & roll, since most of the big bands were larger than life; even the Kinks, the quaintest and quietest of the titans of the late '60s, had a theatrical bent that lent them a mystique.

In contrast, the Faces were utterly without mystique. They were unpretentious to a fault, coming across like the lovable lads from the neighborhood who were always out for a good time, whether it was before, during, or after a gig. They were unassuming and mischievous, with their raggedness camouflaging a sweetness that flowed throughout their music; they were charming rogues, so endearing that even the infamously cranky, trendsetting British DJ John Peel had a soft spot a mile wide for them. That raggedness resulted in exhilarating music, but also made the Faces inconsistent on-stage and in the studio. At their peak, nobody could touch them, but even their greatest albums were sloppy, never maintaining their momentum. They would also throw away great songs on non-LP singles, and their live performances -- including BBC sessions for Peel -- often had a raucous energy not quite captured on their albums. All of these elements taken as a whole add up to a great band, but no single album, not even the first-rate 1999 compilation Good Boys When They're Asleep, captured each of these elements.

Five Guys Walk into a Bar... does. Produced and sequenced by their keyboardist, Ian McLagan, the set throws all conventional rules of box sets out the window. It's not assembled in a chronological order. A grand 43 of its 67 tracks are non-LP cuts and rarities, including a whopping 31 previously unreleased tracks. It has all the B-sides never released on CD. Several songs are repeated in alternate live or studio versions. Such a preponderance of rarities would usually mean that a box set is only for the devoted, but that's not the case here -- these rarities are the very reason why Five Guys Walk into a Bar... succeeds in a way none of their original albums do, since they fill in the gaps left behind on their four studio albums. This does mean that it features several Rod Stewart solo cuts that worked their way into the Faces' repertoire (partially because the band backed him on his solo albums, too), but that was an important part of their history (plus, the BBC version of "You're My Girl [I Don't Want to Discuss It]" is blistering hot), and while this showcases Stewart at his best -- he never was better than he was in the early '70s, whether it was fronting the Faces or on his solo records -- he never overshadows his mates on this box.

The focus is on the band as a whole, which means that the spotlight is shone on the late, perpetually underappreciated Ronnie Lane numerous times on each of the four discs, and that Ronnie Wood has his turn at the microphone on a wonderful live "Take a Look at the Guy." McLagan's song sequencing may appear to have no logic behind it, since it doesn't group recordings together by either era or scarcity, yet his seemingly haphazard approach makes musical and emotional sense, flowing like a set list yet remarkably maintaining momentum through its four lengthy discs. While it may sound like hyperbole, there's never a dull moment here, not a bad track among these 67 songs -- it's consistent in a way the Faces never were when they were together. It's a joyous, addictive listen, too. It sounds like a party, one where everybody's invited and where the music doesn't stop playing until the break of dawn. That makes a perfect tribute for a band that never got the respect they were due, and never made the great album they should have made. With Five Guys Walk into a Bar..., the Faces finally have that great album and not just that, they have a box set that's as infectious and satisfying as any classic rock & roll album and a box set that's quite possibly the greatest box set ever made. Plus, it's just one hell of a good time.
[A]= First Step (March 1970)
[B]= Long Player (February 1971)
[C]= A Nod Is as Good as a Wink...To a Blind Horse (November 1971)
[D]= Ooh La La (March 1973)
[E]= Coast to Coast: Overture and Beginners (December 1973)
[F]= The Faces' Last Sessions (January 1975)
Disc 1
"Flying" (Ronnie Lane, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [A]
"On The Beach" (Ronnie Lane and Ron Wood) [B]
"Too Bad" (Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [C]
"If I'm On The Late Side" (Ronnie Lane and Rod Stewart) [D]
"Debris" (Ronnie Lane) [C]"Jealous Guy" (John Lennon) [outtake from D]
"Evil" (W. Dixon) [Rehearsal, 1969]
"As Long As You Tell Him" (Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [B-side single, 1975]
"Maggie May" (M. Quittenton and Rod Stewart) [Live/BBC, 1971]
"Cindy Incidentally" [Alternate Mix] (Ian McLagan, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [outtake from D]
"Maybe I'm Amazed" (Paul McCartney) [Live/BBC, 1971]
"Insurance" (Ronnie Lane and Ron Wood) [outtake from D]
"I Came Looking For You"+ (Ronnie Lane) [Rehearsal, 1971]
"Last Orders Please" (Ronnie Lane) [C]
"Wyndlesham Bay (Jodie)" (Ian McLagan, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [outtake from D]
"I Can Feel The Fire" (Ron Wood) [Live, 1975]
"Tonight's Number"++ (Ronnie Lane and Ron Wood) [from Mahoney's Last Stand, 1976]
"Come See Me Baby (The Cheater)" (Ian McLagan, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [outtake from D]

+ performed by Ronnie Lane and Ian McLagan
++ performed by Ronnie Lane and Ronnie Wood
Disc 2
"Pool Hall Richard" (Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [A-side single, 1973]
"You're My Girl (I Don't Want To Discuss It)" (Dick Cooper, Ernie Shelby, Beth Beatty) [Live/BBC, 1973]
"Glad and Sorry" (Ronnie Lane) [D]
"Shake, Shudder, Shiver" (Ronnie Lane and Ron Wood) [Rehearsal, 1969]
"Miss Judy's Farm" (Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [Live/BBC, 1973]
"Richmond" (Ronnie Lane) [B]
"That's All You Need" (Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [C]
"Rear Wheel Skid" (K. Jones, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan and Ron Wood) [B-side single, 1970]
"Maybe I'm Amazed" (Paul McCartney) [A-side single, 1971]
"(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want To Be Right" (Homer Banks, Carl Hampton and R. Jackson) [outtake from D]
"Take A Look At The Guy" (Ron Wood) [Live, 1975]
"Flags and Banners" (Ronnie Lane and Rod Stewart) [D]
"Bad 'N' Ruin" (Ian McLagan and Rod Stewart) [Live/BBC, 1971]
"Around The Plynth" (Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [A]
"Sweet Lady Mary" (Ronnie Lane, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [B]
"Had Me A Real Good Time" (Ronnie Lane, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [B]
"Cut Across Shorty" (Marijohn Wilkin and Wayne Walker) [Live/BBC, 1971]
* Sorry but these 6 tracks are missing from this .rar. I will work to correct as soon as I can dig up the backups. Thks to Dr Hank for catching it. T  3/30/12
Disc 3
"You're So Rude" (Ronnie Lane and Ian McLagan) [C]
"(I Know) I'm Losing You" (Cornelius Grant, Eddie Holland, Norman Whitfield) [Live/BBC, 1971]
"Love Lives Here" (Ronnie Lane, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [C]
"I'd Rather Go Blind" (Bill Foster, Ellington Jordan) [Live, 1975]
"Hi-Heel Sneakers" (Robert Higginbotham) / "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" (Solomon Burke, Bert Berns, Jerry Wexler) [F]
"Gettin' Hungry" (Brian Wilson, Mike Love) [F]
"Silicone Grown" (Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [D]
"Oh Lord I'm Browned Off" (K. Jones, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan and Ron Wood) [B-side single, 1971]
"Just Another Honky" (Ronnie Lane) [D]
"Open To Ideas" (Ian McLagan, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [F]
"Skewiff (Mend the Fuse)" (K. Jones, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan and Ron Wood) [B-side single, 1973]
"Too Bad" (Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [Live, 1972]
"Rock Me" (Ian McLagan) [F]
"Angel" (Jimi Hendrix) [Live/BBC, 1973]
"Stay With Me" (Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [Live/BBC, 1971]
"Ooh La La" (Ronnie Lane and Ron Wood) [D]
Disc 4
"The Stealer" (Paul Rodgers, Andy Fraser, Paul Kossoff) [Live/BBC, 1973]
"Around the Plynth" (Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) / "Gasoline Alley" (Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [Live/BBC, 1970]
"You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything (Even Take the Dog For a Walk, Mend a Fuse, Fold Away the Ironing Board, or Any Other Domestic Shortcomings)" (K. Jones, Ian McLagan, Rod Stewart, Ron Wood and T. Yamauchi) [A-side single, 1975]
"I Wish It Would Rain" (Barrett Strong, Norman Whitfield, Roger Penzabene) [Live B-side single, 1973]
"Miss Judy's Farm" (Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [Live/BBC, 1971]"Love In Vain" (Robert Johnson) [Live/BBC, 1971]
"My Fault" (Ian McLagan, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [Live/BBC, 1973]
"I Feel So Good" (Big Bill Broonzy) [Rehearsal, 1969]
"Miss Judy's Farm" (Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [C]
"Three Button Hand Me Down" (Ian McLagan and Rod Stewart) [A]
"Cindy Incidentally" (Ian McLagan, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [D]
"Borstal Boys" (Ian McLagan, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [D]
"Flying" (Ronnie Lane, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [Live/BBC, 1970]
"Bad 'N' Ruin" (Ian McLagan and Rod Stewart) [B]
"Dishevelment Blues" (K. Jones, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [promotional flexi-disc, 1973]
"Stay With Me" (Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) [C]
Get it HERE
Get it HERE
Get it HERE
Get it HERE


dugg said...

wow what a treat!
Thanks for the chance to hear this set...
all the best,

Trustar said...

Thanks for dropping in Dugg.
Glad you were diggin' it.


Anonymous said...

can this be re-upped?

Much Obliged.


Dr Hank said...

Brilliant post! Thanks a bunch! It's going to be wonderful to hear all the unreleased stuff. Just a small comment: the rar archive for disc 2 seems to be missing the last seven songs.

Dr Hank

Trustar said...

Dr Hank

Thanks for the heads up on the ugly trim on disk 2. This has been accessed uncountable times but nobody has flagged the error. This was not my original .rar but it is my fault for not checking it closer. I will need to do some digging to mend the error of my ways.


buzzbabyjesus said...

Nice write up. I actually bought this, and all your hyperbole is spot on. Not long after purchasing, I randomly met Ian McLagan and thanked him for his good work. He noted that Rod hadn't bothered to do that.