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2023/4 Albums Thing 315 - Small Faces “Small Faces (Immediate)”

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The Small Faces had been managed by notorious manager Don Arden. Arden cut his managerial teeth as the UK representative for rock ‘n’ rollers like Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. One of his henchmen/sidekicks was future legendary Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant. When the teenage Small Faces signed with Arden they were too young to sign the contract themselves and their parents had to countersign for them. Arden immediately opened accounts for them at all the best Carnaby Street Mod boutiques. But after half a dozen hit singles and a hit album they all realised that they might be very well dressed but they had no money.

In January 1967 they were extricated from their contracts with Arden and Decca Records by their new manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, who signed them to his own record label, Immediate. They had already begun recording a new album for Decca and that was finished off with Immediate and released as their second eponymously titled LP. It was recorded over a very lengthy (at the time) 9 months and between Marriott, Lane, McLagan and their housemate Mick O'Sullivan all the songs were written in house this time (at the time the band projected the image that they all lived in the same house in Pimlico. Kenney Jones never lived there as he was married so perhaps Mick was there to give the appearance that all four of the band were in the house and got himself in on the songwriting action). 

Where their first album was very much the British R&B sound that was in vogue at the time on this second record the Small Faces begin to spread their wings. It begins with the rip-roaring Mod Pop of “(Tell Me) Have You Ever Seen Me” a song which had been released as a single a couple of weeks before this album by soon to be label mates the Apostolic Intervention (whose drummer Jerry Shirley would join Steve Marriott in Humble Pie a couple of years later). Once again with a Small Faces album track (see “Sorry She’s Mine” on their first album) the cover version is better than the original artist version.

The next 2 songs, “Something I Want To Tell You” and “Feeling Lonely”, demonstrate why, if you’re going to get yourself a copy of this album get a Mono copy as the stereo mixes are horrible with half the band in one channel and the rest in another, it doesn’t sound good. “Happy Boys Happy” is a cool uptempo instrumental by Ian McLagan and Side 1 ends with the bands first real plunge into psychedelia, “Green Circles”. This is where Mick O'Sullivan gets his writing credit on a song inspired by an LSD experience.

Side 2 begins with the acoustic, almost folky, “Become Like You” which is followed by the much more Small Faces-like “Get Yourself Together”, a song that was covered by The Jam but this time the original is the better take. “All Of Our Yesterdays” features one of my favourite intros with Marriott in finest Artful Dodger mode (he played the part in the original West End stage production of “Oliver!” In 1960, alongside a rotating cast including Phil Collins and Davy Jones of the Monkees, and sang the part on the original cast recording, have a listen https://youtu.be/NNRuASgNV6Q?si=vVy1YzX6VWXwR9Y8) barking out “And now for your delight,, The darling of Wapping Wharf launderette, Ronald Leafy a-Lane” and thus handing the band a nickname they’re known by still, The Darlings of Wapping Wharf Laundrette.

“Talk To You” cracks out the guitars and adds a soulful Marriot vocal; “Show Me The Way” is Baroque pop based around a Harpsichord; McLagan’s “Up The Wooden Hills To Bedfordshire” is a psychedelic lullaby based on a phrase I’m sure not just my parents used to say to me when I was a kid and everything comes to a close with the East End calypso of “Eddie’s Dreaming”, the album ending on two songs about sleep.

3 weeks before the release of this album Decca Records in conjunction with Don Arden issued “From The Beginning” a collection of B-sides and outtakes with the idea of scuppering the “Small Faces (Immediate)” chart chances. “Small Faces (Decca)” had reached #3 on the charts in 1965. “From The Beginning” made #17 and “Small Faces (Immediate)” peaked at #11. Strangely it does not feature a big hit single. It was released between the hits “Here Come The Nice” (#12) and “Itchycoo Park” (#3), which may also have affected its chart position. So it would appear that “From The Beginning” did just what Arden and Decca wanted it to…bastards!

This album is a much stronger record (to my ears anyway) than it’s Decca namesake, if a little less focussed in its sound. I’m not having a go at Ronnie Lane in any way but he takes lead vocal on too many songs, when you have a voice like Marriott’s in your midst then you use it. The Small Faces were becoming better songwriters and feeling out where they could go. It would all come together on their next album.

Green Circles - https://youtu.be/1o1i-gkhfJU?si=JZZAkoUxehMwkdgD

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