The Small Faces “There Are But Four Small Faces”

As it has been said many times before, The Small Faces were, undoubtedly, one of Britain’s most influential rock bands.  Despite being together for only four years in their original incarnation, The Small Faces have gone on to be remembered as one of the most important British bands of the mod/psychedelic era.  Combining the best-of-the-best American soul and R&B and their own special brand of British Beat (and later, psychedelic rock), The Small Faces were definitely unique.  And what is there to say about Steve Marriott that hasn’t been said before?  In many peoples’ opinions, he was the greatest rock & roll singer who ever lived.

1967’s There Are But Four Small Faces holds a special place in my record collection.  Unlike some albums of the same era, this album has held up well without sounding too dated.  Side one kicks off with the flower power classic “Itchycoo Park”.  With its use of tape effects and flanging, it was a song that sounded totally out of this world at the time of its release.  It was also the only major US hit The Small Faces would enjoy in their brief career, reaching a respectable #16 on the Billboard Hot 100.  There was so much more to this band worthy of “hit status” than just that song, though.

“I Feel Much Better”, which closes side one of the LP, contains one of the very first “breakdowns” in hard rock.  The end of the song closes with such power and intensity that it leaves the listener begging for more.  We weren’t used to that much power in a rock song until about two years later when a little band called Led Zeppelin exploded on the music scene.  “I Feel Much Better” was ahead of its time. Side two starts off with one of the most powerful songs ever recorded, “Tin Soldier”.  Originally written for singer PP Arnold (who is heard singing back-up vocals on the track), “Tin Soldier” is a song about unrequited love (and not a sappy one, at that).  Steve Marriott sings this with such fiery passion that it sounds like a man ripping his heart out of his chest, putting it on his sleeve, and begging to be loved by the woman of his dreams.  A masterpiece.  There are very few songs which have made some sort of a spiritual impact on me, but this is definitely one of them.  Listening to “Tin Soldier” is a near religious experience.

“Here Come The Nice” is another lost psych gem.  A drug-influenced song, for sure, it’s about a dealer who’s apparently “always there if you need some speed”.  But, if not for the obvious drug references, “Here Come The Nice” had the potential of being another big hit single, based on its catchiness alone.

Steve Marriott went on to form Humble Pie, and Rod Stewart was brought in to the Faces as his replacement where they enjoyed continued success.  To many, however, nothing compared to the Marriott-era Small Faces.  The fact that the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame has neglected to induct this legendary and important band is an atrocity.  Much has been written about the history of this band and its members; the internet is full of information.  If you have the spare time, read up about them…very interesting band.

If you’ve never heard The Small Faces, I’d definitely suggest to start here.  You can’t really go wrong.  To fully appreciate this band, though, one must seek out their entire discography.  Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.  You may have a new favorite band on your hands.

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“I Feel Much Better”

:) Original Vinyl | 1967 | Immediate | search ebay ]
:D CD Reissue | 2006 | JVC Japan | buy here ]

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  • Lynchie from Aberdeen

    “Tin Soldier”has to be on of the greatest songs of all time – as powerful now as it was back in the 60’s. Incredible vocal by Steve Marriot and stupendous Hammond organ by Ian Maclagan.

  • Annie

    I totally agree, YES!! A great review ONCE again by a GREAT reviewer. Katie’s reviews are always super informative and enjoyable to read. Thanks for another great review!!

  • Detroit Pete

    Very true. Both their U.S. b-sides were classic; I feel much better (Itchycoo) and I’m only dreaming (Tin Soldier) go from soft to all out driving power pop codas.

  • Len Liechti

    Nice review, Katie. This was the US version of the Small Faces’ first album for Immediate after their switch from Decca, and in the manner of things back in the day had a different tracklisting from the UK equivalent which was entitled merely Small Faces, five bands being removed and two hit singles A’s and B’s being substituted. Steve Marriott as a vocalist is definitely Marmite; some folks think he was the mutt’s nuts while others think he was an overblown shouter. Personally I’d put him up with Macca, Steve Winwood and the young Alex Chilton as a fine white-boy soul voice. “Tin Soldier” is as good as you’ll ever get.

    Anyone interested in the Small Faces and in Marriott and Ronnie Lane in particular should obtain the excellent book Happy Boys Happy: A Rock History Of The Small Faces And Humble Pie, by Uli Twelker and Roland Schmitt, a couple of German fans who’ve produced the definitive story of Marriott, Lane and Peter Frampton (in faultless English, I should add). This is one of the best rock books I’ve ever read. Marriott’s frustrating post-Pie career until his untimely death in a house fire and Lane’s poignant descent into MS are covered in detail, as is Frampton’s later meteoric rise in the US and almost as rapid fall. Full of detail including even a short essay on Marriott’s guitar collection. Highly recommended.

    Also worthy of attention is the live Humble Pie: Rocking The Fillmore, one of the best live albums ever. Not typical of their studio output as it consists mainly of covers and concert chestnuts, but as a document of Marriott’s voice and Frampton’s silky licks it’s a stirring listen.

  • dividebytube

    Speaking of the Small Faces – don’t forget to check out Ronnie Lane – his solo albums are a wonderful blend of folk and rock. He was a topnotch songwriter as was evident with the Small Faces.

  • Len Liechti

    Yeah, and one of the GREAT bassists as well. Check out his “lead bass” style particularly on “Itchycoo Park” and on The Faces’ “Stay With Me”.

  • Tiffany

    Great review of one of my favorite albums of all time. And what a prescient title. Whenever someone confuses the Small Faces with (Rod Stewart and) the Faces, all a true SF fan has to say is “There were but four Small Faces!”

    They were actually only together for a little over 3 years. The youngest was just 20 when they broke up. But what a body of work they compiled. Given Marriott’s towering talent, it’s easy to overlook the contributions of the others, but they were a band with perfect chemistry, and I can’t imagine them existing without Ronnie’s bass lines and cheeky, happy spirit or without Mac’s keys or Kenney’s unique drumming style anymore than I could imagine them without Marriott’s voice. It’s a travesty and a tragedy that they aren’t remembered as one of the greastest bands of all time.

  • Crystal

    Great review. This is in my top 5 favorite albums of all time.

    Small Faces finally got their first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination last month. Naturally, the American based Hall had to tack on the Faces to the nomination. An American audience wouldn’t know the Small Faces so they want Rod Stewart around for a possible induction. Cowards!

  • Oz

    British through and through, four lads with wit, humour, a hell of a lot of style and songwriting genius added up to one of the greats. Good enough to join the ranks of the Beatles and Stones, Cream et al.

  • LP Dave

    I got to see HUMBLE PIE WITH STEVE & FRAMPTON AT A SMALL OREGON THEATER AND IT JUST BLEW ME AWAY!!!! MARRIOT WAS SPITTNG CRAZY AND FEELING NO PAIN!!and Frampton was so young and played a mean guitar back then,no love songs..It turned out to be a 3 hour show and my ticket cost about $5.00!!Well back to the FACES,one of the most important bands from the 60s love generation and their early stuff was amazeing on vinyl/ I Loved the faces and God Bless them!! They never got the attention like the Beatles or the Stones,but they all were so damn good at playing their own kind or blues-psychedelic-rock!!THE FACES FOREVER AND DO NOT FORGET “HUMBLE PIE’AND ALSO THE SMALL FACES!! HELLO ROD STEWART..JUST ONE BIG HAPPY FAMILY IN TYHE BRITTISH WORLD OF ROCK’N’ROLL!!BAT DOG DAVE 2012

  • Anonymous

    How do you download it

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