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READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1971
Overall rating = 10
Booze and blooze all night long. A lot of headbanging and effective riffage with no particular purpose (then again, it's what the Faces are all about).Best song: HAD ME A REAL GOOD TIME
Track listing: 1) Bad 'N' Ruin; 2) Tell Everyone; 3) Sweet Lady Mary; 4) Richmond; 5) Maybe I'm Amazed; 6) Had Me A Real Good Time; 7) On The Beach; 8) I Feel So Good; 9) Jerusalem.
The Faces had entirely worked out their formula on their second LP - so, without further thought, they just named it 'LP' for short. And that formula? Play whatever you want, however you want and for whatever purpose you want. Long Player is essentially 'punk for bluesheads': your typical barroom band guaranteed to give you enough pleasure while you sit and sip at your beer, but - for some perverse reason - elevated to the position of superstars.Oh well. Perverse, maybe, but not accidental. The biggest problem with this record is that it goes for far too long without being completely adequate: there are, like, maybe two or three minor original ideas on the album, and even when they take somebody else's idea, they hardly manage to improve on it. Need proof? Just put on track number five, a live rendition of Paul McCartney's 'Maybe I'm Amazed'. It's actually not bad at all - apart from the fact that Ronnie Lane sings the first verse and he's got even less of a singing voice than Ronnie Wood. But no amount of piano heroics courtesy of Mr McLagan and even no amount of wailing by Rod Stewart himself are gonna make me prefer this version to the original, simply because a song like 'Maybe I'm Amazed' isn't supposed to be played that way. That is, the song is perfectly suited for an arena-rock atmosphere (and it was probably envisaged that way), but it has to be played tight, compact and improvisation-less, just to let the listener catch hold of all the subtle details of the melody. These guys just sound like they had one too many Martinis. 'Just about warming up and getting into it right about here', Rod says at the end, and it seems like the absolute truth - problem is, these guys always sounded like they were 'just about warming up and getting into it right about here'. Nevertheless, the sheer raw enthusiasm of several of the tracks on here and the Faces' instrumental prowess do compensate for the bad, 'distracted' sides of the record. Ronnie Wood opens the album on a great note, with a sneering, ragged riff that constitutes the meat of 'Bad 'N' Ruin', and the band rips into one of the best rockers of their career: Stewart's screams of 'MOTHER YOU WON'T RECOGNIZE ME NOW!' will light the inner fire in your soul and wake the sleeping dragon in your heart, if I might use a couple cliched poetic metaphors. (Actually, I hate cliched poetic metaphors; that's probably why I'm so keen on using them.) And if that's not enough, 'Had Me A Real Good Time', the album's heaviest and most uncompromised track, is even better, with Kenny Jones kicking away with a nearly John Bonham-ish force and the band reveling in their braggard, raunchy style for all its worth. I, for one, wish Stewart's powerhouse vocals were a wee bit higher in the mix (which reminds me of a problem - the glorious word 'shit' is too melodious an epithet to describe the album's production), but then again, maybe it's only for the better: the vocals blend in with the screeching guitars and boogie pianos to form a single, multi-headed monster of a sound. Those who don't seek anything but innovation in music will probably be horrified, but those who emphasize sincerity and effectiveness will be delighted more than a wolf in sight of a lamb. (Today's my day for idiotic metaphors, it seems). And to top it all, Stones' veteran Bobby Keys adds some delightful sax solos in the 'Can't You Hear Me Knocking' vein. Of course, they almost manage to ruin it by including an eight-minute live version of Big Bill Broonzie's 'I Feel So Good', but there are three factors that redeem it: (a) it's a generic blues cover, and who can resist a great generic blues cover?; (b) the boys play like drunk schizophrenics, which is great fun; (c) Rod totally delights in his functions, especially when he fools around with the audience, urging it to sing along. Hmm. I actually see that out of the three reasons above, only the last one can qualify as a pro argument. Never mind, let's move on. The rest of the album is considerably softer - a couple ballads and a couple countryish/folkish ditties. When it comes to ballads (quite funny, that one), it becomes quite clear, at least, to me, what exactly makes a typical folk ballad superate a typical soul ballad. Namely, Lane's 'Tell Everyone' is monotonous, repetitive, simplistic and only highlighted by a sincere enough Stewart vocal delivery, while the entire band's 'Sweet Lady Mary' is a definite highlight of the record: beautiful interplay between acoustic and electric guitars over the background of a swirling, winterish organ is complemented by the most passionate, tender and loving vocals on the entire record. The song is a perfect ballad for your beloved one - just substitute the 'Mary' for whoever you want and whoops, you have your serenade ready. Just don't forget to grab Ronnie Wood along when you head for your beloved one's windows, as nobody but the man is able to play these delightful slide fills in the instrumental part. Ronnie Lane contributes two more forgettable tunes - I've never been able to really get into the stupid, brain-pounding 'On The Beach', and 'Richmond' is only slightly better, with some really impressive steel guitar parts. The steel guitar is also resurrected for the album's big question mark, an instrumental version of the traditional hymn 'Jerusalem' that forms the coda to the album; it sounds like Ronnie Wood recorded it in the studio alone, late at night, and secretly pasted it onto the end of the record so that nobody would guess the fact until it was too late. Don't try to prove I'm wrong. On the other hand, I feel like I'm getting a bit too harsh. After all, dem Faces are dem Faces, 'sall. Dem Faces have to be taken like they have to: with all their flaws and misfires. If you accept the Faces' flaws and misfires as a lawful part of the whole package, you might even understand why the All-Music Guide gave this album a 'best-of-genre' rating. But just one small request of you: before you buy this, buy Sticky Fingers. Please. For me.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1973
Overall rating = 10
Gee, these guys couldn't write an original and/or catchy melody to save their life. But it rocks, and it's a fun kind of sloppiness, too.Best song: BORSTAL BOYS
Track listing: 1) Silicone Grown; 2) Cindy Incidentally; 3) Flags And Banners; 4) My Fault; 5) Borstal Boys; 6) Fly In The Ointment; 7) If I'm On The Late Side; 8) Glad And Sorry; 9) Just Another Honky; 10) Ooh La La.
This was the Faces' fourth and last studio album, and there's not even a single sign of artistic growth or anything like that. Like, you know, it's just a standard Faces record: a bunch of clumsy, erratic, homemade rockers and a bunch of similar-style ballads, and all of this sounds as if they wrote, arranged, recorded and produced the whole record in a pub between endless mugs 'o beer and more serious stuff. No drugs, though. Definitely no signs of drug addiction here. Just booze.Personally, I would prefer listening to contemporary Rod Stewart albums - they're just a wee bit more sensitive, and certainly more carefully arranged. On Ooh La La, you'll never find no pretty mandolins or weird congo beats, and, what's more important, you won't find such a diversity of style or such heartfelt confessions as can be found on the best Stewart albums. On the other hand, one thing that can be said in favour of the Faces is that this album rocks the house down. Well, at least in parts. The record seems to be strangely divided into a 'harder' and a 'softer' side (a trick that Stewart later employed on his post-Wood solo albums, though with far lesser efficiency), and the first side boogies along with much more crunch than ninety-nie percent of anything Rod ever recorded solo: from the ridiculous, exciting power chords of 'Silicone Grown' to the aggressive thunderstorm of 'Borstal Boys', you're just gonna get it. However, it is not the hard rock of the Zeppelin-ish type, nor is it hard rock of the Stones-ish type. The Faces, and their notorious guitarist Ronnie Wood in particular, were far worse trained to match the technical precision of Led Zep, and they were far less inspired songwriters to ever hope to match the impeccable riffs of Keith Richards. Instead, they just put their hopes on spontaneity - you know, stuff a riff here, cross it with another riff there, deafen the audience by booming, crashing drums (Kenney Jones shines throughout, particularly on 'Borstal Boys'), toss off a smutty lyric now and then, and boogie on. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but the question here is really whether you might enjoy music made-on-the-spot or prefer a more accurate approach to songwriting. Me, I have nothing against both approaches, so I'm just as happy with Ooh La La as with my trusty Sticky Fingers. ??? !!!! No, no, of course, I'm joking. How could you ever believe that I'm really able to throw these two together? Sticky Fingers is, and will always be, an absolute classic, a cult favourite, while Ooh La La is just a stupid throwaway. But it is an exciting throwaway, at least. First of all, the boys really give it their all: Rod Stewart shouts at the top of his lungs, Ronnie neglects careful playing in favour of loudness, aggression, and distortion on some tracks and in favour of simplistic, but catchy riffing on the others, and Kenney thumps and bashes just as well as Mick Waller thumped and bashed on Stewart solo albums. And Ian McLagan adds some delicious boogie piano chords in the best traditions of Ian Stewart. Anyway, the first side here is all a massive load of fun. 'Silicone Grown' tackles delicate matters of teenage pregnancy and, well, silicone, and the driving guitar is so powerful and enthralling that you end up not noticing the song's total lack of melody. Then there's the folk-rocker 'Cindy Incidentally' where the guys innocently steal the melody of Dylan's 'I Don't Believe You'. Which actually means that you could be angry at them for ripping off Dylan, but which also means the song is thoroughly enjoyable. Just forget the insincere 'Wood/Stewart/McLagan' credits and pretend they're doing a cover of Dylan, and things will be all right: we all know, don't we, that Rod Stewart is one of the best Dylan imitators? 'Flags And Banners' is somewhat short and strangely confessional. It's also sung by Ronnie Lane, but that's okay, he doesn't ruin this particular number, their most Byrds-ey tune on the album. 'My Fault' has an amusing, chugging melody emphasized by Kenney's war-style drumming, and do not forget, repeat, do not forget, that the song contains the lines that pretty much summarize the entire Faces career: 'If I have to fall on my head/Every night on the week/It's gonna be my fault, no one else'. Of course, the honour of being the fastest, the most pumpin', most energetic, aggressive, spit-fire garage rocker on the album falls to the Faces' copyright version of 'Jailhouse Rock', the wonderful 'Borstal Boys'. Lyrically, it's somewhat more philosophic and certainly much more social-critique-oriented than 'Jailhouse Rock', but who cares? Again, where's the melody? The verses start out fine, in the finest R'n'B traditions, but the refrain sounds as if Rod just keeps forgetting the words and stutters every bit of nonsense ('call out your number, who's a nonconformer, not me babe') that gets into his head. But why worry when this is some of the best chemistry that good ol'-style rock'n'roll can present you? A rip-off it is, but I wish modern bands could make a rip-off that good. Now the second side is just not that interesting for me. Apart from one hard-rock instrumental, the pointless 'Fly In The Ointment' (starts off fine, with a naggin' little riff and some good guitarwork, but soon becomes an unbearable noisy mess), it's all stuffed with Ronnie Lane ballads which are probably okay, but not special. At least the 'hard' side is saved by the boys' drunken, heated-up energy level: these ballads don't seem to preserve the energy (well, ballads aren't supposed to, are they), but they don't compensate with beautiful melodies, either. Okay, 'If I'm On The Late Side' at least has some touching lyrics, and there's a beat that's supposed to remind us of similar (and superior) Stewart efforts, but 'Glad And Sorry' just plain sucks, a bunch of sentimental piano chords backed with feeble vocals. And, of course, there's the famous title track where Lane tells us about his women problems: it's good, and I suppose it can even be moving, in a rather perverse way, but a classic it ain't, just because the melody is so raw and plain unelaborated. In fact, after listening to this record it's easy to understand why the Faces seem to have been completely forgotten over the years. It's good, but it's so inessential and unsubstantial that I don't see anybody but crazy collectors (like your humble servant) rushing out fists first to buy it. And yet, there is some definite charm here which can't be replicated on any other record. Admit it - what other band is able to achieve so much with so few? And don't forget that, even though most of the (hell, all of the) Rolling Stones Seventies' albums are superior to this, Ooh La La is at least not just a piece of product - like It's Only Rock'n'Roll or Some Girls. It all comes straight from the heart of your average snotty rock'n'roll guy. And man! What am I talking about? It has Rod Stewart singing on it and Ronnie Wood playing on it! Go out, get out of your cozy chair and buy this, buy this now before it goes out of print and into the archives!
READER COMMENTS SECTION