The Small Faces “The Immediate Years” (Charly Records, 1995)
Small Faces, Big Box! Twenty Years On And Still Essential!
It simply doesn’t seem possible that more than twenty years have passed since I walked into the local record shop and picked up the four CD box set by The Small Faces that I had ordered a week or so previous. The box itself was a lift lid on Charly Records and looked nearly identical to the label’s 1993 four CD set by The Yardbirds, “Train Kept A Rollin’”. Holding the box in my hands the photo of the band and the set’s title with “small faces” in large font caught my eye. Even before lifting the box lid I perused the track listing on the back of the box, my mind racing at the plethora of incredible tunes listed. Not only were all the band’s tunes recorded and released on Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate label included, but single sides issued jointly by Immediate and the band’s previous label, Decca, were included as well. The time had arrived to explore the box’s contents.
Unlike the earlier Yardbirds box set no tee shirt was included so the booklet and jewel case enclosed discs bounced around a bit, but only a bit. The booklet immediately caught my eye. Upon opening, the set’s 86 tracks are documented, with songwriting credit, original date of release and whether the tune is presented in mono or stereo. Quite an impressive sight I assure you, especially in 1995, predating even Big Beat’s 1997 “Zombie Heaven”, the benchmark to which subsequent box sets have been held. It came as no surprise that “notes from the compiler” disclosed that like The Yardbirds box, “The Immediate Years” was compiled by Phil Cohen, a reassuring sign.
As for the music itself, Disc One opens with two tracks by The Moments, Steve Marriott’s pre-Small Faces band presented here for their historical importance. Next up are the single tracks which were issued jointly by Decca and Immediate, including the rhythm and blues stompers “Whatcha Gonna Do About It” and “Sha La La La Lee” as well as the band’s earliest endeavors into a heavier, more psychedelic sound on tracks such as “My Mind’s Eye”, a #4 UK hit, and the band’s only UK chart topper “All Or Nothing”. The band’s move to Immediate begins with its #12 hit “Here Come The Nice” written about the band’s amphetamine connection. Next up is “Itchycoo Park”, probably the best known song by The Small Faces with its distinctive heavily phased sound. It reached #3 on the UK charts and was the group’s only US hit peaking at #16 in 1967. The band’s musical prowess continued to grow evidenced by the incredible guitar driven “Tin Soldier” a #9 hit for the band. “Lazy Sunday” was a mellower, but melodic, song than its predecessors. It certainly caught the public’s attention, climbing to #2. “The Universal” was recorded in Marriott’s back yard. The song which topped at #16 features Steve’s dog barking. Sadly, the band’s tour de force single “Afterglow Of Your Love” with its heavy guitar and introspective lyrics was not released until after Marriott had left the band to form Humble Pie with guitarist/vocalist Peter Frampton of The Herd. With no band to promote or tour the song it stalled at #36. All the single mixes on disc one, a and b sides alike are presented in their original mono mixes.
Disc Two opens with stereo versions of the single sides from “I Can’t Make It” and “Just Passing” which were also released by Decca to the Immediate only releases such “Here Come The Nice”, “Itchycoo Park”, and “Tin Soldier”. The only single not presented in stereo is “Afterglow Of Your Love” which was only released in mono at the time. Small Faces’ third LP, first for Immediate, “Small Faces” is presented in stereo. This album is for me their most consistent containing strong tracks like “(Tell Me) Have You Ever Seen Me”, “Green Circles” and “Eddie’s Dreaming”. The stereo mixes contrast quite nicely with the mono mixes of the singles on the first disc.
Disc Three consists of Small Faces’ #1 LP, the classic “Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake” and its classic tracks such as the instrumental title track, a retitled “Afterglow (Of Your Love)”, “Lazy Sunday”, another personal favorite “Song Of A Baker” and “Rollin’ Over”. The album mixed one side of conventional songs while the other side contained tunes intertwined with narration by comedian Stanley Unwin. Unusual to say the least, but it worked well becoming The Small Faces’ lone chart topping album, released in highly expanded three CD Deluxe Edition in 2012. Along with “Ogden’s” twelve tracks are the five tracks recorded live at Newcastle City Hall in 1968 which were eventually released in 1969 in the UK on the 2 LP set “The Autumn Stone” and in Germany on the single LP “In Memoriam”. Interestingly, among the live tracks are rocking band originals “Tin Soldier”, “All Or Nothing” and “Rollin’ Over” and two covers, Tim Hardin’s “If I Were A Carpenter” and Ed Cobb’s “Every Little Bit Hurts” making for a good mixture of old and new material, performed with equal zeal and leaving the listener wondering how good this band was capable of becoming.
Disc Four is the rarities element of the set. Many of the tracks found here joined the live recordings on “The Autumn Stone” and “In Memoriam”. Highlights include two mixes each of “The Autumn Stone” and “Collibosher”, “Red Balloon”, ”Don’t Burst My Bubble”, “Wide Eyed Girl On The Wall” and “Call It Something Nice”, the five studio tracks used for “In Memoriam”. Beyond this, rarities include instrumental versions of “Tin Soldier” and “A Hungry Intruder”, a track, “Picaninny” which features both Marriott and Ian McLagan on guitar, a very rare occurrence in the studio, a US only mix of “Green Circles” and a demo of “Wham, Bam, Thank You Mam”. Compiler Phil Cohen included every song released by Immediate in the UK, USA and Germany. As for the sound, it may not be state of the art, but it sounds pretty doggoned good to my ears. It was released in 1995 so Cedar sound reduction was used, just to let you know. But it sounds fine to me and the scope of this release makes it an essential element of Small Faces fans collections.
The 52 page booklet also includes a large section reprinted from Record Collector, a Small Faces Immediate years discography including charting information, a nice essay by compiler Cohen, lots and lots of press clippings and photos and a genuine Pete Frame family tree to top it all off. While this box set was released in 1995 copies of it, new and used, are available from places like Amazon.com and Discogs.com and are most certainly worth pursuing. The “Here Come The Nice” box set contains an incredible amount of unreleased Immediate years material, whereas this set contains all the material released on Immediate originally, along with tracks from posthumous compilations making it the perfect companion to the 2014 box set. My bottom line recommendation is in favorite of The Small Faces Hat Trick of Box Sets, “The Immediate Years”, “Here Come The Nice” and “The Decca Years”. You know the old saying good things always come in threes. You couldn’t find a more perfect example.
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