The early 70s were a weird time. Elton John had some natural hair, David Bowie was a genderless alien and Britain’s best pop band were four Brummies with an in-built spelling disorder. Most strange to modern ears though is the fact that, back then, Rod Stewart was actually listenable. His solo albums were ballad-heavy, but still comparatively listenable, but his very best stuff was recorded as a member of The Faces.
For reasons still unexplained Good Boys… was the first compilation of Faces material released on CD and it solidly tells the story of one of the most curiously overlooked bands of the era. Unlike many of their contemporaries, The Faces never enjoyed a nostalgia-fueled wave of interest during the 90s (though The Black Crowes were evidently fans), though that is possibly down to the fact that Rod Stewart remains one of the most unfashionable performers on the planet. To a point this is unfair on his former band, as Stewart was only one part of this great little band. In Ron Wood he had a glorious guitar foil, in Ronnie Lane he had one of the great lyricists in the country, Ian McLagan was no slouch on the organ (Check out the Band-like keyboard intro to “Wicked Messenger”) and Kenney Jones was a solid and unfussy drummer.
The Faces could either swagger meaningfully or stagger drunkenly. The majority of their Stewart-fronted tracks are laddish party, birds’n’booze fueled singalongs, but they were some of the very best at it. “Three Button Hand Me Down”, “Had Me A Real Good Time”, “Cindy Incidentally” and “Pool Hall Richard” are all solid rockers that The Rolling Stones would have been proud of. Their best rocker though also turns out to be their biggest hit here in the UK, the quite brilliant “Stay With Me” – one of the best rock and roll songs to come out of the UK in the early 70s. It wasn’t all arrogant swagger though, as a number of Non-Stewart fronted numbers here demonstrate. These songs are considerably more reflective and calmer. “Debris” is one of the key Faces tracks and “Ooh La La” is the song I want played over the credits when they finally make the documentary about my life.
At the end of the day The Faces fell between two stools. Their albums were never really consistent enough to be totally satisfying, but they were hit and miss when it came to singles, with Stewart’s solo singles usually easily outselling The Faces, despite the fact that Stewart was usually backed by the rest of the band on his early solo albums. Stewart also cracked the American market, something which The Faces would never really do. The Faces’ main strength was as a live act where their swaggering rockers and soulful singalongs sounded best. This chronological compilation of wonderfully remastered tracks traces their career through their singles and choice album cuts, sadly their are no live tracks. Perhaps they’ll never receive the wave of nostalgic interest that they so rightly deserve, but this compilation makes a great case for them.