Faces Remaster All Four Studio Albums, Plus Rarities On ‘You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything’ (1970-1975) Box Set

Compared to the splendidly comprehensive scholarship that is the four-CD hardbound set, Five Guys Walk Into a Bar from 2004,  the five-disc box You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything (1970-1975), (released at least in part to coincide with a benefit reunion of the surviving members) is a magnificent curio. The story of the Faces writ so large on the former, in the combination of official recordings, outtakes and live cuts—plus the  passionately insightful essays by David Fricke, among others–is here distilled into compact discs (and vinyl if you choose) , replicating the original albums in artwork and song sequence. Supplemented by bonus material on the former configuration, some of which is new and some of which overlaps its predecessor, all the music is digitally remastered and thus further boosts the impact of a band’s music.

First Step: A debut album perfectly representative of this band’s oeuvre, at least in theory, the mix of originals finds bassist Ronnie Lane, not surprisingly, writing the most well-crafted songs and, like “Devotion,” they are generally as subdued as they are heartfelt. Lane also collaborates with his bandmates in various combinations, which take the form of rambunctious, riff-laden rock such as “Shake Shudder and Shiver,” (on which the band  constantly threatens to fall apart but never does) as well as the more folksy likes of “Stone” that presages his solo career. The opener of Bob Dylan’s “Wicked Messenger” lends an intelligence to the proceedings the group often forsook. Still, astute choices of cover material, as represented by John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy,” on their final album,  buoyed their repertoire as much as does Kenney Jones’ drumming here: it’s more kinetic than much of the playing he did for the Who when he took the place of Keith Moon.

Long Player: Ever so slightly in the background of the cover photo of the debut, Rod Stewart does an admirable job remaining just one of the boys here as blues covers (including, as one of the handful of bonus cuts, Robert Johnson’s “Love In Vain”) blend with Paul McCartney’s  “Maybe I’m Amazed” and another clutch of originals that display more spirit than ingenuity. But if Faces were self-effacing to a fault, they were following the lead of their somewhat reluctant frontman who dominated the proceedings despite himself: alternately heart-wrenching and hilarious, Stewart’s sandpaper voice hit home as deeply as it did precisely because the nonchalance he usually exhibited, when he dropped it for the vulnerable sincerity of “Sweet Lady Mary,” rendered him credible all the way round.

A Nod Is As Good As A Wink: Once described by British publicity as “more devoted to the mayhem as the music,” Faces had just about reached that tipping point with their third studio album, reined in no doubt by the presence of co-producer Glyn Johns. Virtually all vestiges of acoustic/folk strains were gone on this record, the rootsy electricity in evidence throughout a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis” as redolent as Faces’ devil-may-care on their best known tune, “Stay With Me.” But the group remains charmingly convivial here, their collective attitude winsome rather than threatening, romping through “Miss Judy’s Farm” as believably as they tone themselves down for the touching likes of Lane’s “Debris.” The group’s professionalism, such as it was, manifest itself in the sound of their records and Johns’ experience, at this point having worked with the Beatles and the Who as well as Jagger, Richard & co., insured this album packed a wallop, even more so in this version.

Ooh La La: It’s telling the title song of the final Faces is sung by guitarist Ronnie Wood in a cracked dry vocal that’s nonetheless wholly convincing in his recount of “how I wish I’d known then what I know now.” Such unoriginal thinking pervades this reluctant but necessary adieu in the form of “Silicone Grown” and slightly less so in “Cindy Incidentally.” To their credit, Faces never allowed themselves to become completely jaded, but the latter, which sounds like nothing so much as the backing track to “Memphis” with different words,  is as pale an imitation of themselves as the recorded sound is a thin replication of its predecessor’s mix. And apart from the aforementioned cuts  that sound more energetic in the alternate versions that add so much to this reissue, Ronnie Lane material such as the bittersweet loveliness of  “Glad and Sorry ”dominates the latter third of this album, as sure a sign as any of the absence of interest on the part of Rod the Mod, a superstar in his own right at this point in 1973, and Woody, who was already being courted by the Stones (who he would officially join within less than two years).

Stray Singles and B-Sides: Comprised of a mere nine tracks, the fifth CD in this set furthers the impression of the fold-out liner insert, so short on recording and production info it resembles a budget item. Yet what seems a  motley collection on the surface is anything but, boasting as it does tracks such as a live take on “I Wish It Would Rain” with horns (Stewart threw himself more fully into covers in the last stages of Faces’ existence), “Pool Hall Richard” the lurching good-natured likes  of which could define Faces at their upbeat best as well as the sumptuously produced single rendition of McCartney’s last great song: the band played it live first and often before taking it to the studio. There are also a couple instrumentals that reaffirm the core foursome’s debt to Booker T & The MG’s, while a latter day recording, completed with bassist Tetsu Yamauchi after he had taken over from Lane, supplies the roguish title of this box. The lack of gravity within mirrors the execution of  this package as a deceptively stylish snapshot,  rather than a definitive portrait.

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