Small Faces

78 in the Shade

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The Small Faces fared no better on their second try at recapturing their mid-'60s mod glory. The same flaws that dogged Playmates are present here: iffy material, indifferent execution, and bizarre production choices lead the list of major sins. However, where Playmates at least benefited from its creators' roguish charisma, there's little trace of that here. A fleet of guest musicians outnumbers the boys, which isn't a good sign. Once again, the group produces themselves (as Kemastri, a commingling of the members' first names). This time, however, the approach is slicker and more soul-oriented, which results in a curiously clinical effect. It's hard to tell who's doing what; Wings' late six-string ace Jimmy McCulloch is presumably responsible for the chunky, buzzing passages on the otherwise undistinguished "Thinkin' About Love." The pace is decidedly downbeat, because four of the ten songs are ballads -- which wouldn't be a problem if Marriott's voice didn't sound so strained and hoarse. He sounds friskiest on his own original, "Brown Man Do," an impassioned outcry to a racist world ("Who breaks the bricks, but doesn't get the rocks?"), and its more introspective cousin, "Soldier Boy." Of the other originals, the poppy "Stand by Me (Stand by You)" and the rollicking "Over Too Soon" kick up the best steam. Good choices were evidently few and far between, or why would a clunker like "Filthy Rich" merit inclusion? The song features Marriott declaiming jealousy of his flashier, more successful peers over a limp country-rock backing; it's an embarrassing, ignominious end to a great group's story.

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