Coast to Coast: Overture and Beginners

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The Faces earned a reputation as one of the rowdiest live acts of their day, cheerfully stopping sloppy but energetic renditions of their songs to kick soccer balls into the audience or lead booze-soaked sing-alongs. It's mystifying, then, that their only official live release, Coast to Coast: Overture and Beginners, is such a lackluster mess. Part of the problem is the dull, murky sound, even by early-'70s standards, which buries the music under a sludgy haze. Even more confusingly, the album only contains three Faces originals: "Stay With Me" (their only Top 40 hit), "Too Bad," and "Borstal Boys," the last two chopped up into medleys. The remainder of the album consists of tracks from Rod Stewart's solo albums and covers of old classic rock and R&B chestnuts, none of which add much to the originals. Worst of all, the performances themselves are so rote. The Faces' studio albums are bursting with good-time camaraderie, but here the good cheer seems forced, which causes the energy to lag repeatedly. Some of that may be due to the absence of original bassist and driving force Ronnie Lane, who quit the band on the eve of the tour during which this was recorded. (His replacement, ex-Free member Tetsu Yamauchi, is competent but unexceptional.) In the intervening years, the Faces themselves disdained this recording as a botch, but sadly, despite much talk to the contrary, a better portrait of their live magic has never surfaced. Until one does, fans will be forced to track down bootlegs or make do with this deeply flawed recording.

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