Small Faces

Masters

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"Once upon a time in a land of dreams," during the British blitzkrieg of the mid-'60s, the Small Faces achieved a remarkable amount in a short time. Combining flash mod terminology with their diminutive stature, founders Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane devised a name for their quartet, ultimately rounded out by Ian McLagan and Kenny Jones. For some reason, the band's first singles (including "Whatcha Gonna Do About It" and "I've Got Mine") are discussed in the liner notes, but not included on either disc. Otherwise, a plethora of tunes reside here: the proto-heavy blues Marriott later excavated with Humble Pie is evidenced in "I'm Only Dreaming" and "Tin Soldier" (remade by many, including Uriah Heep). Mostly, the Small Faces recorded brilliant, shimmering pop singles like "Itchycoo Park," dealer-ode "Here Comes the Nice," "I Feel Much Better," and "Donkey Rides a Penny a Glass." The title instrumental to the complex concept LP Ogden's Nut Gone Flake is a ridiculously hip smoothie, forecasting Beastie Boys asides and pornography backdrops. Other greats from that insular masterpiece -- including the Marriott-despised "Lazy Sunday" -- still sound superlative here. The first CD stacks up more hits, but both give an intricate portrait of the Small Faces in full stride. Unbelievable due to the youngness of the band, "Autumn Stone" is an affecting ballad from a time when such pieces possessed weight and universal beauty, not just some schmuck whining about not getting laid. Rod Stewart later joined and the band dropped the "Small," but that's another story not covered here; Masters concerns only a trove of riches no fan of melodic pop should live without.

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