The legendary Faces group was comprised of the remnants of the Jeff Beck Group and the Small Faces, becoming one of the premier bands of the 1970s. Drunken shenanigans and fiery stage performances by Ian McLagan, Ronnie Wood, Kenney Jones, Ronnie Lane and Rod Stewart would come to epitomize the decadent and manic rock of the early decade. In the studio, the Faces’ impressive catalog is likewise strewn with amazing moments — songs that hail from both their own discography as well as that of Stewart’s solo catalog, in which the band appears.
Often overshadowed by Rod Stewart’s immense popularity and talent, the Faces were blessed with three other members able to compose their own amazing music. This article compiles what I believe to be finest of their deep cuts, scattered throughout the musicians’ varied catalog of music. Often these songs involve the superior songwriting abilities and melodic sensibilities of bassist Ronnie Lane, as his tracks often made up the backbone and deep emotional content of the group’s catalog.
Beyond the familiar tunes — including “I’m Losing You,” “Stay With Me” and others — there remains a wealth of powerful and underrepresented songs tucked away on b-sides and in the forgotten grooves of LP flip sides. Because the Faces’ four studio albums ran concurrent with Stewart’s solo releases, the band’s album tracks often fell through the cracks unrecognized, but now through the benefit of hindsight these missing pieces can be gloriously revealed. Below I present to you the best of the rest of the Faces, songs that can stand with anything in their impressive catalog, but are for some reason often overlooked …
“IF I’M ON THE LATE SIDE,” (OOH LA LA, 1973): Found on this album’s flip side, “If I’m On the Late Side” spotlights some of the most tender and emotive Stewart vocals captured on a Faces cut. The song is a soulful slice of rhythm and blues done Faces style, with Ronnie Wood’s shimmery Curtis Mayfield-eqsue licks adding a delicate and perfect touch. Lane’s bass shadows Stewart’s longing melody line step for step, while Ian McLagan’s swirling organ and Kenney Jones’ sympathetic clip-clop drumming lay the foundation in which the melodic interplay drapes like a crisp spring sheet.
“AS LONG AS YOU TELL HIM,” (b-side to “YOU CAN MAKE DANCE, SING OR ANYTHING,” 1974): What has to be one of the finest songs in the entire Faces catalog is stashed away on the flip of a long forgotten post-Ronnie Lane seven-inch. “As Long as You Tell Him” balances precariously on a rickety tom-tom based groove. Woody’s clean, yet sticky sweet guitar tone pops like a fresh slab of bubblegum. Midway through the track, Woody then takes over with some icy slide guitar that meshes with the cool runnings of Mac’s breezy organ additions. This is the type of track rock aficionados pine for, a lost classic brimming with magic.
“YOU’RE SO RUDE,” (b-side to “STAY WITH ME”; A NOD IS AS GOOD AS A WINK, 1971): This Lane/McLagan-penned song is a fun and funky track about secretive and illicit sexual meetings as a youngster. Lane’s earnest and conversational vocals, laced with his natural humor and wit, make the song. Co-composer Mac adds a honky-tonk piano and organ. Of note is Woody’s extended and syrupy guitar work at the conclusion of the number. Stewart does not appear on this song. This track is still part of Ian McLagan’s live performances to this day, a comment on the songs importance in his view of the band’s history.
DEVOTION, (FIRST STEP, 1970): A delicate Ronnie Lane song from the band’s debut LP in which Stewart sings and Lane accompanies in a stirring display. The paean of love can be interpreted as a message composed to a higher power, a lover, or close friends. The philosophical aspect of the song is the unique contrast that Lane’s composing added to this often raucous group. “Devotion” somehow missed inclusion on the 2004 Faces box set, Five Guys Walk into a Bar, illustrating that its power and grace is still enigmatic. Sympathetic and attentive accompaniment is the order of the day, as the happily stoned group shows a mastery of concentrated dynamics while shyly revealing their smooth and rounded edges.
“REAR WHEEL SKID,” (b-side to “HAD A REAL GOOD TIME,” 1970): There has to be at least on instrumental represented here, due to the fact the band released quite an array of them throughout their career. Songs like “Pineapple and the Monkey,” “Oh Lord I’m Browned Off” and “Fly in the Ointment” are all wordless musical vehicles for the band. “Rear Wheel Skid” is one of the most accomplished of the bunch, opening with a gritty Lane bass riff and containing a funky and virtuosic Kenney Jones drum display that has been sampled by other artists for their own compositions. The song is credited to all of the members of the group minus Stewart, with each of them lending stellar contributions. Ronnie Wood spreads a smooth layer of slippery slide guitar across the top of the jumpy groove and we are left with a squeal around corners version of one of Faces finest instrumental excursions.
“GLAD AND SORRY,” (OOH LA LA 1973): A fine Ronnie Lane composition from the Faces final studio LP. The song is based and developed around a buoyant and circular piano lick intersected by slashing Wood acoustic guitar interjections. “Glad and Sorry” contains a brilliant band performance where everything comes together perfectly, reveling the soft center beneath the group’s crusty exterior. The song’s lyrics again rely on Lane’s simple lyrical statements that reveal different worlds to the listener through their open-ended interpretations.
While there are a numerous amount of songs that can be labeled with the moniker of deep cut for the Faces, the aforementioned tracks can also be classified as classics — tracks that can be placed with the very best of that their discography offers. Blessed with the composing abilities of three prolific artists in Lane, Wood and Stewart, the Faces’ music reflected the diverse observations and beliefs of each of these principals. For a short musical time, the wealth of material being created by the band, in addition to the popularity of the group, overwhelmed and obscured some of their most beautiful music.