Tuesday, 29 May 2012

“From The Beginning” DELUXE EDITION by SMALL FACES. A Review Of The June 1967 Decca Records Album Now Remastered & Reissued On A 2012 2CD DELUXE EDITION.

"…It’s Time For A Change…”

Monday 7 May 2012 sees the UK release of a whopping four DELUXE EDITIONS for Small Faces fans (29 May 2012 in the USA for this set) - and the unsanctioned "From The Beginning" compilation has always been a mental and financial sore point for the band.

A slung-together compilation of 7" singles, non-album B-sides, outtakes and works in progress – "From The Beginning" was put out a mere three weeks prior to their proper 2nd album on Immediate Records – the self-titled "Small Faces" (released 23 June 1967). Reeking of a royalties cash-in by ex-manager Don "People in Show Business Spend Money" Arden and contractual arrogance by Decca - it has always been seen by then evolving group as a backwards move and a bit of a 'poor show' frankly. Having said that – history's boil on the arse of the Small Faces catalogue is today's double cream éclair – because this expanded 2CD Deluxe Edition is yet another peach in this superlative run of reissues.

Here are the finite details for Universal/Sanctuary 278 134-1:

Disc 1 (52:47 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 14 are the MONO compilation LP "From The Beginning" - released 2 June 1967 in the UK on Decca LK 4879
BONUS TRACKS (15 to 19):
"Almost Grown" (15), "Understanding" (16), "I Can't Dance With You" (17), "I Can't Make It" (18) and "Just Passing" (19)

Disc 1 will also allow fans to line up the 4 x UK 7" singles that were issued (in Mono) around the LP (track number after title):
1. Hey Girl (6) b/w Almost Grown (15) - released 6 May 1966 on Decca F 12393
2. All Or Nothing (9) b/w Understanding (16) - released 5 August 1966 on Decca F 12470
3. My Mind's Eye (2) b/w I Can't Dance With You (17) - released 11 November 1966 on Decca F 12500
4. I Can't Make It (18) b/w Just Passing (19) – released 3 March 1967 on Decca F 12565

Disc 2 (53:54 minutes):
1. Runaway [Stereo]
2. That Man (Alternate Mix) [Mono]
3. Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Alternate Mix) [Mono]
4. My Mind’s Eye (Alternate Mix In Electronically Reprocessed Stereo)
5. Picanniny (Backing Track) [Mono]
6. Hey Girl (Different Version) [Mono]
7. Take This Hurt Off Me (Different Version) [Mono]
8. Baby Don’t You Do It (Different Version) [Mono]
9. All Or Nothing (Alternate Mix In Electronically Reprocessed Stereo)
10. Understanding (Alternate Mix In Electronically Reprocessed Stereo)
11. Take To You (Take 5 – Backing Track) [Mono]
12. All Our Yesterdays (Take 7 – Backing Track) [Mono]
13. (Tell Me) Have You Ever Seen Me (Alternate Take 2) [Mono]
14. Show Me The Way (Take 3 – Backing Track) [Mono]
15. I Can’t Make It (Take 11 – Backing Track) [Mono]
16. Things Are Going To Get Better (Take 14) [Mono]
Tracks 1-3, 5 and 11-16 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED VERSIONS
Tracks 4, 9 and 10 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED ON CD

The 1996 Universal single disc reissue of "From The Beginning" had 5 bonus tracks – only 2 of which turn up here – the 'Different Versions' of "Take This Hurt Off Me" and "Baby Don't You Do It" (tracks 7 and 8 on Disc 2). The other three "My Mind’s Eye (French EP Version)", "Hey Girl (French EP Version)" and "What'cha Gonna Do About It (BBC Session Recoding)" are NOT on here (so don't throw away that CD just yet). Also that other 7" Decca single that would have fit the 1966-1967 time frame - "Patterns" b/w "E Too D" – has been moved onto the "Small Faces (Decca Album)" DELUXE EDITION. However - it's worth noting that according to ROB CAIGAR who oversaw these reissues – the missing/straggler tracks on this and the other 3 x double-editions will probably turn up on a SMALL FACES box set due later in 2012. That box will also feature more unreleased/related stuff – and again from best sources.

As a weary-veteran of all too many lacklustre booklets in DELUXE EDITIONS by Universal (the patchy Lizzy reissues come to mind - a feeling of what we can get away with) – this is first time I’ve seen them put in genuine effort and the results are BEAUTIFUL. The 24-page booklet is going to come as a shock to fans - properly gorgeous colour reproductions of picture sleeves from Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Japan, Rave and Fab 208 magazine covers, early years gig posters, 7" Demos, trade adverts, reviews from Musical Express, Olympia and Decca Master Tape Boxes and other assorted publicity photos. The new liner notes are by respected writer MARK PAYTRESS and are filled with facts and recent interviews with Jones and McLagan. There's more period reviews on the fold-out flaps and beneath each see-through CD tray is the 1967 unboxed red Decca label for the original British LP (Side 1 and 2). It's 'so' well done. OK – you could say that if Bear Family was doing this then the booklet would be 64 pages and not 24 – and each of those gorgeous Picture Sleeves (usually in the hands of die-hard collectors) would have been given a page each giving you a real feel for the period. But what is here is the best they've ever done - and I can't help but think that awards may be on the horizon for the sheer quality of presentation…

But the real meat for fans will be the NEW REMASTERS from best-ever sources and overseen by surviving members of the band - KENNEY JONES and IAN McLAGAN. Tape Research and Recovery is by ROB CAIGER, Tape Restoration and Transfer from Analogue is by ROB KAYLACH and Mastering by NICK ROBBINS. Punchy, dynamic, the power of so many of these MONO tracks hasn't diminished a jot as the years have passed – Steve Marriott on "All Or Nothing", Ronnie Lane on "That Man" – Kenny Lynch singing backing on "Sha La La La Lee". And the singles are killer too – especially B-sides like the instrumental "Almost Grown" and the whimsical "Just Passing" giving an indication of the "Ogdens" period to come.

It opens well - their Small Faces stamp on Del Shannon's "Runaway" and the Alternate Takes of "That Man" and "Yesterday…" sound like The Who's early years (not a bad thing in any man's book). Their own identity finally turns up on an Alternate Take of "My Mind's Eye" while the backing track for "Picanniny" sounds like The Animals enjoying a Sixties R'n'B moment – great stuff. Their crudely-recorded cover version of Marvin Gaye's "Baby Don't Do It" is sung by original band member Jimmy Winston and is fantastic in a lo-fi garage 45 kind-of-way – absolute reeking of Sixties piss and vinegar. I had thought that the set of 'backing track' versions would be filler (some are) – but hearing Marriott's choppy guitar isolated on "Talk To You" is a blast. The band count in on "Show Me The Way" and the clarity of instruments is amazing – but it's short at just over one-minute - and the two-minutes of "All Our Yesterdays" could also be lived without too. But Disc 2 ends on a real high – Take 14 of "Things Are Going To Get Better" in glorious sound quality – an irresistibly catchy tune. I've played this in the shop a few times and customers have flipped for it (lyrics from it title this review)…

To sum up – the band may have hated "From The Beginning" because it represented where they’d been rather than where they were going. But it has to be said that in terms of sound and sheer presentation – this new 2012 2CD DELUXE EDITION and the first Decca album are equal to their more revered Immediate sets. Up their with The Kinks reissues of 2011 – these are absolute must owns.

As Steve Marriott sang "...Things are going to get better..." – well they have. Congrats to all involved…

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