...as you'd expect it to be - boozy and sloppy but with its heart definitely in the...
Chris Jones 2004-07-14
You young 'uns out there may be interested to know that, once upon a time, Rod Stewart wasn't just a crooning mum's favourite with a penchant for leggy blondes. He was a proper lead singer in a proper band, with a penchant for leggy blondes. What's more it wasn't even his band. Following the acrimonious departure of Steve Marriott from the Small Faces, Ronnie Lane took the helm. Added to the trio of Lane, Kenney Jones and Ian 'Mac' McLagan were guitarist Ronnie Wood and Rod the Mod. Anyone expecting that dropping the 'Small' from the name meant that they were growing up was sadly deluded. In the short space of 3 years they redefined the word 'loose'. These five guys walked into a bar and never came out.
Compiled by McLagan, Five Guys...is, finally, the box set that the band deserves. It's an alternative picture of a band whose studio albums often fell short of their true worth. Instead it draws on a wealth of BBC live sessions, outtakes and studio rehearsals. The live stuff is exactly as you'd expect it to be - boozy and sloppy but with its heart definitely in the right place. Rough diamonds unearthed include a storming version of McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed". The outtakes and rehearsals don't fare so well. Playing to a crowd these über-lads always put on a show, but locked in with themselves you got the feeling that they were filling time until that bar opened again.
However there's always a bedrock of talent and craftsmanship at the root of these shambolic romps. Lane was a fine writer and Rod's interpretations were definitive. Ronnie Wood seemed to know that he'd be in the Stones one day: their version of "Love In Vain" is note-perfect compared to Keef's (which is more than can be said for their mauling of Free's "The Stealer"). They could do everything from ballads to rockers and the cherrypicking is perfect. Of course, someone had to call closing time, and with Lane jumping ship and Rod's solo career becoming as big as his ego, the fun dissipated within a year.
Their one live album, Overtures and Beginners, featuring new bass player Tetsu, was rightly panned (though the lovely version of the Temptations' "I Wish It Would Rain" comes from that set), but this box more than makes up for the missed opportunity thirty years ago. To David Fricke, editor of Rolling Stone, they were: 'the greatest rock 'n' roll band that ever stumbled and strummed their way across the world'. Well, not quite, but had they sobered up they may have been.