dinsdag 18 oktober 2016

Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake. The Small Faces

Again Wo. takes you back to the year he got to know music in a serious way after he discovered the Veronica Top 40 in October of 1968. In about a year music entered his infant brain that never let go again and laid the foundation for all that was to come. In the first half of 1969 The Small Faces scored its last hit, 'Afterglow of Your Love', before Steve Marriott surfaced in another band that will be reviewed soon after. First, Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake.

I must have heard 'Afterglow Of Your Love' at the time, but I don't have any recollection of it. Listening back it is a stereotype The Small Faces hit song and a presage of 'Stay With Me', the Faces' biggest hit in The Netherlands. In other words it is an extremely good song. The other hitsingle of this album, 'Lazy Sunday', although datewise from spring 1968, certainly was one of my favourites of the day, with Blue Cheer's 'Summertime Blues'. Beyond that I simply can't recollect whether I knew the band's older hits at that time or not. 'The story of The Small Faces', a radioshow broadcasted in 1975 or 76, made up the cassette with all the hits that I played for years on end.

Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake is one of the albums that do not fit the mould I set myself when I started over two years ago with this series. I have the cd for quite some years and did not really like, I'll admit. In 2016 I set myself to listen with some fresh ears, as it has been at least over a decade since I listened to it last.

The album starts with an instrumental track. Yes, I'm thinking, I don't remember that at all. It is a pumped up rock song as The Small Faces made, with a loud rocking sound and some violins mixed in for a different effect. It makes me realise that I don't have any LPs of the band, except a reunion one from the late 70s. Never seen them even perhaps around the late 70s and early 80s when I started to have the money to buy albums and did.

The second song is called 'Afterglow' on the cd/lp. It starts as a folk tune that explodes into a heavy rock song. Ian McLagan's organ is hard, loud, the rhythm section, Kenny Jones and Ronnie Lane are all over the place. That Jones became the drummer of The Who later on is only logical. His fills are all over 'Afterglow'. What sets The Small Faces apart even more, is the rough voice of Steve Marriott. Still a young man here, his vocal chords sound like they've been run over by a bus on a daily basis for the past 50 years.

What amazes me is that I did not think 'Afterglow' was a good song for years on end. I totally do not agree with my younger self at all. 'Afterglow' has everything that makes this band so good. The fact that there is an alternative start in an acoustic folk setting, tells a lot. The soft verses, building up to the scorching choruses, is how this way this band built up its signature hitsingles. And might have for years to come if they hadn't split up. The tandem Marriott/Lane wrote several brilliant songs of which this is one. The Police and Nirvana knew their The Small Faces. I think there's no denying. One straight line.

There's more to it than just this dynamics trick. Ian McLagan contributes 'Long Ago And Worlds Apart', which is far more down to earth in one way while the other part is floating around on a psychedelic trip left over from 1967. A mood this band caught in a totally different way than others. The members describe their adventures into their minds in a very direct and rocking way.

And this band is from London. The way Steve Marriot sings in 'Rene', a form of song stemming from music made long, long before the swinging 60s, is pure Cockney. Modern influences are spread out over de dance hall days sort of song, when it slowly morphs into another rock song. At heart it may have been presented to Henry VIII.

Then a song burst out into, yes, what? 'Wild Thing' relived? The intro is four loud strummed chords, after which the song melodically takes a totally different direction. 'Song Of A Baker' is another of The Small Faces' rock songs. The guitar solo is blistering. Ronnie Lane is singing lead here, but is not that different from Marriott.

The best song on the album simply is 'Lazy Sunday', Cockney again. This trip of a song is on the one hand typical The Small Faces, on the other hand it goes so far beyond what they normally do. This song is a trip of a million little sounds, voices and instruments. There's nothing stopping the band from creating this feel. A lot of thought must have gone in creating it, but the rest was pure intuition and listening to sounds in the head and to get them on the tape. The anything goes sort of song that is so typical for the era. It starts with McLagan's electric piano, as often in a way many hitsingles of The Small Faces started. After that the head simply explodes with impressions and all in just over three minutes. In my country the song went to #1, the only top position for the band. Why this one? I think because of the combination of the over tight playing with the adventure in the rest of the song. There's no way to listen to this song, not singing along, while thinking the whole time: What am I hearing now"? The Small Faces' best song? If not, totally close.

Side 2 of the LP is called 'Happiness Stan', a sort of fairytale written by the band. On the cd I always stopped listening here. To wavy gravy for me. In 2016 that has changed. My ears are tuned differently then circa 20 years ago. Psychedelia is everywhere in music and so there's nothing strange here going on any longer. It's the spoken word sections that keep me from listening to the music.

If 'Born To Be Wild' is recognised as the first heavy metal song, it is not such a strange question to ask what a song like 'Rolling Over' ought to be called. The Small Faces regularly rock out loud on this album. 'Happiness Stan' precedes 'Tommy' by circa a year. 'The Hungry Intruder' is a song that could have been on 'Tommy' for sure.

That this band is good, is proven by 'Mad John'. Compare that to what David Bowie tried to do at the time. 'Mad John' is a folk song with a bite and a twist that makes it fairly unique. There's an attack to the guitar playing that goes way beyond traditional U.K. folk, while in sound instantly recognisable as such. The song is so different from other songs on Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake but just as good.

We're sent on our way with another rock version of something traditional British in song and verse. Something that can be heard with The Kinks in 1968 also, but not this rough. This is a half drink and drunk pub kind of song, 'Happy Days Toy Town' is.

Before summing up, a note of attention to the cover is in order. A beautiful workaround of a tobacco brand from Liverpool from Mr. Ogdens.

In 2016 there's only one conclusion for this album: masterpiece. Yes, the talking is too much for a record, but focussing on the music then it doesn't come much better in rock than this. Not unique, as there are enough references to what other bands in the league just after what The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were doing at the time. Looking solely at The Small Faces it is easy to conclude it was on the top of its game.......and called it quits. A shame or stopped at the top of its success? We'll never know.

Steve Marriot moved to Humble Pie and scored its first and only hit (in The Netherlands) in early summer of 1969. That album is up next in this series soon here on WoNoBlog.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Afterglow' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aueUFhC3Ktg

Wo.

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