The notorious sloppiness of the Faces was apparent on their debut, almost more so on the cover than on the music, as the group was stilled billed as the Small Faces on this 1970 debut although without Steve Marriott in front, and with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood in tow, they were no longer Small. They were now larger than life, or at least mythic, because it’s hard to call an album that concludes with a riotous ode to a hand-me-down suit as larger than life. That was the charm of the Faces, a group who always seemed like the boys next door made good, no matter where next door was. Part of the reason they seemed so relatable was that legendary messiness – after all, it’s hard not to love somebody if they so openly displayed their flaws – but on their debut, it was hard not to see the messiness as merely the result of the old Faces getting accustomed to the new guys. Fresh from their seminal work with Jeff Beck, Rod and Ron bring a healthy dose of Beck’s powerful bastardized blues, bracingly heard on the opening cover of “Bob Dylan’s Wicked Messenger,” but there’s a key difference here; without Beck’s guitar genius, this roar doesn’t sound quite so titanic, it hits in the gut. That can also be heard and Rod and Woody’s “Around the Plynth,” or “Three Button Hand Me Down,” which is ragged rocking at its finest. Combine that with Ronnie Lane and Ian McLagan finding their ways as songwriters in the wake of the Small Faces’ mod implosion, and this goes in even more directions. Lane unveils his gentle, folky side on “Stone,” McLagan kicks in “Looking Out the Window” and “Three Button Hand Me Down.” All these are moments that are good, often great, but the record doesn’t quite gel, yet that doesn’t quite matter. the Faces is a band that proves that sometimes loose ends are as great as tidiness, that living in the moment is what’s necessary, and this First Step is a record filled with individual moments, each one to be savored.
The album cover shows Ronnie Wood reading a copy of seminal guitar tutor “First Step” by Geoffrey Sisley. I’m not sure what the ode to Mickey Mouse is all about.
I’m just the messenger, savour the sloppiness.