Five Guys Walk Into A Bar – The Faces
Rhino Records 78233
A round of top shelf brandy for everyone! And if that doesn’t suit you,
pour champagne in your glass. The Faces are back! Sitting pretty on four
compact discs, 67 tracks (including 31 unissued and rare numbers) the lads from across the sea receive the box set treatment. Next to reissuing the group’s five albums, this will do nicely.
Listening to many of these tracks, especially "Stay With Me," "Too Bad,"
and "I Can Feel the Fire" on disc one, and you hear the predecessors to the
Replacements (post-falling down drunk and pre-much too sober), the Black Crowes’ white interpretation of the blues, and the rough, ready and rude sound by punk and alt-rockers around the globe. The group mixed rock, blues, country and folk in a glass, added ice, stirred and served generous portions to all within listening distance.
Now, trying to describe the joy of hearing the Faces lovingly chronicled
on Five Guys Walk Into a Bar… without making references to alcohol is nearly impossible. Liquids of high proof ran through the veins of Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones alongside their blood cells. As McLagan, who lovingly put this together, notes in one of several enlightening and grin-inducing essays, that the group ended up hiring a bartender to set up shop onstage during concerts to make sure that adult beverages were always fresh and filled.
McLagan also feels secure enough in the band’s musicianship that he
includes "Dishevelment Blues," a thrown together toss up that was used as the b-side to a flexidisc single inserted in "New Musical Express." Of course, he quickly reminds listeners of the Faces power by following it up with its biggest hit, "Stay With Me."
The atmosphere throughout Five Guys emphasizes the ‘mates’ in
bandmates. Up until Stewart went Hollywood, er, I mean solo, a feeling of boys club camaraderie exuded from the Faces and its music.
What’s particularly gratifying for those who fondly recall the band and
enlightening for those who aren’t familiar with the band is that it reignites a
fondness for this quintet as well as makes a good argument for its valued
position by fans.
Here, Stewart’s trophy voice is surrounded by gritty tunes that find
their place with a working class audience. The instrumental back up contains that right mix of swagger and a tightness that borders on being so loose that you appreciate the fact that the music doesn’t derail. As the saying goes, it don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing, and the music here, taken from
official releases, rehearsals and BBC and other live performances, always found its groove. Even when the set treats us to different versions of a song ("Maybe I’m Amazed," "Stay With Me") the changes in arrangement due to situation is noticeable yet each one succeeds.
You also hear why the Rolling Stones made a pitch to Wood for the open
guitar spot. His tone sounds like Chuck Berry’s "Roll Over Beethoven" run
through Dave Davies’ "You Really Got Me." It’s obvious that Wood’s musical presence would be natural complement to Keith Richards. The playing of Kenney Jones here made his choice as drummer in the Who a degree more understandable. Unfortunately, he never showed the power and touch in that band that he displays throughout his tenure with the Faces. Keyboardist McLagan continually offers solid support. His value is his ability to not make unnecessary flourishes but provide just what’s needed.
And finally, bassist Ronnie Lane pipes in with his folk/country tunes
that somehow seem vastly proper despite sitting next to blues-based and raucous numbers. His rail thin vocals added a higher degree of melancholy, innocent romance and intimacy. Ironically, "Ooh La La" and its use in film and commercials has probably brought more interest to the Faces than all the work voiced by Stewart.
What’s heartwarming is that this doesn’t sound dated. No amount of
remixing and remastering could overcome that. Like a musical version of Dorian Gray’s famed painting, the template created by the Faces remains vibrant.