Five Guys Walk Into a Bar
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For all I care, Rod Stewart could recite the poetry of Ronald Reagan while backed by the Mantovani Orchestra, and I'd still insist that he is one of the most bad-ass rock & rollers to ever walk the planet. Forget "Mandolin Wind." Forget "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy." Forget any Rod Stewart album with the word "songbook" in the title. Forget all that and pick up this, the goddamned Bible of boozy, bluesy boogie-rock majesty. You know nothing about rock music until you know the Faces, and the 67 tracks here nearly a third of which are not album tracks will easily teach you that simple lesson. Quick history: Steve Marriott breaks up Small Faces to start Humble Pie with Peter Frampton; the remaining Small Faces Ian McLagan, Kenney Jones and Ronnie Lane enlist ex-Jeff Beck Group members Rod Stewart and Ron Wood to help them carry on. Between 1970 and 1975, the newly christened Faces record four full-tilt studio albums, play hundreds of concerts, bang countless groupies and consume thousands of gallons of alcohol. (The band, for Christ's sake, had a freaking bartender on stage.) Faces wholeheartedly undertook a rock & roll party, all the while managing to make music that, though steeped in obvious blues-rock influences, was possessed of an undeniable identity. Seldom seen not smiling, Faces were notoriously fraternal and that relationship is apparent in the easy musical rapport of these songs; songs as effortlessly effervescent as "Stay With Me" or as ramshackle and raw as "Open to Ideas" don't come from a band that's trying, they come from a band that just can't help being great. Given the copiously excellent track selection, it's easy to forgive the uneven liner notes; McLagan and Faces photographer Tom Wright provide some great insight, but the endorsements from the likes of Jeff Tweedy, Gaz Coombes and Slash are positively superfluous. That minor quibble aside, Five Guys is as essential as rock & roll gets.