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Long Player - Had Me (Half) A Real Good Time !
on 25 November 2011
I suppose like many people I bought this album AFTER "A Nod's As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse" and to be honest at the time, felt short-changed with the plain grey cardboard sleeve. It was only later that I understood both the irony and novelty of this sleeve design. Incredibly, next year (2012) will be the 40th anniversary of my purchase!
It should also be borne in mind that this was the first of two albums recorded by the band in 1971 - "A Nod's As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse" following relatively soon afterwards.
"Long Player" itself is a bit of a dis-jointed affair though the flow of it is not. There is one song that is mis-placed, one mediocre song and one weak song - definitely an album filler - "On The Beach" recorded in a spare room (and it shows!); two live tracks (recorded at New York's Filmore East); two tracks recorded on the Rolling Stones mobile unit with the remainder being recorded at Morgan Sound Studios. Perhaps that's the reason for the album appearing a little dis-jointed?
Anyway, the album opens up with the magnificent Stewart/McLagan co-write "Bad 'n' Ruin", which begins with an urgent Stones-like guitar from Wood and the swirling Hammond B3 from McLagan that Booker T would have admired I'm sure. Indeed, it slows down in the bridge to sound all the more like a Stax song before ending with an archetypal Faces finish.
"Tell Everyone" (a much better version covered later by its composer Lane on his first solo album "Anymore For Anymore" ) is a slow blues dominated by a lovely mellow guitar solo from Wood, with McLagan again showing just how good he is on the Hammond B3 with another trademark finish.
The band get really mellow next on the country ballad "Sweet Lady Mary" (Wood/Stewart/Lane) where Wood shows what a really sound and melodic exponent of pedal steel guitar he was whilst in The Faces. His sound in the years since joining the Stones has, quite naturally, got embedded with his soul-mate Keith Richards but, if you listen to his early recordings, you can hear the melody in his musical runs, whether it be on guitar, bass guitar, or pedal steel guitar. A heart-felt poor boy/rich woman (on the wrong side of the tracks) lyric from Stewart adds the lyrical to the musical poignancy.
Moreover, it's my opinion that it is one of the best British country songs ever produced in the UK - only "Labelled With Love" (Squeeze); "What Made Milwaukee Famous [Has Made A Loser Out Of Me] (Rod Stewart) and "Faraway Eyes" (The Rolling Stones) have bettered this. Funnily enough, the Squeeze song is the only song that doesn't feature Wood on pedal steel guitar! Have I justified my point?
A fairly mediocre song "Richmond", featuring Lane on guitar and Wood on acoustic slide guitar, precedes the first-side closer, McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed" - one of the album's two live recordings, where Lane's vocal intro sounds uncannily similar to McCartney's, before the band begin their barrel-house treatment of the song. This gives the listener some idea of what they were like as a live band (obviously you couldn't see their drinking and mad-cap on-stage behaviour). Once again, McLagan shows his prowess and his trademark swirling sound on the Hammond B3.
The intro of "Had Me A Real Good Time" sounds like Wood's homage to The Stones' "Honky Tonk Women" before Stewart sings his typical poor boy out with his mates getting into a posh party as a gatecrasher rather than a bona fide guest...... and getting thrown out into the bargain! The song is enhanced by having Bobby Keyes on sax and Harry Beckett on trumpet in a two-man brass section.
The awful Wood/Lane composition "On The Beach" follows and when one considers that within months they would deliver the magnificent "A Nod's As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse" album, what possessed them to record this ? Charmless is the only adjective to describe this song. One can only say it was simply poor judgement on their collective behalf.
The second live track, Big Bill Broonzy's "I Feel So Good" (check out his own version please!) is the penultimate track and once again highlights the best of the band out on the road. The song, which clocks in at just under nine minutes, comprises some involvement from the audience before going back to barrel-house blues. And here's where the album should have ended but..........
.......the album closes quite inexplicably with the instrumental, Blake's "Jerusalem" (out of copyright, so could be allowed the designated 'traditional' so the band received the royalties, one assumes), featuring a solo Wood on acoustic slide guitar. Whilst the track itself is nice, it doesn't present itself well on this album, indeed it is somewhat incongruous in the setting and shows the main problem with the band, that of production and the basic inability to produce themselves. The main reason (in my opinion) for the success of "A Nod's As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse" was due to the presence of Glyn Johns.
When Stewart (pre-spandex) recorded his solo albums he had the financial and artistic sense to know what he wanted to achieve in his studio recordings and sought to do that in the most effective time and means possible. As one fifth of The Faces, neither he, or the others, had that sense of purpose. I believe that The Faces (and another band, Free) could have been so big if ONLY they had really filled their potential. We will never know now just what they could have achieved. Having said that, I'd sooner have four years of THIS band than none at all!
This album is good, not brilliant but, shows lots of potential and was soon to be eclipsed by "A Nod's As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse" which WAS the pinnacle of their short-lived success and life as a band. I have said elsewhere that I could make a cracking double album out of the best tracks of The Faces. Of the nine tracks here on this album, four would be included on that double album.