on 14 February 2014
The Small Faces "Here Come The Nice" boxed set is a music + memorabilia box, not unlike The Beach Boys' "The Smile Sessions" box, but perhaps with even more emphasis on memorabilia. As such, the U.S.A. selling price was within reason, but the territorial restrictions & dealer exclusives in the UK caused the Uk selling price to be appallingly high.
Just so nobody accuses me of being unreasonably biased, I should note that some people on the internet claim that I have "an ax to grind" against compiler Rob Caiger. I've never met the man, but I had a few unpleasant e-mail encounters with him some years ago. I compiled several "Immediate Years" boxed sets for Charly Records in the 1990's, and while I'm certainly disappointed that I wasn't selected to compile "Immediate" recordings in the 21st century, I'm not especially embittered. With those things out of the way, I'll now review the new boxed set.
You've already seen the complete listing of all of the memorabilia items enclosed in the boxed set, so there's no need to list them all. I'll note that the printing and manufacturing quality of all the books and printed items is excellent, and that the hardback/hardcover book is superb, that it was initially intended (during the development of this project) that a sessionography would be included....but it isn't included. The book does tell the story of how Charly Records came to obtain nearly 100 reels of Olympic Studios multitrack tapes related to "Immediate Records" artists, even if it doesn't tell the story correctly. But that's trivia to most fans.
Disc One features the Small Faces' "Immediate Records" singles A's and B's, and (with the exception of "I'm Only Dreaming") delivers them with unprecidented, superb quality.
The fun(for completists) begins on Disc Two(and continues on Disc Three). You get loads of session excerpts, studio dialogue and alternate takes, mostly newly mixed from original multitrack tapes. Despite presenting numerous songs under working titles, be advised that this group only released four albums while together(and one of those was either unauthorized or a contractual obligation, depending upon your viewpoint), so there were never many unreleased songs, and nearly all of them were issued shortly after the group's disbandment on the 2-L.P. set "The Autumn Stone". "Mind The Doors, Please", the one bonafide unreleased "song" included here is essentially a drum solo, with bass guitar providing sound effects. Still, you get a very thorough look into the development of the songs from the group's first "immediate" album, and the songs which debuted on "The Autumn Stone". Unfortunately, it would seem that(with the exception of one song) that the multitracks for "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake" no longer exist. Rob Caiger(and his engineer) have also taken the opportunity to freshly remix songs which had already been mixed down in the 1990's by Germany's "Repertoire" label, so that Caiger could present mixes approved by Kenney Jones & Ian McLagan. These mixes are not radically different to the Repertoire mixes, though some of the new mixes run longer(I.E. to their full unfaded endings)
Disc Four provides a selection of Sound quality upgrades, rarities and further unreleased takes. It contains the stereo mixes of "Itchycoo Park", "Here Comes The Nice", "I Feel Much Better" & "I'm Only Dreaming"(as on the U.S.A. album "There Are But Four Small Faces") that are each a phenomenal upgrade in sound quality over any previous release. The Five "Live at Newcastle City Hall" tracks are presented from a newly discovered, speed-corrected source that has the screaming audience mixed down lower. The Italian language version of "Green Circles" appears in a previously unreleased(albeit inferior) mix, with Kenney Jones' drums substantially mixed down. The single edit of "Afterglow(Of Your Love)" intentionally sped up for the single, appears here at its correct speed, and a number of rarities & alternate mixes(though not all of them) that Rob Caiger overlooked when compiling the expanded editions of the group's two "Immediate" albums, have found a home in this new boxed set. Also, "Me, You & Us Too"(an early version of "Wham Bam, Thank You Ma'am" with different lyrics) appears with substantially better sound versus the shrill sounding "Repertoire" label release. This rarity exists only in mono sound. Following the group's rejection of this take, the group themselves erased and re-used the multitrack session tape.
Of the four vinyl singles included, only one of them features any unreleased material. That single is the replica of the acetate for "Mystery"(an early version of "Something I Want to Tell You"). The other vinyl singles include one which has a promotional advertisement, including excerpts from the group's first Immediate album(this promotional "Sampler" has appeared on CD as part of Castle Communications' 2002 2-CD set of "Small Faces" first "Immediate" album. The remaining 2 vinyl records are replicas of two France E.P.'s which have nothing rare to offer, excepting a very slightly sped up mix of "Here Come The Nice'. The vinyl records are fairly pointless, and while the surfaces are quiet, they are pressed on vinyl that is simply too thin. Like many people, I got a set in which the records were warped(3 of the 4 singles in my set were warped, for the "Sampler" single, so severely warped that the steadiness of the music's pitch was affected. I'm astonished that my turntable was able to successfully play it.)
But I'm appalled by the marketing games and contrived product shortages surrounding this boxed set. First it was going to be released in May 2013, then September 2013, then December 2013, then January 27,2014....then a Uk release January 27,2014 and U.S.A. release February 4,2014......then amazon.com sent ominous and worrisome e-mails to customers saying (in effect) "We'll let you know when there is a release date"......then the February 4th release date was back "on", but the extremely stressful ordeal for customers continued until the very moment that the boxed set arrived at our doors.
There are many other "Immediate" artists that Rob Caiger would like to compile, but if he continues to take two and a half years per project(from announcement to finished, released product), then none of us original 1960's fans will live long enough to hear the completion of Caiger's work. Please Mr.Caiger, from now on, focus solely on the music(as opposed to elaborate memorabilia boxes), and deliver reasonably priced CD products, manufactured in adequate quantities, on a reasonable schedule, with a minimum of marketing games, contractual hassles, release postponements and contrived product shortages. The decision to not provide adequate quantities of this boxed set means that more people will obtain this music from illegal downloads than by purchasing this (somewhat) overblown, scarce boxed set. That does no favors for Charly Records, Snapper Music or the two surviving "Small Faces" musicians.