Bluesy, triumphant and full on — I dig Small Faces. On a recent trip to Rudy’s II, the vinyl shop in Missoula, MT, I bought up all of their available Small Faces albums, and among them is this later offering, 78 in The Shade.
Released in 1978 during the band’s brief reunion, this album is not among their best work, but I still like it. Singer Steve Marriott’s voice is among my character inspirations for my still-in-editing novel. The story revolves around a rock band for which I had to create a sound — a sound I could describe without the reader benefiting from hearing the sound itself, including a very strong, capable singer. Through the Small Faces song “Don’t Burst My Bubble” and a handful of other sources, I found how my early ’90s British band should sound.
“Don’t Burst My Bubble” isn’t on 78 in The Shade, but there are other good songs. I’ll admit some hesitation when I saw the song title “Brown Man Do” — Like, was this going to be some ignorant offering that would spoil the band for me? Turns out, the song points out some of the willful blindness in which some people participate:
Who brushes streets while you’re still in your bed
Who sell the best thing to get to your head
Who get the coffee, but don’t get no cream
Who get the fat, who don’t get no meat
Who put the seam down the back of your socks
Who buys the bricks, but who breaks the rocks
Brown man do […] Brown woman too
I will not at all pretend to speak for any minority voice, and others are far more qualified to talk about matters of race, but the song somewhat reminded me of the film A Day Without A Mexican, in which the Hispanic population disappears from California, and all the white people who had taken their services for granted now have to do the jobs typically associated with the immigrant population. “Brown Man Do” is rather simplistic in its sentiment, but I’m really glad that it wasn’t their version of Peter Pan‘s “What Makes The Red Man Red?”
Another highlight on this album is the ballad “Soldier Boy,” which makes (the popular at the time) Journey sound like amateur hour.
There’s a song called “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet,” but it is not a cover of Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s popular “B-b-b-baby…” tune. Because classic rock radio overplays that better known version of the title, I have to say I prefer this Small Faces song.
The album closer, “Filthy Rich,” doesn’t sound like anything else on the album. It’s simple, Marriott’s voice is more heavily accented, and there’s a whistling interlude. It’s a fun tune, begging for a singalong.
Steve Marriott also went on to do some reunion gigs and recording with his other well-known band, Humble Pie, but this album somewhat marks the beginning of his decline. Though well-respected, his personal troubles started to increasingly interfere with his professional life. He died in 1991, after his lit cigarette caused a house fire while he slept. In 2012, he was posthumously inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Small Faces.
Eventually, I’ll be covering the other Small Faces albums in my collection, perhaps some of their more solid offerings, but one could certainly do worse than listening to 78 in The Shade.
Over Too Soon
Too Many Crossroads
Let Me Down Gently
Thinkin’ About Love
Stand By Me (Stand By You)
Brown Man Do
You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet