(The Godfatherrecords G.R.850) London, England, The Edmonton, June 4, 1973 (Ronnie Lane’s Last Show) (70:46) Introduction, Cindy Incidentally, Angel, True Blue, I’d Rather Go Blind, Jealous Guy, You Wear It Well, Maggie May, Borstal Boys, Twistin’ The Night Away, Memphis Tennessee, We’ll Meet Again BONUS TRACKS BBC Top Of The Pops, April 28, 1971: Richmond, Bad ‘N’ Ruin. BBC Top Gear, September 15, 1970: Around The Plynth/Gasoline Alley
Back in the good old TDK/Maxell 90 days (high bias, natch; and if you know what I’m talking about, you’re older than you think), I used to make Rod Stewart mix tapes for eye-rolling friends and unsuspecting colleagues and title them “When He Was Good.” Not that I was a big Rod fan, mind you, but once I discovered his work with the Faces and delved deeply into his first few solo albums – nearly all of which featured backing from some or all of the Faces to varying degrees – I felt that a wrong had to be righted. Namely, that the MOR dreck Stewart had been churning out in the ’80s and flogging on MTV had completely overtaken and obfuscated his true legacy as an artist and singer for one of the best and truest rock & roll groups of the 1970s. The critic Greil Marcus was right when he said, referring to Rod, that perhaps “no artist has betrayed his talent so completely.”
“Electric Soup,” the latest offering from Godfather, a label that has quickly become a gold standard-setter in the ROIR world, not just for packaging and design, but for the quality of its recordings and source tapes, is proof positive that Marcus was right.
This handsomely presented silver disc set, housed in a beautiful full-color tri-fold cardboard sleeve, presents the Faces’ June 4, 1973 show at The Edmonton in London in its definitive form and the best available sound quality (at least to our memory). This title represents The Godfather’s first foray into Faces territory, and appears to be the first issue of this show since “The Party Hogs” was issued by Roaring Mouse some years back.
From shag-cut head to high-heel booted toe, “Electric Soup” is a very clear, nicely balanced soundboard recording that I very likely would have put to tape as one of my “When He was Good” volumes and foisted on friends who would have probably rolled their eyes. Until they played the tape and realized, from the moment that Ian McLagan’s’s barrelhouse piano and Ron Wood’s guitar chords kick off “Cindy Incidentally” (from the band’s fourth and final album, “Ooh La La,” released in April of that year) that this shite was bloody good!
“Electric Soup” is a colloquial term used to describe the dubious alcoholic concoction that results from fusing milk with natural gas, and given the Faces’ penchant for a tipple or ten, and their ragged-but-right stew of old time rock & roll, soul, and folk, it’s an inspired title for music that matches that disposition. As a bonus, the disc also includes a tasty BBC Top Of The Pops performance of “Richmond” and “Bad ‘n’ Ruin” from April 28, 1971, plus a Top Gear appearance of “Around The Plynth/Gasoline Alley” from September 15, 1970. Both are presented here in excellent quality. (Any and all Faces recordings done for the BBC are well worth seeking out on their own).
Besides being a strong, lively performance with the band firing on all proverbial cylinders before an enthusiastically receptive audience, the Edmonton show was an important Faces gig from a historical vantage point, as it happens to be bassist-singer-songwriter Ronnie Lane’s last show before he quit the band amid growing acrimony between he and Stewart in 1973. (Lane would go on to record, perhaps most notably, a couple of albums with his folk-tinged and criminally under-heard post-Faces outfit, Slim Chance, before eventually succumbing to multiple sclerosis in 1997 at age 51).
Ironically and unfortunately, despite this being his final show, we get none of Lane’s wonderful songs or lead vocals, which were always a softer contrast to Stewart’s sandpaper rasp on record. (Lane’s poignant ode to his father, “Debris,” from ‘71’s ‘A Nod Is As Good As A Wink … To A Blind Horse,’ remains one of the one or two best things they ever did). Oddly, neither do we get guitarist Wood’s lone star vocal turn on the then-current single, “Ooh La La,” which Lane wrote. The song selection – which does, however, include a pair of Stewart solo album numbers, “You Wear It Well,” and the soon-to-be-ubiquitous “Maggie May” – speaks volumes, perhaps, as to why Lane left amid growing tensions with Rod.
As was their custom, nearly half of the eleven tracks here are comprised of a clutch of covers that were in the band’s regular repertoire, among them Jimi Hendrix’s “Angel,”; the Etta James-popularized “I’d Rather Go Blind,”; John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy”; Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee” (sic) and of course, “Twistin’ The Night Away,” by Rod’s idol, Sam Cooke. The back-to-back readings of “Blind” and “Jealous Guy” in particular provide a rare introspective respite from the Faces’ usual brand of rough-and-tumble pub-rock blooze, which reaches a rollicking apex on an extended, set-closing “Memphis.”
Given the spirit of camaraderie and chemistry, you’d never guess that this was to be Lane’s last show. And the Faces’ days themselves were numbered. Within two years, they’d be gone, with Ronnie Wood unofficially joining another slightly well known quintet. But for a glorious few years, the Faces were special.
As a longtime music journalist, I had the good fortune to interview keyboardist Ian “Mac” McLagan (a very charming, witty, gregarious fellow) not once but twice over the years, each occasion coming when the stalwart Rhino Records record label was about to issue a Faces retrospective, including the essential box set, “Five Guys Walk Into A Bar.” I asked Mac what had made the chemistry and musical interplay of the Faces so good, in the early years at least, before Stewart’s burgeoning superstardom caused friction among the principals, who came to be viewed and treated as Rod’s backing band.
“The fact that we had so many writers in the band, and so many different personalities. And that we always had a laugh,” McLagan recalled. “We’d rehearse and then go down to the pub. We weren’t thinking about the next career move … especially in the early days, when all of us used to be falling-over drunk all of the time. Like the Marx Brothers, we’d all be sitting together and at a certain point we’d all fall over and grope the girls who used to be hanging ‘round. We were all pals, and we were just having the best f –g time possible. Unfortunately, by the end, I didn’t talk to Rod at all except to say f — k you on stage.”