TWO FACES ALBUMS IN DISGUISE
As a lifelong Faces fanatic, I have often thought, what if the two Ron Wood solo releases "I've Got My Own Album To Do" and "Now Look" were recorded with the rest of the band. They were both very similar in the style and feel of what the Faces were doing at that time(s). It is not at all hard to comprehend this. For one thing, Mac McLagan is on all but one of the cuts on the first disc and is on every track on the second. Rod sings backing vocals on three cuts on the first and Kenney appears on two on the second one. You can easily imagine Rod singing on all these Wood self-penned songs and on the cover tunes as well. It is unfortunate, that Rod was unwilling to record any further with the boys in the band back then. Woody did a good job vocally (gloriously ragged), but Rod would have refined the songs (lyrically too) for the better as he always did. Wood had accumulated a large amount of material during the Faces recording hiatus. And with Wood now having a new home studio "The Wick", he got together with some friends including Keith Richards and a rhythm section that he had always wanted to play with and went on to recorded more than twenty tracks at these loose sessions. It was not that he had a burning desire to record a solo project, but he had no other outlet for his songs then, so he went ahead and put his ideas to tape. At that point it had been over a year since the last Faces LP, not counting the forgettable live album.
Woody's first solo album was released in early September 1974 to mixed reviews and stiffed almost immediately, surprisingly when you consider all the big names on the disc. Not really much of a solo album in many ways and not much of a departure from standard Faces music. It sounds like a Faces recording to me with Mr. Wood on lead vocals and with Mac on all except one track. But how else would it end up sounding like with two Faces on it? The first track on the album is "I Can Feel The Fire" with Mick Jagger on second vocals, it's a great song that would end up being a Faces stage number and sounding even better with Rod singing it with Wood (hear Faces box set version for the evidence). “Far East Man” a beautiful song would also not have sounded out of place on a Faces set, it's sort of like a Ronnie Lane tune in a lot of ways. “Mystifies Me” the next track was originally an outtake from Rod's Smiler sessions titled “Think I'll Pack My Bags” (it's on Rod's “Sessions” box) with Rod providing backing vocals and Mac on piano and then both again on “Take a look at The Guy”, a definite Faces style rocker without a doubt and would also become a live favorite. All the other tracks on this release have that same Faces feel, apart from a few tracks sounding more like Stones outtakes just because Keef takes over.
When Ronnie Lane quit the group in April of '73, it really was the beginning of the end for the Faces as a recording unit for sure. Not only was he the glue that held the group together and their unofficial leader, he was also half of their songwriting team. So when he left the band there was even less reason for them to be in the studio. With Lane gone that would mean that Rod 'n' Woody would have to come up with the majority of new material from then on. And since Rod was much more interested in his own solo works and unwilling to give material or time in the studio to record, this would prove to be the obstacle that the band would unfortunately not be able resolve and therefore never record another proper group album again. It is a shame that the group's potential as a recording unit was never to be fulfilled.
The "Poolhall Richard" single, a song that's so rockin' that it tires most listeners after a few spins! Backed with a really superb live version of the Temptations "I wish it would rain" with session horns added on in the studio, were both strong Faces performances that pointed the direction to next possible recording phase. I would also add to that the flip side of Rod's "Oh No Not My Baby" 45 "Jodie", originally a stolen backing track from the “Ooh La La” sessions even credited to Faces on the label with a bottle of Campari! Both sides feature Woody (guitar and bass), Mac and Kenney. These three cuts would not sound out of place if mixed with Wood’s material from “I’ve Got My Own…” and they could have been the basis for that possible fifth album in my opinion.
When the Faces released the tastefully funky "You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything..."(should have been titled Dance, Sing or anything, but I digress) backed with the equally as good "As Long As You Tell Him" single at the end of '74 it looked for a time like they might actually go back into the studio to record another full album. The single was so well critically received and showed that the band was headed musically in a good direction. And even though it was a British hit, for some reason it didn't chart in the US after two tries… didn't those DJ's in the US play it??? It remains a mystery to me and anyone with a good set of ears as to why it didn’t become a hit for them in the US market.
After that successful home single they made plans to record in early ‘75. But once again things went wrong for the band on the recording side. With a half dozen tracks attempted but unfinished they abandoned these sessions to tour the US, without ever completing the recordings that they had started.
Later on in the year with half an albums worth of leftover tracks from his previous sessions, and a handful of new songs, Woody went back into the studio to complete the follow up to his previous album. With once again Mac joining in on every number, and this time even co-producing along with Ronnie and Bobby Womack. “Now Look” was an even stronger effort than Wood's first solo. Vocally he is more assured and the backing a bit tighter and funkier. It is also interesting to note how much some of these Wood songs have the same vibe as “You Can Make Me Dance”(the Bobby Womack influence),especially “I got lost When I found You”, “I Can Say She's Alright” , “Sweet Baby Mine”, “It's Unholy” and “I Got A Feeling”. You can easily imagine Rod singing lead on these Wood songs. Another of Wood’s number’s that Rod would have sung nicely would have been the beautiful “Breath On Me,” tailor made for him to sing. Oddly enough, Rod would rerecord “Big Bayou” from this album a year later for his “A Night On the Town” LP with somewhat less success. The Faces would also perform it on their last tour with a cover of Womack’s “If You Don’t Want My Love” another track off the same LP.
The Faces not only toured to promote Rod’s then latest solo “Atlantic Crossing” (as was the usual) but also behind Wood’s solo release.
For me “Now Look” is Faces album number six. So take another listen to these two Ronnie Wood discs and see if you can hear two possible significant Faces albums and judge for yourself.
THE CASE FOR A LAST FACES ALBUM (TWELVE TRACKS): PART TWO
Dan "The Nonclickmember" Perreira