Faces – Five Guys Walk Into A Bar…

English pub-rock at its best

“Although we spent a lot of time at the pub, we did rehearse as well, and it’s a complete surprise to hear how good we sound after all these years…” So said Ian McLagan when compiling this four CD retrospective, one that includes highlights from each of their albums, as well as a healthy selection of rarities and other no doubt long forgotten gems.

Following the demise of The Small Faces, the remaining members, Ian McLagan (keyboards), Ronnie Lane (bass), and Kenny Jones (drums), decided to carry on, teaming up with Rod Stewart (vocals, sex machine), and Ronnie Wood (guitar), both of whom had been part of the recently defunct Jeff Beck Group. Together, this quintet of scruffy lads would go on to create some of the booziest, sloppiest, most warm-hearted rock ‘n’ roll ever made.

But it was more than just the music; personality was another key factor. The Faces might not have been the ultimate when it came to musical acumen (then again, neither were The Rolling Stones), however what they may have lacked in grace, they more than made up for in terms of sheer stance and attitude.

Five Guys Walk Into A Bar… contains almost twice the amount of music the Faces released when they were together as a band, covering everything from the original studio records, non-LP singles, to many previously unissued rehearsals and live recordings.

Few, if any of their individual albums are ever highly ranked by critics, hence the benefit of the good old fashioned box set. Each track is like an old friend, to which the listener will want to go back to again and again. Most of the familiar material is here. “Flying,” “Cindy Incidentally,” and “Three Button Hand Me Down” are included, along with live versions of other favourites such as “Stay With Me,” “Miss Judy’s Farm,” and “Around The Plynth/Gasoline Alley,” from the BBC are also included.

Also from the BBC are covers of “Cut Across Shorty,” a soulful rendition of Lennon’s “Jealous Guy,” and Robert Johnson’s “Love In Vain.” What may surprise the listener is to hear a version of Stewart’s 1971 hit “Maggie May” (also taped by the BBC), which goes to prove that even though Stewart was already embarking on a solo career, he couldn’t have done so without the help of his trusty Faces.

From the Swing Auditorium, San Bernardino, Ronnie Wood’s rock-reggae “I Can Feel The Fire” is also preserved, and a song that would appear on his own debut record, 1974’s I’ve Got My Own Album To Do. Included are other cuts from Stewart’s solo LP’s, most notably a touching rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Angel,” and an unrelenting “(I Know) I’m Losing You.”

For the late Ian McLagan, producing this compilation was clearly a labour of the heart. As he says in the liner notes: “The running order of the boxed set might surprise some, because it’s not arranged chronologically… but listening to the songs in the order we recorded them was about as interesting to me as reading a phone book.”

His remarks make sense as one listens to this box set. Lasting for some five hours, Five Guys Walk Into A Bar… is perhaps all one will ever need or want to hear. They were, after all, the one band who got the vegetarian teetotaller John Peel back on the booze, which says something about the power of the Faces, a group who would never reach the heights of Led Zeppelin or The Rolling Stones. But as their catalog reveals, their music was just as real, and now one hopes, equally treasured.