Sunday, August 30, 2015

Fossils: The Faces' Ooh La La (1973)

The Faces' Ooh La La
[click to embiggen]
The Faces – Ooh La La

In the three years following the Faces’ rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of British mod-era rockers the Small Faces, it had been a hell of a party. Although albums like 1971’s Long Player and A Nod Is as Good As a Wink…to a Blind Horse are now considered rock ‘n’ roll classics, and both were modest-to-impressive commercial successes (the former hitting #29 on the charts, the latter rising to #6 on the strength of the hit single “Stay With Me”), by the time of 1973’s Ooh La La, frontman Rod Stewart’s solo success had begun to outshine his erstwhile band. Ooh La La would take a step backwards on the charts, rising only as far as #21and yielding no hit singles; by contrast, Stewart’s fourth solo album, the previous year’s Never A Dull Moment, hit #2 on the charts and coughed up a pair of hits.

While it was apparent to anybody at the time that Stewart was sidling, albeit in slow-motion, towards the door on his way to exiting for a full-time solo jaunt, that doesn’t mean that Ooh La La doesn’t have its charms. Rod the Mod may have been gracing magazine covers instead of, say, bandmates Ron Wood or Ian McLagen, but Ooh La La was a true group effort, with all five members involved in the songwriting, resulting in great tunes like “Cindy Incidentally” and “Borstal Boys.” It was bassist Ronnie Lane, one of the original Small Faces, who was the band’s creative heart, and he dominated the songwriting on the album’s second half, providing the Faces with a fitting swansong for their final album.

The Warner Brothers label ad for the album was a perfect portrayal of the band’s public image, the reckless rockers gazing upwards at the upturned skirt of the dancing girl as the album cover’s leering visage sits in the top right corner. When the label called Ooh La La the Faces’ “sauciest album,” they may have been partly kidding, but they also weren’t that far off the mark!

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