Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Face It: A Nod Is As Good As A Wink... Turns 40 Today
With the release of A Nod Is As Good As A Wink ... the Faces, with (Rod) Stewart singing lead, have three albums out, each of them duller than the one that preceded it, and with the first one having been none too great to begin with.
-- Jon Landau, Rolling Stone Magazine (1972)
1971 is one hell of a year for Rod Stewart and a pretty memorable one for Faces. In February Faces releases Long Player. The opening track "Bad "n" Ruin" contains all the DNA necessary for The Black Crowes to thrive for 20+ years. Three months later Rod launches one of the very best albums of the year , Every Picture Tells A Story, which tops the charts thanks to "Maggie May" and the Temptations cover "(I Know) I'm Losing You" recorded with the entire Faces band. Now with 1971 winding down, Faces releases A Nod is as Good as a Wink... which contains their biggest hit "Stay With Me" and several memorable Ronnie Lane tunes.
The album also contains the poster above. Look closely for pictures of pills and naked groupies.I assume lawyers quickly suggest the record company re-issue the album in 1972 without this collage/ homage to the rock n roll lifestyle.
The album kicks off with the raunchy and rollicking Ronnie Wood riff on "Miss Judy's Farm"...apparently located just across the river from Maggie's Farm.
I dig the Ian McLagen organ lines but Rolling Stone critic Jon Landau calls the song a "dog...and what started off sounding funky now just sounds like rock band hacking".
Next comes "You're So Rude", another highlight and the B-Side to "Stay With Me". Lyrically, Lane's tune is a much funnier version of Rod's future #1 hit "Tonight's the Night", except that this seduction takes place while the family is out visiting Auntie Renee. If you haven't explored Ronnie's solo albums you're missing out.
"Love Lives Here" is pretty pleasant and bleak but breaks no new ground.
"Last Orders Please" is one of those shuffling Ronnie Lane tunes we'd be hearing a lot of in his solo career and with Slim Chance. Ronnie would be taking more of a lead role in Faces as Rod became distracted by his fame but only for one more album, Ooh La La.
Faces's biggest hit, "Stay With Me", peaked at #6 in the UK and #17 in the US. The song could be part 2 of the tale of Maggie May's young Lothario. At least in this song of a one-night stand with a groupie, Rod caught her name, "Rita" ( as opposed to Lynyrd Skynyrd's tryst in Boise, Idaho). Last year Rod told an interviewer he actually never had sex with a groupie and hardly ever had one night stands.
To anyone who has grown up with a dad, this song really hits home. Fathers can begin as heroes and wind up friends. Along the way they become real people. My father was my best man at my wedding. Ronnie's own father took his teen age son to a music store where they met an employee named Steve Marriot.
Landau's favourite track from Nod is this Chuck Berry cover: "It is only here that the band creates a fully satisfying groove," he writes. " and sustains it for any length of time." This live version doesn't really do the recorded version justice. But you can see that , live, Rod is already more than just a front man and the Faces already seem to be relegated as background players. The end is nigh.
"Too Bad" is another Faces rocker that, despite strong performances, doesn't stand out to these ears.
Ronnie Wood plays bottleneck guitar on the final track. Robert Christgau says it's a song about a brother becoming a hippie, but there could be any number of reasons the brother shows up one night at the door all but unrecognizable with eyes that are getting muddy.