With so much new music available today, sometimes it’s good to look to the past. Welcome the JAG Classics where we examine the albums of yesteryear. Today we look at A Nod Is As Good As A Wink…to a Blind Horse by the Faces.
With the passing of legendary keyboardist Ian McLagan, now is as good a time as any to speak on the Faces, and the impact they had in their relatively short career. Originally the Small Faces (because the band members were short. Really.), the Faces would come into their own, and get their name, when Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood joined up on vocals and guitar respectively (dropping the ‘Small’ because Stewart and Wood were taller. Really.). The band had a legendary, and a well earned, reputation of wrecking hotel rooms, drinking a lot and generally having a good time. Combine that mindset with exquisite musicianship and you’re in for one freewheeling album.
“Miss Judy’s Farm” opens with a crunchy riff from Wood and a howl from Stewart, before transforming into a musical bar fight. Wood’s riff is the backbone with Ronnie Lane’s rock solid bass line anchoring Kenny Jones drumming while allowing McLagan’s keys to run wild. The band, thick as thieves, thrives on the casual atmosphere of the album. They weren’t covering high-minded concepts, opting instead, for lack of a better term, “guy stuff.” Listen to Lane’s “You’re So Rude” and try not to picture him sharing his misadventures with a young woman over a pint with his bandmates. The same could be said for Stewart’s ode to a one night stand, “Stay With Me,” which would go on to be a major hit.
A Nod… is more than early 70’s bro-concepts though. If tracks like “Miss Judy’s Farm” represent wild nights out, others bring you to the hangover the next morning, like the reflective “Love Lives Here” and the apologetic “Debris.” Sure, the boys like to have a good time, but they have hearts too.
Save those tender moments, the Faces keep things light. “Last Orders Please” is a bouncy tune and “Memphis, Tennessee” is a spirited Chuck Berry cover amplified by Wood’s slide guitar skills. Those skills are showcased further on the album’s closing track “That’s All You Need.” The song’s about as backwoods as five British guys can get, but falls in the same vein as “Miss Judy’s Farm,” fast, furious and fun.
The band never reached the heights of their contemporaries, like The Who or the Rolling Stones. Stewart’s solo career propelled him to the greatest heights of fame. Wood would achieve world domination with the Stones after joining the group in 1975 (if you can find a more charmed musician I’ll be happy to debate you). McLagan worked with a who’s who of musicians and bands as a session player and even Jones would go on to join The Who after Keith Moon’s death. With McLagan and Lane departed, the long rumored reunion is about as done as it can get, but it doesn’t matter. With four albums in four years, The Faces showed us that you can make quite an impression as long as you’re having fun with your friends.