Given how he spent the ’80s cashing checks as a bland MOR hit machine, and how he rebranded himself again as a 21st Century autotuned interpreter of pop standards, it’s difficult to think of Rod Stewart as someone who once actually made exciting music—he’s in the shameful company of Eric Clapton, Lionel Richie, and Sting in that regard. I’ll bet that with the tepid, money-grubbing work of his middle age as one’s only context for Stewart’s career, it would be awfully hard to believe that in 1969, when the amazing, expressive, smoke-throated singer Steve Marriott left Small Faces to play with Peter Frampton in Humble Pie, it actually occurred to someone to say “Well, we’ve lost our gifted and distinctive front man—thank God that Rod Stewart is available.” But it happened. Guitarist Ron Wood and singer Stewart were poached from the Jeff Beck Group to replace Marriott in Small Faces, then redubbed The Faces, who had a six-year run of four pretty unfuckwithable albums, a run that ended only when Wood joined the Rolling Stones.
This short TV documentary looks at The Faces in 1970, when they were barely just a year old, and still conjuring up some nice, filthy blues-rock. About five/six minutes in you can start to see how Stewart was fit to replace Marriott—he was doing some fine singing back then.
The Faces’ final concert was filmed in 1974, and it’s a great look at the band near the end of its evolution. Keith Richards guests on guitar, and you can see Stewart in the full embrace of the glam-dandy persona that he’d ride into the disco era. Sad to watch this set with the knowledge that Stewart was just a few years off from coked-up crap like “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy,” but really, given hindsight, you can kinda see it heading that way. Drummer Kenney Jones stated in this recent interview that the Faces would perform with Stewart again in 2014. (They’ve done some shows lately with Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall singing, and the Sex Pistols’ Glen Matlock playing bass in place of the late Ronnie Lane.) I can imagine no rational response to that news but deep, deep skepticism that it could possibly be any good, but who knows? Old farts are still capable of surprises, after all.