Like most rock and rollers during that eventful year of 1967, the Small Faces were undergoing some changes.

Gone were the Mod-striped Fred Perry and Ben Sherman tailored shirts replaced by paisley and floral patterns. Gone also was the tough as nails dirty R&B raunch, replaced by a more whimsical pop approach on their classic album simply titled 'Small Faces,' better known in this country as 'There Are But Four Small Faces.' This was, after all, the Summer of Love come a-calling and our heroes were not going to be left out of the proceedings.

After making the rounds and building a loyal following in the R&B clubs in England, the Small Faces released their self-titled debut in mid-1966. A stomping collection of gritty R&B, soul and slashing guitar rock and roll that still sounds fierce as ever after all these years. After some contractual issues with their first label (Decca) the band jumped ship and joined the party going on over at the newly launched Immediate Records, the label started by Rolling Stones manager/visionary Andrew Loog Oldham.

After a contractual release at Decca titled 'In The Beginning' was released, the Small Faces were able to explore new avenues with what was to be their second proper album, though third release overall. Still with us? To make things even more confusing, this new platter was also titled 'Small Faces,' just like their debut a year earlier.  This problem would be solved for the U.S. market by giving it the title 'There Are But Four Small Faces.' This is confusing because the U.S. release wouldn't happen until early-1968, and because that first album was never even released in the U.S.! Score cards down...let's move on!

Looking to make his new label eclectic and exciting, Andrew Loog Oldham gave Immediate Records the motto 'Happy to Be a Part of the Industry of Human Happiness.' This fit the times well, as did the new sounds found on the new Small Faces LP. The album is best remembered for their one and only real U.S. hit, the pure psych-pop that is 'Itchycoo Park.' It's refrain of 'it's all too beautiful' still rings out over 'oldies' radio 45 years on. The song made the Top 20 in the U.S. and No. 3 in the U.K. But aha, you guessed it, that one song is hardly the entire reason we're talking about this gem all these decades later. The album was preceded by the band's first single for their new label, a wonderful little song called 'Here Come The Nice,' which was a not-so-subtle ode to, um, illegal substances. "He knows what I want, he's got what I need. He's always there if I need some speed." Amphetamines were a big part of the then-fading Mod culture, though 'speeding' would be superseded by 'tripping' at some  point.

Acoustic guitars were now as much a part of the colors used as electric and greater use of harmonies took a key spot in the prodeedings. Other studio effects, such as the phasing used on 'Itchycoo Park,' only added to the brew already stewing. Tracks like 'Green Circles,' 'Become Like You,' and 'Get Yourself Together' rank among the band's finest efforts. They were able to retain the R&B/soul influences of their early sound, but mix it up with the more cerebral (pronounced, "stoned") vibe that the new direction was drenched in.

Score cards ready again? Neither 'Itchycoo Park,' or 'Here Come The Nice' were included on the U.K. version of the album (the common practice in the U.K. back then was that singles were their own entity and traditionally not part of the corresponding LP), but they were indeed part of the shiny new wax that was issued in America. The difference between the U.S. and U.K. editions is pretty drastic. The U.S. version includes the aforementioned singles as well as another powerhouse single, 'Tin Soldier,' which proved Steve Marriott hadn't forgotten how to rock!  In this case, the U.S. version of the album may have the upper hand. The tracks the stateside LP loses are 'Become Like You,' 'Something I Want to Tell You,' 'Feeling Lonely,' 'Happy Boys Happy,' 'Things Are Going to Get Better, and 'Eddie's Dreaming', but of course all the tracks are now part of the various CD re-issues available.

The Small Faces would go on to make one more album, the astounding 'Ogdens Nut Gone Flake,' in 1968, but that, of course, is another story for another time. Marriott along with partners in crime Ian McLagan, Ronnie Lane and Kenney Jones were one of the era's most exciting bands, and the music they made, on this gem and elsewhere, still sounds fresh and vibrant 45 years down the road. Marriott, it should be mentioned, is possibly the greatest rock and roll singer ever. The most soulful anyway. Up for debate obviously, personal preferences, etc apply, so don't call us, we'll call you.

Watch the Small Faces Perform 'Itchycoo Park'

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