Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • Long Player [Warner Bros., 1971] B
  • A Nod Is as Good as a Wink . . . to a Blind Horse [Warner Bros., 1971] A-
  • Ooh La La [Warner Bros., 1973] B
  • Snakes and Ladders/The Best of Faces [Warner Bros., 1976] B+
  • Five Guys Walk Into a Bar . . . [Warner Bros./Rhino, 2004]  

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Long Player [Warner Bros., 1971]
The difference between these guys and their smaller forebears, the ones who released round-covered albums and sang "Itchycoo Park" with whine and phase, isn't just Steve Marriott vs. Rod Stewart. It's 1968 vs. 1971. Marriott was a pop craftsman with the Small Faces; with Humble Pie he's a boogie man. Stewart is a pop craftsman solo; with the Faces he's a boogie man. Boogie's not a bad idea, especially when you play it fast and loose rather than 'eavy like the 'Umbles. But as exciting as it is theoretically--and by comparison with the competition, boogieing and otherwise--it doesn't have much staying power. That's partly because they play it too loose and not quite fast enough. And partly because Stewart reserves his popcraft for solo LPs. B

A Nod Is as Good as a Wink . . . to a Blind Horse [Warner Bros., 1971]
Rod Stewart sings lead only half of the time, which gives Ronnie Lane a chance to prove himself--his "You're So Rude" is a better (funnier and warmer) song about getting laid than "Stay With Me." Other standouts include the story of how Rod's brother became a hippie and a version of "Memphis" that's a gift from a band that has tightened up just enough. A-

Ooh La La [Warner Bros., 1973]
They do what they want to do very likably--this is as rowdy and friendly as rock and roll gets. But only on the title song and finale--written by the Rons (Wood and Lane) rather than the Rod--do they slap your back so's you'd still feel it five minutes later. B

Snakes and Ladders/The Best of Faces [Warner Bros., 1976]
Not counting "Pineapple and the Monkey," a special for all those who believe their quintessence was sloppy instrumentals, this showcases the good stuff from Long Player and Ooh La La. Lots of fun, a solid testament to a band that was never very much into solidity--and a little more of a Rod Stewart album than is desirable for peak flavor. B+

Five Guys Walk Into a Bar . . . [Warner Bros./Rhino, 2004]
Not that there's much competition, but the greatest box-set name ever is perfect for a band that was never as great as it should have been. Their music was so loose and that was such an up; their music was so loose and their songs fell so apart. Come to think of it, bar bands are generally tighter. But if five straight hours of shambolic garage rock is what you seek, you couldn't do better--the four CDs maintain a raucous level that crests rather than peaks and never gets boring. Ron Wood you know, Ronnie Lane you should. But above all, here for the hearing--why old-timers think Rod Stewart had something to sell out. [Recyclables]  

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