Small Faces | Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake (Expanded) – Box Set Review


Even as it can be said that the individual members of the Small Faces went on to bigger and better things, the group itself managed to nudge things delightfully forward with their succinct brand of mod pop. Their roots deeply entrenched in the elasticity of R & B, Small Faces quickly reoriented their sound with “Itchycoo Park,” a foray into the psychedelic jungle of 1967, and their first and only hit in America. In order to remain vibrant and relevant, they spent a year developing a loose-fitting concept album in step with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, S.F. Sorrow, and Tommy. Guided by a wacky form of Uniwinese narration courtesy of its creator, comedic linguist Professor Stanley Unwin, and a cavalcade of ornate instrumentation and subtle, cleaver arrangements, 1968’s Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake is a wild departure from Small Faces’ early repertoire — a fairy tale about a mirthful chap called Happiness Stan who is searching for the lost half of the moon.

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Immediate Records and Charly Records have released  a selection of deluxe editions of Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake across various formats, including a deluxe triple 180-gram red, white & blue colored vinyl LP boxset and a comprehensive triple-CD, single DVD earbook set. Recorded in 1967 and 1968 by Glyn Johns at Olympic Studios, Trident and Pye Studios, the expanded editions also feature rare material from the archive of surviving Small Faces member Kenney Jones. All the editions were overseen and prepared by Immediate Records label manager Rob Caiger with remastering engineer Nick Robbins and vinyl cutting engineer Matt Colton. Jones had final approval on the release. .

On the surface, there is nothing political or controversial about this record. Upon further digging, there are no hidden treasures or symbolic gestures. The idea is pure Alice In Wonderland fantasy. One can only imagine that Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan and Kenny Jones were ever so eager to join the colorful parade. Surging in the shadow of the Who, the Small Faces were given ample resources by Immediate Records’ chief Andrew Loog Oldham, the former guiding light of the Rolling Stones, to work out the songs and its encompassing theme. After a stretch of haziness, Oldham paired the group with Glyn Johns, and recording commenced. The first few songs leap out of the gate without the slightest hint of a storyline. The title track is a sprite instrumental that shows off the band’s magical chemistry. Marriott’s soulful voice takes over on the monumental “Afterglow.” The handclapping and jangling bottom end carelessly wander through “Long Agos And World Apart” and right onto the cockney-soaked rave of “Rene.” Elsewhere, Lane confidently steers the vocal line of “Song Of A Baker” and Marriott goes bonkers on the album’s single, “Lazy Sunday.”

The actual concept begins with the seventh number (or side two if you have the LP). With Unwin leading the way, the saga playfully follows “Happiness Stan” who teams up with a fly (!), and ventures forth during “The Journey,” searching for the moon and meeting up with “Mad John.” At the drop of a hat, our hero and friends are suddenly transported to “Happydaystoytown” for a grand finale. Presented in a bawdy, music hall style similar to the numerous Olde English posturings of the Kinks, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake went to the top of the British charts while it was practically ignored everywhere else. But its chart position or distinct round, tobacco container packaging couldn’t keep Marriott from departing to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton. Of course, once Lane, McLagan and Jones regrouped with Ron Wood and Rod Stewart, the Small Faces became simply Faces, and new chapters were being written all over again. In the aftermath of Marriott, McLagan and Lane’s passing, the luster of Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake shines ever brightly.

~ Shawn PerryBookmark and Share