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It never ceases to amaze me the number of bands (both old and new) who cite the Small Faces as an influence. And then again, maybe it shouldn't? The group are one of the fundamental elements of what became known as the British Invasion - making a smooth, yet efficient transition from garage/beat to a more psychedelic sound.

The new 5-CD compilation The Decca Years 1965-1967 - remastered from the original tapes under the supervision of drummer Kenney Jones (the only surviving original member) - addresses their first two years of activity during which they were signed to Decca Recordings (known for being the label that rejected the Beatles but also the home of many Garage/R&B groups, notably Them, The Zombies, and The Rolling Stones), and it's a pretty comprehensive journey throughout their first (yet very prolific) steps into record-making. It's also a very practical one: if you're in no mood for listening to four hours of Small Faces' early material, you can simply put on Disc 1, a pretty thorough Greatest Hits compilation that features tracks like 'What'Cha Gonna Do About It', a mono version of 'Sha La La La Lee', 'All Or Nothing', and 'You Need Lovin'' (a Muddy Waters' original which you may know better as having become Led Zeppelin's 'Whole Lotta Love').

If you're in for a more complete ride, however, you can also skip Disc 1 altogether and dive head first into the band's two albums for Decca: Small Faces (1966) and From The Beginning (1967), the latter containing the excellent proto-psych 'That Man' that would find itself a place on the label's excellent compilation The Psychedelic Scene, as well as an awesome version of Smokey Robinson's 'You Really Got A Hold On Me' (a Brit-favourite since The Beatles covered it for their 1963 sophomore LP With The Beatles).

The last two discs are the true collectors' gems: the first one, Rarities and Outtakes, is an extensive collection of alternative versions and mixes (more than actually containing never-heard-before tracks, since their catalogue was probably still scarce at the time), although many have only slight, audiophile-oriented differences, almost impossible to decipher unless you own HiFi equipment above average. Still, alternate versions of classics like 'Shake', Del Shannon's 'Runaway', 'Hey Girl', or 'All Our Yesterdays' can be an interesting way into studio-based variations, since it illustrates a different side to some well-known hits.

But the true democratisation of the listener comes with Disc 5, which is bound to please hardcore fans and newbies alike: it's a collection of the band's BBC Sessions between 1965 and 1966, which allows us to immerse ourselves in their almost filterless energy, and serves as a nice balance between studio-live versions of some of the tracks we extensively listened to on the other four discs, and several interviews with frontman Steve Marriott for the BBC Saturday Club Session and the Joe Loss Pop Show Session.

If you're not a Small Faces fan, this compilation probably isn't for you, for it will somehow tire you as a first impression; if you're a fan of their psychedelic-er stuff, this may be cool to check out but hurry past their Decca phase and just dive right in into the Immediate years (which this compilation obviously doesn't cover), where you will be able to find their highly acclaimed 1968 concept album Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake. However, if you consider Small Faces to be seminal in defining the Garage/Beat sound of the '60s, you should go get yourself a copy of The Decca Years right away, as its comprehensiveness will not only please you but prove to be the only source of the band's early recordings you will ever need.

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