Album Review: The Faces - A Nod Is as Good as a Wink...to a Blind Horse (1971)
By Sergio Ariza
That's what it's all about
From the first second that Ronnie Wood's primal guitar starts playing on Miss Judy's Farm, which is helped by the fact that someone starts barking, you know what this record and this band is about. This is a wild, unfiltered rock & roll party, one that smells of alcohol, sex and vomit. It's the third album by the band but the one that sounds most like them, and the first with which they had a huge success on both sides of the Atlantic, boosted by the solo success of Rod Stewart and Stay With Me.
Released on November 17, 1971, the Faces had had a busy year. In February the remarkable Long Player had appeared, and in May, Stewart, their singer, had become an international star thanks to Maggie May and Every Picture Tells A Story, the album that contained that song and on which he was accompanied by his fellow Faces’ members. So it's understandable that A Nod Is as Good as a Wink...to a Blind Horse was composed on the road, the band's natural territory. The title was taken by Ronnie Lane from one of the most famous Monty Python sketches ("Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge") and it shows the excellent humor of this band of ‘British hooligans’ who made this album in-between breaks from their litres of beer, pills, groupies, football and gigs…
The song that propelled them to success was composed in a dressing room in Detroit before going on stage, when Rod Stewart asked Ronnie Wood to play something that would motivate him to go out at full power. Suddenly Ronnie began to fool around on one of his Zemaitis with the excellent riff of Stay With Me and the singer began to get excited, the words began to pour out of his privileged throat, "I know your name is Rita, 'cause your perfume smells sweeter". I guess that day was one of the many glorious concerts that the Faces gave, not every day you get on stage after having composed the best song in the history of the band... Stay With Me is something like the Faces compressed into one song, the track that would give the soundtrack to the wildest party of all times, as well as being one of the greates odes to a one night stand ever written ("Yeah I'll pay your cab fare home you can even use my best cologne, Just don't be here in the morning when I wake up").
You can also see this album as the one in which the fracturing of the group begins to show: on the one hand the rock & roll animal of Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, while on the other hand the English humor of the great Ronnie Lane. Lane also had time to add one of his best songs, the beautiful Debris that opens Side B, a kind of preview of the monumental Ooh La La. The bassist also sings three of the four songs he composes, and although we're talking about my favorite band member, he should have left at least two of them (Debris is wonderful as it is, and Stewart also does some spectacular harmonies) to the lead singer. And the fact is that you can like Rod Stewart more or less, but nobody can take away from the fact that he is one of the best British vocalists of all times, at the level of the man he replaced in this band, Steve Marriott, Robert Plant, Joe Cocker or Paul Rodgers... what the hell, maybe Rod The Mod has the best voice of them all.
On Too Bad, Ian McLagan adds some lovey touches on piano, with the band sounding like a well-oiled machine, in which each part helps the other. Listening to this album you can understand the fascination that most punk bands felt for this band - this is rock & roll without additives, here nobody wants to stand out in an arrogant way, but just to have fun, and believe me, they succeed. The album closes on a high with That's All I Need, with Ronnie Wood opening strongly with his slide (perhaps on his Dan Armstrong connected to one of his beloved Ampegs), and soon the powerful voice of Stewart enters… after which they are joined by the rest of the band, and sound like an unstoppable combo; in sum, a magnificent end to a great album.
The one pity is that this great album only had one sequel, the remarkable Ooh La La, but the Faces were ‘drowned’ by their singer's solo success and the liters of alcohol that ran through their veins, yet rarely did rock & roll get an album that sounded as much like a never-ending party as this one. Too bad that the hangover was inevitable…