Of course, the sad irony is that Ronnie Lane, the sparkplug of both The Small Faces as well as The Faces, isn’t live anywhere. No matter if you’ve never heard his music, you felt his presence. As the counterpart to Steve Marriott in the Small Faces, it was his well-constructed melodies that held Marriott’s tendencies to bellow like a stuck pig (see Humble Pie for an example) in check. In the Faces, he lurked in the shadow of Rod Stewart, while contributing one of rock and roll’s greatest songs—the Lane/Ronnie Wood “Ooh La La”. His vocals, while not as “big” as Stewart’s, were perhaps more human.
This release captures Ronnie with various Austin ensembles that feature, among others, Bobby Keyes (horn man to the Stones) and Alejandro Escovedo. The liner notes recount Escovedo’s glee in being fired from a band by Lane for drinking too much! Anyone who knows the history of Lane and his various groups has to grin at that. The material is largely “unplugged”, and allows his diminished (by ill health) voice to carry the simple songs along. His version of “Buddy Can You Spare a Dime” is effecting without being maudlin, even when sung by a man who struggled the last years of his life to pay his medical bills, all the while being shafted by his former record companies.
Ronnie Lane may well not be the most familiar name in rock history to the casual fan. But from such superstars as Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood, who all performed benefits for Lane, to the Georgia Satellites, who’s final hit, “Another Chance” sounds exactly like a Lane composition, knew he was one of the more talented artists to survive rock’s early days. And make no mistake, he has survived. A spin of this, or any other record he appears on, is ample proof of that.
Editor’s note: Ronnie Lane died on 4 June 1997 after suffering from multiple sclerosis for more than 20 years.