*Overview is going to be a series of reviews of short, done bodies of work that are probably out of print–complete discographies that are over. Some people say I should call this an oeuvre-view, some people don’t care about french puns, but everybody should spend an hour trying to track down these albums because they’re worth it. I mean, I found them somewhere and I’m better off now.*
Ronnie Lane was the man responsible for bass, rhythm guitar, and much of the songwriting duty for British rock bands the Small Faces and Faces. Though I’ll champion the early 70’s work of Rod Stewart, in favor of whom Lane was often overlooked in Faces, until the day I die, Ronnie Lane’s work is every bit as brilliant. Lane’s songs are grounded, and not just because he’s a great bassist, but they just somehow feel like landscape–there’s a heartbeat to them, and they seem to be there, beating beautiful, whether or not you’re paying attention.
In 1973, while Stewart was focusing on his solo career, Lane led Faces through their final full-length, Ooh La La, and then quit. His next project took off from the B-side to Ooh La La and focused on Lane’s rootsy acoustic compositions. This band, Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance, released three albums in the mid-70’s–they’re all fucking incredible.
Anymore for Anymore (1974) – Comparable things that came out in 1974: Bob Dylan and The Band’s Planet Waves, Tom Waits’ The Heart of Saturday Night, Jorma Kaukonen’s Quah. Anymore for Anymore was recorded at Ronnie Lane’s Mobile Studio, which he set up on his farm in Wales. The songs develop slowly but are deeply groovy, filling buckets with charm and immediacy. By the name of the band, it’s obvious Lane had no expectations to skyrocket up the charts with his country album–and maybe it’s the freedom of that forfeit that produced such a relaxed album. By no means “easy listening,” Anymore for Anymore is a badass roots surgery, renting the guts out of folk, rock, blues, and country and sewing them back up in some hay-colored ageless horse.
Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance (1974) – Lane’s second album features a different group of musicians and a higher concentration of cover songs/traditionals, but it’s just as sharp as its predecessor. Lane’s originals “Anniversary,” and “Give Me a Penny” are stunning. Lane has a way of carving alien melodies into seemingly familiar songs, making his folk songs dancier, his blues songs hookier. The organs, fiddles, madolin, harmonica–they sometimes interact like vocals harmonies more than instruments, looser and sadder.
One for the Road (1976) – Comparable things that came out in 1976: Michael Hurley’s Have Moicy!, Bob Dylan’s Desire, Guy Clark’s Texas Cookin’. The final Slim Chance album is all Ronnie Lane compositions–it’s also angrier and starts off with a ruckus, drawing on some boogie-woogie and group vocals before dipping into the forlorn spanish-ish “Burnin’ Summer.” The title song rocks so hard it reminds me of Silkworm’s “Bar Ice.” Aside from the gorgeous instrumental “Harvest Home,” One for the Road feels like a Faces album. It plays like the bittersweet culmination of three years of porch sessions, the sound of leaving the porch to go back to the bar.
Another fitting inclusion in Lane’s body of work is 1977’s Rough Mix, a collaborative album he made with Pete Townshend. Lane’s “April Fool” is the best song on the album and he’s clearly an inspiration for Townshend’s turns of folkier fancy. During these sessions, Lane was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He died in 1997 at age 51. This is a guy who wrote one of the best songs of the decade, “Ooh La La,” out of Rod Stewart’s range so he couldn’t sing it and then gave the vocals to Ron Wood. Ronnie Lane was a fucking genius songwriter!