Up the wooden hills to nevermore

Dec 04, 2014 Comments Off on Up the wooden hills to nevermore by

Ian “Mac” McLagan, the impeccable and effervescent keyboardist for the Small Faces, the Faces, and many others, died of a stroke at age 69 today. Although I never had the pleasure of meeting him—and my understanding is that meeting him was almost invariably a pleasure—listening to his playing on record never failed to lift my spirits. I just put on a Faces compilation earlier this evening to mark the solemn occasion, and wouldn’t you know it, the occasion instantly became less solemn. Mac’s rollicking piano and organ licks still brought a smile to my face, even though I knew the man who’d created them was gone.

I always liked his nickname, too.

A little over 10 years ago, I was asked to revise and update Paul Evans’ brief summary of the Faces’ recorded output (originally written circa 1991) for The Rolling Stone Album Guide. While most of the 50 or so entries I either revised or wrote from scratch for the 2004 edition of that book do appear in it, the Faces piece, along with similarly revamped takes on the Pete Townshend and Robert Johnson catalogs, didn’t make the final cut. In honor of Mac, here for the first time is the final paragraph of that “new” Faces entry.

“The Faces never quite managed to become superstars, but their impassioned sloppiness now sounds prescient. It’s pretty much impossible to imagine a happier band. And Rod [Stewart]’s vocals, stripped of big-production echo, mark him as the rocker he’s never been since. If you want to know where the Black Crowes and their neo-classic rock ilk sprang from, here’s your answer. At their best, though, the Faces put any similar modern band to shame.”

It was true a decade ago, it’s true today, and it will probably remain true for many years to come.

So long, Mac.

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