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Here Come The Nice: British Boxsets Invade DVD Players

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The new British Invasion collection are the latest DVDs from Reelin' in the Years, featuring long-lost performances with bandmember interviews. Wisely eschewing the over-anthologized bigger-named performers, this initial series offers individual releases on The Small Faces, Herman's Hermits, Gerry & the Pacemakers, and Dusty Springfield (the box set also features a bonus DVD).

Though best known in the U.S. as a sort of one-hit wonder (the uncharacteristic "Itchycoo Park"), the classic lineup Small Faces were in fact a tough little R'n'B band made up of four live wires (singer/guitarist Steve Marriott, singer/bassist Ronnie Lane, drummer Kenney Jones and keyboardist/current Austin resident Ian McLagan). And while the Who may have flown the flag of the red/white/and blue target, it was the Small Faces who were the Mod movement's true band (the "small" coming from the members' diminutive stature and "faces" being a term for a hip Mod).

Small Faces--All or Nothing, 1965-1968 (120 mins., $19.99) offers up a whopping 27 full performances from the band--concert and TV footage--of songs like "Whatcha Gonna Do About It," "I Can't Make It," "Tin Soldier," "Here Come the Nice," and "Itchycoo Park." Of special note is the suite of performances from Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, the band's magnum opus concept album, complete with the nonsensical Cockney wordplay from English comedian Stanley Unwin.

The band's brief-but-stellar story is also told in contemporary interviews with Jones, the opinionated McLagan, and original (but short-lived) keyboardist Jimmy Winston. Marriott and Lane appear briefly in archival interviews, although not as much as Eyeballin' would have liked. Marriott perished in a 1991 house fire. Lane--who suffered from multiple sclerosis--died in 1997 from pneumonia.

The most astonishing aspect is really seeing just how exciting and energetic a performer Steve Marriott was, Muppet-like hair bouncing to the rhythm of his chugging guitar and larynx-ripping vocals. Unfortunately, Marriott's legacy today as a classic rocker is far more modest than it should be.

A gorgeous booklet further recounts the band's career with photos of rare memorabilia. Bonus features include the complete performances without interview interruption, the last filmed interview with Lane, and a photo gallery.

And while the Small Faces never toured the U.S.--thus limiting their chances for success here--out of their ashes came two of the '70s greatest boogie rock bands. Marriott recruited Peter Frampton, Greg Ridley, and Jerry Shirley to form Humble Pie, while the remaining Small Faces tapped singer Rod Stewart and guitarist Ronnie Wood and morphed into the Faces. Wonder whatever happened to those last two fellas?

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