For a band that thrived onstage, and whose live performances are legendary, it's a shame that the only official concert document of the Faces is the less-than-stellar Live - Coast to Coast Overture and Beginners. Released on Jan. 10, 1974, as the group was about ready to call it quits, the album captured the Faces in ramshackle form during a pair of California shows from late 1973.

By the time the album was recorded, original bassist Ronnie Lane (the band's heart and soul) had split. "Nobody thought he was serious at first," recalled Rod Stewart in his book Rod:The Autobiography. "'I'm leaving the band' was a group catchphrase -- the stock Faces response to any disappointment or setback. But this time, Ronnie meant it." The group replaced him with Tetsu Yamauchi, from the recently disbanded Free. But something was missing.

The album -- which was credited to "Rod Stewart / Faces" (and resulted in two different labels releasing the record) -- is a mixed bag of live performances that relies too heavily on cover songs and Stewart solo material rather than prime Faces tracks. The opening one-two punch of "It's All Over Now" and "Cut Across Shortly" sets the stage, but the album never recovers from the raw "Too Bad" and loose "Every Picture Tells a Story" medley that follows.

Even with raving guitar work by Ronnie Wood and great piano pounding by Ian McLagan, the band sounds fatally unhinged. Stewart and drummer Kenney Jones are nothing less than professional, but their performances come off as weak and bland. Bootlegs have shown that the Faces were one of the best-ever live groups, which makes this sloppy LP even more of a disappointment. Covers of Jimi Hendrix's "Angel," John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" and the Temptations' "I Wish It Would Rain" seem like afterthoughts, and the Faces' most popular song, "Stay With Me," is delivered halfheartedly at best.

Live - Coast to Coast Overture and Beginners was released on Stewart's 29th birthday. Within a year, his solo career would draw him to a new life in the States, while Wood would become a full-time member of the Rolling Stones. Both changes proved too much to keep the splintering band together. The Faces officially broke up at the end of 1975. "The record company were at it again, saying, "You must be mad, this is over, get yourself a band, do the solo career, do what you want, it's time,'" Stewart recalled. "And eventually I conceded that it was."



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