(9.5 out of 10)
Over the years, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake has been reissued on CD seven different times by the same label, so any skepticism regarding whether or not this most recent 3-CD “deluxe edition” by that same label is the ultimate/definitive/perfect/never-to-be-topped version is well-warranted.
But if nothing else, this new issue serves as a reminder of how essential this often-overlooked album is. Just like the previous 3-CD version that came out in 2006, this set includes remastered versions of both the stereo and mono mixes of the album. While the previous version tacked on a listen-once-and-never-again Radio One documentary, the third disc here is a nice collection of early versions and alternate mixes.
Although any differences in sonic quality between the remasters are negligible, it’s somewhat difficult to overstate just how much better (and more psychedelic) the mono mix of this classic record is. The trippy flourishes and lysergic narrations of Ogdens’ are more complementary (and effective) in the mono mix, allowing the raw power of cuts like “Lazy Sunday” and “Afterglow (Of Your Love)” to hold most of your focus instead of goofy stereo pans from one speaker to the other. Those psychedelic affectations have always been something of a distraction from what makes Ogdens’ the best album in the Small Faces’ Steve Marriott-era catalog; this was the record that the band fully embraced their roots as a hard-hitting, R&B-influenced band, but translated those raw, early influences into a sophisticated and visceral take on modern rock ‘n’ roll. Sure, the story of Happiness Stan is a laughable bit of paisley-era twaddle, but “Rene” is all swinging swagger, and the full-throttle blues-bash of “Rollin’ Over” basically lays out the sonic blueprint for the entire catalog of the Rod Stewart-era Faces. It’s a marvelously confident album that’s diverse in its moods and consistent in its strengths, and deserves to be reissued in as many different versions as the rights-holders can imagine.