The name Small Faces was
a joke, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that the members of the band
were all rather short. When Ronnie Lane, then 18, helped put together the
group, he probably had no idea that life had serious trials ahead for him.
Perhaps he also couldn't have guessed how tall he would seem to stand when he
Back in the '60s, though, it was all a lark.
Lane, Steve Marriott (who later left to join Humble Pie), Ian McLagan and
Kenny Jones (who later joined the Who) cavorted through the burgeoning British
rock scene, making their mark with psychedelic pop guitar, a stab at a concept
album ("Ogden's Nut Gone Flake") and the Lane/Marriott-penned hit,
When Ron Wood (now with the Rolling Stones) and
Rod Stewart joined the lineup, the name of the band was shortened to the
Faces. At its peak, the group seemed a perfect example of boozy rock anarchy.
But the wild balance couldn't be sustained for long. And with the Faces
increasingly relegated to being Stewart's backup band, Lane struck out on his
own. Three albums with his group, Slim Chance, and a collaboration with the
Who's Pete Townshend on the "Rough Mix" album seemed to put him on
the road to a solid solo career. Then he discovered he had multiple sclerosis.
Physically weakened and emotionally demoralized, Lane withdrew from public
It was a long, hard road back and a smaller
spirit might not have made the attempt. A major turning point came in 1983,
when Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Joe Cocker, Steve Winwood and others joined
Lane in benefit shows for multiple sclerosis. Lane then moved to the United
States, living first in Houston and now in Austin, Texas, and focused on
treatment and a healthy lifestyle. His condition stabilized and today he says,
"I'm feeling pretty good. I think I've got a handle on it."
The next step was to reconstruct his career. In
recent years, Lane has become a familiar figure on the Austin concert scene
and won solid praise for shows highlighting old Lane favorites-"Well,
some old ones anyway," he jokingly remarks-and some of his newer
Lane has worked with a variety of musicians
during this time. "I chop and change," he says. "And they're
also governed by, what can I say, the `prosperity' of the band. It gets bigger
and smaller all of the time."
His current group includes accordion player
Ponty Bone, who has become something of an Austin legend for his work with Joe
Ely, Timbuk 3 and others; guitarist Daniel Castro ("He's quite an
exceptional guitarist, and I think I know what I'm talking about," says
Lane, who has shared the stage with guitar heroes like Eric Clapton, Jimmy
Page and Jeff Beck); drummer Lance Womack; and bassist Scott Garber.
Lane credits this current group for his latest
round of activity. He and the band did their first tour of Japan this past
spring and are now on a two-week tour of the Northeast and Midwest that brings
them to Lounge Ax for a show Wednesday.
"The trip to Japan kind of got me wanting
to work again because I wanted to keep this band together," Lane
explains. "All that I have learned in my life is that if you want
something, you've got to keep it together. So I'm on the `Keep It Together'
When asked how he would rate his former bands
now, Lane takes a surprisingly serious turn.
"We were just kids in those days. We kind
of tried. You know what happened in the '60s. But we didn't do anything
important. And when I come to think of it, what importance do any of us
Surely, fans would disagree, citing the many
good times his bands provided.
"That's what I would have answered in the
old days," he says. "I've just been looking at the whole thing about
existence and everything really hard. What good do we really do to this earth?
I can't really see the reason for our existing. It's quite a fair view, I
think. You think about it. There is no answer-apart from the fact that God
must be a very compassionate fellow." Other shows of note
Betty Carter, Friday at the Museum of Science
and Industry: It's hard to speak in cool, objective terms when the singer is
this great and the cause this good. After being cast for many years as a
maverick at best and a flamboyant charlatan at worst Carter is finally being
recognized as one of our era's finest female vocalists, thanks largely to the
success of her album "Look What I Got!" and the major-label reissue
of earlier work from her own Bet-Car label. The albums suggest Carter's
masterful technique and brilliant interpretative skills (as well as her
impressive production and arranging talents), but it takes a live setting to
fully reveal her greatness. It's then that her animated body language, sly wit
and fearless, full-tilt improvisatory assaults (this lady always works without
a net) are revealed. The show is also a benefit for Jazz Unites Inc. Though
the nonprofit community-based organization is best known for its annual South
Shore Country Club jazz festivals and Duke Ellington celebrations, it also
provides free jazz performances in the parks and a variety of workshops,
master classes and other jazz programs in the schools.
Dylan and Wire Train, Friday at the Chicago
Theatre: Dylan has been through town so many times in the last year or two,
one wonders if someone isn't threatening to repossess all his guitars or
something. It's certainly hard to believe this is purely artistic passion,
particularly when his latest album, "Under the Red Sky," so often
borders on nursery rhyme. Wire Train, on the other hand, has been conspicuous
by its absence. One of the more promising guitar bands on the mid-'80s San
Francisco alternative scene, the group got derailed by label troubles and
broke up in 1988. Re-formed with two new members and with a solid new album on
a different label, Wire Train appears to be back on track again.
REO Speedwagon, Saturday at the Chicago
Theatre: REO has the dubious distinction of appearing in virtually every
sentence that includes the phrase ". . . what was wrong with '70s
rock." But that never deterred this Champaign triceratops a bit. Though
the band's latest album, "The Earth, a Small Man, His Dog and a
Chicken," features three new players (Kevin Cronin, Neal Doughty and
Bruce Hall remain) and reveals a bit more of a penchant for lofty statements,
any of the tracks would sit comfortably next to such past hits as "Roll
With the Changes," "Keep on Loving You," "Take It on the
Run" or "Can't Fight This Feeling."
John Abercrombie Trio, Sunday at the Cubby
Bear: Abercrombie has been a strong force in contemporary jazz since the early
'70s. As a solo artist, working in duet with Ralph Towner and collaborating in
larger units with such artists as Jan Hammer, Jack DeJohnette, McCoy Tyner and
Bobby Hutcherson, the guitarist has combined ethereal tone and daunting
technique into a sound that is (to borrow the title of his best-known
composition) "timeless." The trio, which has been working together
for six years, also features talented bassist Marc Johnson (Bill Evans, Bass
Desires) and drummer Peter Erskine (Weather Report, Steps Ahead).
New Kids on the Block, Wednesday at the
Rosemont Horizon: "Kids," nothing, we're talking cash cows here, and
this one gets milked again in another sold-out show.
The Call, Thursday at the Vic: Maybe it's the
result of those collaborations with Garth Hudson, but the Call is sounding
more and more like the Band. The music on the group's latest album, "Red
Moon," is not only the most relaxed these anthemic rockers have ever
recorded but also the most strongly rooted in classic American song. Leader
Michael Been hasn't given up any of his questing and questioning, though,
making the Call the Band's moral as well as musical heir.