Review Summary: Arguably their finest (half of) hour.
It is said somewhere that 1960s were "We" decade and 1970s were "Me" decade. It is easy understand why. Many rock musicians that were contributing to various bands in 1960s, started respectable solo careers: Eric Clapton, Lou Reed, Neil Young, members of The Beatles. There were also huge ego clashes. Remember Lennon-McCartney-Harrison feud, then temporary break up of CSNY in 1970, arguing between Simon and Garfunkel. Showing off became more important than music. And yet one band kept rock and roll spirit alive. They had a special relationship with their fans. And what is the most important, all the best of 1960s remained intact in their music. They were The Faces: funny and charming Ronnie Wood, already brilliant vocalist but still not so Hollywoodified Rod Stewart, still healthy and a bit introspective Ronnie Lane, very soulful keyboard player Ian MacLagan and powerful drummer Kenney Jones. They had a strong sense of togetherness, carefree attitude, and plenty of good, funky songs about everyday life. They never tried to be too smart, conceptualistic or enigmatic, they were always honest and friendly. Their riffs were powerful as the ones of The Stones, but not so nihilistic and always friendly, as they say: "Welcome to the party". They were all skilled musicians, played easily, but were addicted to pubs, bars, and good time. No wonder their records were warm, charming, very accessible, simple, but somehow imperfect.
By 1973, Rod Stewart became superstar, and The Faces had one hit, "Stay With Me". Stewart's records were million selling, yet The Faces' ones were not. They just opened the doors of stardom with 1971 "A Nod Is Good as Wink...To a Blind Horse", so they needed one more hit record to cement the position. And they almost did it.
"Ooh La La" is by far their most serious and introspective record. Of course, it is friendly, filled with riffs, good time, but the folky songs penned mainly by Ronnie Lane steal the show. But this is why the record initially perplexed the audience. Immediately after the release it was panned by critics and, believe it or not, Rod Stewart himself. "Ooh La La" contains, for the band, unusually high quantity of sadness, suspicion and nostalgia. The party is still here but, there are questions "where do we go" in the air. As Ronnie Lane would say and Ronnie Wood would sing in the title track: "I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger." There are quiet meditations about love on "Glad and Sorry" and "If I'm On The Late Side". And there is also a potent dose of roaring rockers, listen to "Borstal Boys", "Silicone Grown" and "My Fault", but compared their only hit single, "Stay With Me", they didn't have so energizing and recognizable riff (to be honest, very, very few songs have so powerful riff as "Stay With Me"). Maybe that is the reason why was the record misunderstood. Everyone expected "Stay With Me" all over again, but they got something different, gentle and quiet.
Its quietness and folkiness aside, "Ooh La La" has its flaws. First, instrumental "Fly in the Ointment" is a limp, and it is very evident because it is placed between two jewels, after "Borstal Boys" and before "If I'm on the Late Side". The second, album is barely 30 minutes long. Of course, other 9 songs are at least very good, but it is too short. Another problem was Rod Stewart. Unfortunately he began acting like a superstar. He missed the initial recording sessions, leaving up to the rest of the guys to do the job. It is audible that his singing could be better, in terms of interpretation. Given that he panned it after the albums release, it was clear that he wanted to do a solo career, rather than to be in the band. It is ironic that "Ooh La La" is maybe the last truly great record he had something to do with.