"We were a fine drinking band, and most of our best work was done in the pub," says Rod Stewart in the liner notes to the phenomenal new Faces four-CD boxed set, Five Guys Walk Into a Bar. It's true -- in their day (1969-1975), the raucous British quintet was not only the finest bar band on the planet, but when they got big enough to play arenas, they actually brought the pub onstage, employing a nattily attired bartender to keep the booze flowing throughout their rowdy, boogie-blues throwdowns. As great as they were, though, history hasn't elevated the Faces to anywhere near the top of rock's pantheon, because several of its members graduated to much more prominent careers -- Stewart became a solo icon, guitarist Ron Wood hooked up with the Rolling Stones, and drummer Kenney Jones joined the Who.
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Five Guys finally gives the Faces their due in spectacular fashion. Thirty-one of the set's 67 tracks are previously unreleased; B-sides, live stuff, BBC radio sessions, outtakes, and covers of John Lennon and Paul McCartney songs sit alongside such familiar tunes as "Stay With Me" and "Ooh La La." Listening to these five-plus hours of material is pure joy; reading testimonials from members of the Sex Pistols, the Replacements, Guns n' Roses, the Black Crowes, Wilco, and Supergrass in the accompanying booklet is further reminder of how influential the Faces have been over the years. I'll drink to that, and so should you.