Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance: I was 13 when I first heard this name for a group in a book about music and musicians. I didn’t fully appreciate all of life’s ups and downs just yet, so the title seemed pretty funny to me. They must actually be good, I thought. I didn’t get around to hearing Ronnie Lane’s solo work for quite some time due to a lack of availability of his music in the U.S. Of course, I did know the Faces, the British Boozy n’ Bluesy group famous for hits like “Stay With Me” featuring Rod Stewart as lead vocalist. Sure did like that bass line though! And that was Ronnie Lane laying it down. I finally acquired the Faces album, A Nod’s as Good as a Wink…to a Blind Horse (which I thought was certainly an odd title – although perhaps no odder than Weasels Ripped my Flesh by Frank Zappa!)
The first couple of songs on the album were written by Rod Stewart and guitarist Ronnie Wood. But then! I didn’t recognize the voice on the fourth song, which clearly wasn’t Rod Stewart. I liked it, to be sure, but I was confused. Who was this? I deduced by the song credits that it must be Ronnie Lane. As history played out, Rod Stewart became increasingly famous and the Faces rode that wave as well. But Ronnie Lane was dissatisfied with his secondary role in the band and wanted more opportunities to sing his compositions. Thus, in 1973 he quit the band at the height of their popularity. This is when he put together Slim Chance. He wrote, recorded and performed the music of his heart and his choosing. A splendid mix of British Folk, Rock n’ Roll and elements of The Band all came together using mandolins, accordions, violins, penny whistles and a more ‘traditional’ Rock line-up: electric guitars, bass and drums. I find it to be a most unique sound while at the same comforting and familiar.
My favorite Ronnie Lane album is One For The Road. To be sure, when it was released in 1976, it was well against the musical grain of popular music. For a variety reasons in and out of Ronnie’s control, it turns out his band was aptly named. While Rod Stewart went on to superstar status as a solo artist expertly blending his Rock ‘n Soul sound while still remaining current and fresh sounding, Ronnie’s music career stalled into the doldrums. Nevertheless, I love his earnest, Dylan-esque singing and the way it conveys a yearning and longing. It also has a certain anger and cheekiness that keeps his songs on the ground, without floating away in musings.
I thoroughly recommend bringing one of music’s unsung heroes, Ronnie Lane, into your world.
Here is a video of Ronnie singing his best-known song, “Ooh La La” with the great sing-a-long Chorus,
I wish that I knew what I know now / When I was younger