Unlike the other big mod band from the 60s, The Who, the Small Faces didn’t earn their place in fans’ designer clothed hearts by being bombastic. Instead, the foursome wrote cool, memorable songs that had the British sensibility of the Kinks with the melodies and delivery of Motown artists.
“All or Nothing” is quite a simple song; guitar chords arpeggiated for one section and strummed on the next one, applying the immortal “soft verse/loud chorus” dynamic to a simple lyric about losing someone, topped with a melody that gets stuck in your head without much effort. The song is a little strained by the Small Faces’ standards up to that point (and they would get much looser on their follow up album, the superb Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake) without resorting to balladeering; in other words, it does rock, although you can imagine it being a hit for a Merseybeat band a few years before if it had less balls.
What makes this song is the bridge before the final chorus. It’s here that the build up pays off and Steve Marriott actually lets it rip with a soulful voice that’s raspy and beaming with desperation, like blue-eyed soul if it was actually about getting your blood boiling instead of just trying to sound cool (in fact, Marriott was one of the first to successfully sing in this style). The now-famous dynamic can be heard here, predating the use of the same formula picked up by the Pixies and Nirvana by some 20 years.