A guest posting from George Forsyth
Put away those prejudices for a few minutes. I’m not going to defend his entire solo musical offerings, or even most of them, but to completely discard Rod Stewart is a catastrophic error of judgment. And I say that having listened to his 1977 album Foot Loose And Fancy Free to see if I could select a track for this ICA.
To ignore Rod Stewart because of, say, Do You Think I’m Sexy, or his cover of You Keep Me Hanging On, would be like dismissing The Fall after listening to Papal Visit (that god-awful load of old crap on the otherwise splendid Room To Live album). Or dismissing U2 because Bono is complete spunktrumpet. No, you dismiss U2 because Bono is a complete spunktrumpet AND because they are total shite.
I suppose you could say this is one of those pretentious cases of “I like his early stuff”, but those early records are, well, they can be described thus: very very good, very very good, outstandingly brilliantly fabulously toptastic, very good, and good. Then comes “what’s he done here?”, followed by “I don’t have that one”and “jesus, Rod, this is a bit shit”, then a much later entry of “I’ve got some money to burn, and that cover version sounds pretty damned good”. Those albums are: An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down, Gasoline Alley, Every Picture Tells A Story, Never A Dull Moment, Smiler, Atlantic Crossing, A Night On The Town, Foot Loose And Fancy Free, and When We Were The New Boys.
So there’s plenty of scope for a ten track ICA. By the way, I lied above, I didn’t listen to Foot Loose And Fancy Free all the way through; I made it through side one and almost finished side 2 but by the time I Was Only Joking came on I just couldn’t stand any more. But those first few albums, oh Rod, where did all go wrong????????
Those first two albums have a heavy-ish, blues/rock feel, there’s some splendid slower songs, and of course there’s Ronnie Wood’s guitar-playing. I can distinctly remember who I was with when I purchased these albums – a certain weegie-blogger was with me, in a second-hand record shop near Carlisle station. I’ve no idea why we were there, maybe he knows.
Anyway, I saw those first two Rod albums on one of those double-album packages Rod Stewart The Vintage Years 1969-1970, for £3. Charity Chic purchased a rather splendid album too, for a change, Johnny Cash at San Quentin. I had, a few weeks earlier, purchased One Of The Best Albums Ever made (Every Picture Tells a Story), and had mistakenly thought that it was Rod’s first solo album. When I told a friend I had purchased Rod Stewart’s first solo album he replied “do you like An Old Raincoat, then?” He was met with a quite glaikit look. Not for the first time, and that look certainly gets a lot of use round these parts when I try and converse in the local language (plenty of “nao percebo” and “fale mais devargar, por favour”).
Enough of that. Just listen to these ten fantastic tracks, you really won’t regret it.
1. An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down – track 1 side 2 from that first album. Simply “WOW”. From that pounding bass intro to the wild guitar, this is a fantastic late 60s rock song.
2. I Wouldn’t Change A Thing – track 2 side 2 from the same album. A heavy rock-almost-prog song, with Lou Reizner guest vocalising (that’s the “Lou” that Rod refers to in the song). Who’s he? He gave the name Aphrodite’s Child to the Greek Prog band, that’s who! He also produced the first two solo Rod Stewart albums. And that’s Keith Emerson organing away.
An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down, as I have implied above, really should be on your shelves, it’s great example of late 60s heavy-rock. I have not selected Handbags and Gladrags, for example, because I have restricted myself to two tracks from this album. I should also say the same for track 3 of side 2, Cindy’s Lament, another great heavy-rock song on the album. There’s also………….look, just go and buy the damned album (and of course that means you too, Charity Chic). I’ve also decided to upgrade this album from very very good to It’s Bloody Brilliant.
3. It’s All Over Now – track 2 side 1 of Gasoline Alley. A near 6-and-a-half minute cover version. Fantastic piano from Ian McLagan, great guitar, great drums, GREAT SCOTLAND YARD this is a great song. What is so encapsulating? It sounds as if they’re all in the studio together, belting this out, and having a really good time doing so.
4. Country Comforts – track 1 side 2 of the album. That’s Jack Reynolds doing the backing vocal. No idea who he is/was.
The second album, Gasoline Alley, has Stanley Matthews on mandolin. If only it was THAT Stanley Matthews*. But it’s not. And on another day I could easily choose a different two for this ICA. And listening to it right now as I type, this is Another Bloody Brilliant Record.
On to One Of The Ten Best Albums Of All Time. It should be illegal not to own this album. No (inane) comments are needed from me about any of the ten tracks on Every Picture Tells A Story. Here’s two:
In 1972 Rod Stewart released Never A Dull Moment, which has some original compostions and some cover versions.
8. Twisting The Night Away – a cover of the Sam Cooke song
Two more tracks to go. The last album for Mercury was Smiler; It’sthe one with that ridiculous tartan cover and a framed photo of Rod wearing a blouse., but don’t let that put you off. It’s an album I like, despite the rather strange cover version of You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman, which Rod changes to Man, and it just doesn’t work, which is very unusual for Rod, his covers up until then were first class.
9. A Hard Road
One more track to go. And it’s from a 1998 album When We Were The Rude Boys. And it’s a cover of an Oasis song. Now, don’t let that put you off, Rod doesn’t try and reproduce that incredibly annoying nasally twangy sneery voice that Mr Gallagher has.
10. Cigarettes and Alcohol – I’ll take this version over the Oasis one any time.
So an ICA from the “when he was good” era of Rod Stewart, plus one from twenty-plus years later. I almost included his cover of The First Cut Is The Deepest, which carried on Rod’s fine habit of creating great cover versions. But I didn’t.
* There was an English footballer called Stanley Matthews.