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 Rod Stewart

British Rock Singer




Rod Stewart

An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down - 5

We must always remember that this was the beginning of the legend and the first of four rock albums that would establish Stewart as a prime time rock force before he moved off into the area of schmaltz.

It's very much a hotch potch of styles as if Stewart is searching for his real identity. It set the standard for his subsequent albums and set out his stall as an embryonic songwriter, mixing original material with standards as he veered between solid Rod the Mod rock and folk.

He does a decent job on Mike D'Abo's Handrags and Gladrags although I have always preferred the Chris Farlowe version. He tackles the Stones' Street Fighting Man and then gives us three originals in Blind Prayer, the title track and Cindy's Lament. Then he veered towards folk/rock with the surprise inclusion of Ewan MacColl's Dirty Old Town. Overall a patchy album, but one that showed promise

Gasoline Alley - 6

Stewart began to become of age as he continued to craft out his own style and this became more apparent on Gasoline Alley which took the themes on the previous alley and turned them into something more tangible. If "Raincoat" was a solid opening offering, this saw Stewart moving forwards but still staying within the same framework of mixing folk and rock with the gravel voice to produce a melange of songs that would lead to the excellence of Every Picture Tells A Story.

The great innovation with Gasoline Alley is the introduction of the electric mandolin sound that would dominate the next two albums. Rod also took songs from some of the cutting edge artists of the day such as Womack and Womack's "It's All Over Now" which was probably more famously covered by the Rolling Stones. Dylan's Only a Hobo and Elton John's Country Comforts certainly aren't out of place and the title track gives us the sharp edged Stewart lyrics - a journey through his past. There are plenty of flaws in Gasoline Alley but it was a major step in the right direction and would metamorphose into one of the classic alums in the history of rock music.

Every Picture Tells A Story - 9

"Raincoat" and "Gasoline Alley" were the build-up albums for this great rock anthem - one of the finest pure rock events of all time. This is where Stewart combined everything that was good about his persona at the time and reached heights that he would never again live up to.

It trod the same mixture of rock, blues, folk and country but in a much more grown-up way and included three Stewart classics and a bunch of others that weren't far behind. The first two albums suggest a singer trying to come to terms with a style that would suit his throaty lyrics. Here he found that style with a vengeance.

The cast list on this album reads like a who's who from 1970s rock and included The Faces, Maggie Bell, Madeleine Bell and the glorious mandolin playing of Ray Jackson from one of my all-time favourite groups Lindisfarne.

Stewart's ability as a songwriter came on leaps and bounds, particularly with the two classics Maggie May (co-written with Martin Quittenton) and the glorious Mandolin Wind (my all time favourite Stewart track), the latter evoking so much atmosphere within its perfectly crafted five and a half minutes. The title track is another masterful, punchy and raunchy Stewart winner and elsewhere the album overflows with great songs that seem to mesh. He returns to the Dylan catalogue with "Tomorrow is a Long Time" does an excellent job on Arthur Crudup's "That's All Right" hacks into his arrangement of "Amazing Grace" and then finishes off with the stunning Tim Hardin "Reason to Believe." It seems incredible to think that "Maggie May" and "Reason to Believe" were released as a double A side single. Surely this has to be the two greatest songs ever put together on a 45. Without a doubt this was Stewart at his peak.

Never A Dull Moment - 6

Every Picture Tells a story established Stewart as a great British rock n roller - somebody whose albums were added to a collection without question. There were hopes that Never A Dull Moment would reach the same heights as "Picture." Sadly this wasn't to be true. Certainly after the previous offering this was a disappointment but that, of course doesn't make it a bad album and it needs to be reviewed in its own right as comparisons with the previous album were never going to be fair.

Again Stewart trod the well worn path of mixing folk, rock, blues and country but sadly the songs weren't of the same strength. Stewart and Quittenton reprised Maggie May in the form of "You Wear It Well" which was still a good song. Jimi Hendrix' Angel is also excellent and once again we have the mandolin work of Ray Jackson.

But the overall feeling of this album is perhaps Stewart has gone down the same road just once too often - perhaps there is a similarity between the quartet of albums that is now becoming slightly dull (perhaps that's why the title was chosen). It weighed in at just over 32 minutes - eight minutes shorter than Every Picture and contained just nine tracks which rather asked the question "Hey Rod are you getting short of material?" Another question posed is where would he go to progress his career. In retrospect we know the answer to that.