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article imageReview: Rod Stewart re-releases his first five solo albums

By Adrian Peel     Sep 24, 2015 in Music
One of the biggest selling artists of all time has put out a solid new CD set made up of the following classics: "An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down," "Gasoline Alley," "Every Picture Tells a Story," "Never a Dull Moment" and "Smiler."
It's worth remembering that Rod Stewart hasn't always been the staple of AOR radio, the housewives' favourite, that he is today. Once upon a time, a rebel heart beat below the flashy exterior and spiky blonde hair that have long since become his trademark, with much of these five albums showing "Rod the Mod" at his rock 'n' roll best.
An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down, released in the UK in early 1970 (it was rechristened The Rod Stewart Album in the US, as the original title was deemed "too quirky" for American audiences), is similar in style to the raw, uncomplicated sound of The Faces and indeed two members of the band, Ronnie Wood and the late Ian McLagen, both appear.
The band's - and Rod's - musical resemblance to late 1960s/early 1970s Rolling Stones is exemplified on the first track, a cover of the Stones' "Street Fighting Man." Four of the album's tracks were written by Stewart, the first of which is the bluesy "Blind Prayer."
The second instantly-familiar-to-millions tune is the singer's solid version of the Mike d'Abo-penned "Handbags and Gladrags," a song later used, of course, as the theme tune to popular British sitcom The Office.
Elsewhere, the title track (the second Rod Stewart composition) is infectiously uptempo, while "I Wouldn't Ever Change a Thing" includes some gorgeous piano and organ, courtesy of McLagen and Keith Emerson respectively.
The final Stewart original is the soulful "Cindy's Lament" before the album comes to a very satisfying conclusion thanks to a moving, harmonica-heavy take on "Dirty Old Town," from the trusted pen of British folk singer Ewan MacColl.
Next up is Gasoline Alley from 1970, an album that featured contributions from all the members of The Faces (Ronnie Lane and Kenney Jones included), a much loved group who recently reunited.
Kicking things off is the superb title track, written by Stewart and his mate Ronnie Wood. A number of covers follow, such as Bobby Womack's "It's All Over Now," "Only a Hobo" by Bob Dylan, the Small Faces' "My Way of Giving" and my pick of the bunch, "Country Comfort" by Elton John.
Stewart again shows occasionally forgotten signs of sheer excellence, both as a vocalist and as a songwriter, on "Lady Day" and "Jo's Lament" (another ex-girlfriend?!). The groovy, macho-sounding "You're My Girl (I Don't Want to Discuss It)" then rounds things off nicely.
Album number three, the ten-track Every Picture Tells a Story, is another cracker, containing among its ranks the proud Scot's best known hit - and his first number one - "Maggie May."
Other tunes of note on this impressive collection, that showcases a variety of musical influences, from rock to soul and blues to country, are "Seems Like a Long Time," "Tomorrow Is a Long Time" (another Dylan cut), "Mandolin Wind" and "Reason to Believe."
In the summer of 1972, continuing this amazing run of LPs, came Never a Dull Moment - catchy opener "True Blue" is also one of the best songs the 70-year-old former ladies man has ever recorded. Once again it is a Stewart/Wood composition, as are "Lost Paraguayos" and "Italian Girls."
"Mama You Been on My Mind" is yet another Dylan song and Jimi Hendrix's "Angel" serves as a fitting tribute to the then-recently deceased icon. The outstanding "I'd Rather Go Blind," a cover of Sam Cooke's "Twistin' the Night Away" and the artist's second number one "You Wear It Well" are further gems.
Although the use of tartan on the cover is certainly eye-catching, the weakest of the five albums, Smiler, completes this welcome series of reissues. Highlights among the often lacklustre 12 tracks are "Sailor," "(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Man," the sublime "Girl from the North Country" and Paul and Linda McCartney's "Mine for Me."
A year later, on 1975's Atlantic Crossing, Rod Stewart began to cross over to a more polished, pop-friendly, glam rock sound, turning him into the crowd pleasing global superstar we know today. Some would say, however, that artistically he has never again hit the heights of his work with The Faces and of these first five solo albums.
The energy of youth, the sheer wide-eyed delight at simply being allowed to make music for a living and the hunger displayed throughout makes them well worth revisiting.
This classic Rod Stewart reissue is out now and is available from Amazon.
For more information on Rod Stewart, a man who has sold over 100 million records worldwide, visit his official website.
More about Rod stewart, Gasoline Alley, Every Picture Tells A Story, Never A Dull Moment, Smiler
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