Friday, February 19, 2016

Rod Stewart 1: The Rod Stewart Album

There was a time when bands and artists would be expected to release more than one album within a calendar year. This undoubtedly put pressure on such individuals, not all of whom had the talent or grapes to produce quality at such a rate. Rod Stewart, however, knew how to surround himself with musicians that spurred creativity, not just for his own albums, but for a band he’d happened to join. (We’ll get to them soon enough.)
As titled in America, The Rod Stewart Album is split between covers and originals, electric and acoustic. The overall feel is of a band playing in a small room. Ron Wood and Mick Waller came over from the Jeff Beck Group, Woody liberated to contribute all of the lead guitar. His bottleneck is prominent on a rearranged cover of the Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” which switches to the recognizable chords by the end, and Ian McLagan even throws in Nicky Hopkins’ part from “We Love You” over the end. “Man Of Constant Sorrow” is the folk song, here given more of a blues angle, while “Blind Prayer” is dark and dirty. That makes “Handbags And Gladrags”, featuring the song’s composer, Mike D’Abo, on piano, all the more sad and pretty. Familiar today to viewers of the original British Office series, that oboe and flute counterpoint will haunt long after the false ending fades. And that’s one perfect album side.
“An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down” was the title given to the British version of the album; the song itself is a midtempo boogie showing off Woody’s tendency to play a lead right alongside the vocals. Another change of pace comes with “I Wouldn’t Ever Change A Thing”, showcasing Keith Emerson’s classical organ and producer Lou Reizner trading lines over one of the sections. The Hammond being the instrument of the day, “Cindy’s Lament” plows through a basic blues riff and a few key changes, and Ewan MacColl’s “Dirty Old Town” gets distilled through the album’s instrumental combinations.
Barely a decade later, after he’d become his own caricature, it wasn’t easy to think of Rod Stewart as having any kind of balls. One listen to The Rod Stewart Album goes a long way to restoring his reputation. It’s short but solid.

Rod Stewart The Rod Stewart Album (1969)—

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