Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Rod Stewart - Smiler (1974)

You don't get no mail, you'll know I'm in jail....


Released October 1974

Recorded in Richmond, London

Running time 42.24

This was the last of the "credible" Rod Stewart solo albums, before he crossed the Atlantic and became a huge chart superstar, and consequently somewhat preposterous in image. This album still featured members of The Faces on many tracks and most of the other musicians from the previous four albums. It would be the last of those collaborations, though, which was a shame, but you could tell that something was going to give. The Faces had already virtually split, of course, with inter-band tensions all over the place

After releasing no solo album apart from the compilation Sing It Again, Rod for over two years, it was a watershed album for many reasons other than those already stated. It was simply not quite as good as the previous four and it had a feeling of "treading water" about it, with Stewart restless to have his shot at the big time, and his old mates, possibly, getting a bit cheesed off with his "Charlie big potatoes" posturings. It was also the first of his solo albums to take a critical battering, which is slightly unfair, because, as I said, it is not that bad. It has a certain loose, edgy charm to it.


1. Sweet Little Rock 'n' Roller
2. Lochnivar
3. Farewell
4. Sailor
5. Bring In On Home To Me/You Send Me
6. Let Me Be Your Car
7. (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman
8. Dixie Toot
9. Hard Road
10. I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face
11. Girl From The North Country
12. Mine For Me

Despite that, the album, for me, has something of the half-baked feel of Elton John's Caribou from the summer of the same year about it. Let's cover the good stuff first, though. The highlight is the last of the great early Rod Stewart Maggie May era singles - the greatly underrated Farewell. It was one of my absolute favourite Rod singles, with its great fade out line - "you don't get no mail, you'll know I'm in jail..".

Sweet Little Rock 'n' Roller was a rocking, lively start to the album and Bring It On Home To Me/You Send Me was a convincing cover by Stewart of two of his beloved Sam Cooke's best songs, segued together.

Dixie Toot, the bluesy Hard Road, the instrumental I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face and the Bob Dylan cover, Girl From The North Country are all acceptable throwbacks to the folky rock sound of the first three albums, and Rod's cover of Paul McCartney's Mine For Me is thoroughly enjoyable too.

Rod's gender switching in Carole King's (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Man was probably not a great idea. It just sounds a bit silly, I have to admit. His cover of Elton John's Let Me Be Your Car is perfectly ok as is Sailor. In fact, despite that critical leathering at the time, I still have to reiterate that, in retrospect, it is all pretty much ok. Rod is on good vocal form. The songs are good. Just not as enigmatically special as the previous two albums.