Monday, 17 September 2018

Rod Stewart - Gasoline Alley (1970)

Down the gasoline alley where I started from....


Released June 1970

Rod Stewart's debut solo album, from the previous year, had been an eclectic, adventurous collection of cover versions of classic rock, folk and blues songs played in a largely "acoustic rock" style and some of his own songs written and played in the same style. It was very rough and ready, with an "almost live" energy that suited Stewart's blues-raised rasping vocal. This follow-up was more of the same, but it was slightly more polished, with Stewart sounding more confident, as if he was now convinced that the first experiment had been a successful one.

The album is pretty low on electric guitar, apart mainly from Ronnie Wood's bluesy bottleneck, although there are other sporadic appearances, but the full-on acoustic attack rocks as hard as any axe and the drums are huge and powerful. Stewart treats rock 'n' roll songs as if they were folk songs - but incredibly rocking folk songs. The whole album has a loose, unbridled feel about it that is positively infectious.


1. Gasoline Alley
2. It's All Over Now
3. Only A Hobo
4. My Way Of Giving
5. Country Comfort
6. Cut Across Shorty
7. Lady Day
8. Jo's Lament
9. You're My Girl (I Don't Want To Discuss It)

The title track is a Rod Stewart/Ronnie Wood composition, full of nostalgic lyrics for a youth only a few years behind them, and it has a killer refrain sung over some crystal clear acoustic riffs. The Rolling Stones/Bobby Womack's r 'n' b bluesy number, "It's All Over Now", is a six minute rambling romp that careers here and there, stopping and starting, but never losing its energy and rhythm. Bob Dylan's "Only A Hobo" is convincingly covered, showing respect to the original, but actually being one of the best ever covers of a Dylan song. Stewart turns it into a very catchy song.

Stewart's take on The Small Faces' "My Way Of Giving" is superb - punchy, powerful and vocally top notch. He has an untempered laddish appeal that had far more attraction here than say twenty years later by which time he had become a champagne-quaffing, hackneyed old roué. This really is Rod Stewart at his best, in many ways. Elton John and Bernie Taupin's "Country Comfort", from the same year's "Tumbleweed Connection" album, is delivered fetchingly, although it actually doesn't divert too much from the down-home charm of the original.

"Cut Across Shorty" is similar in its flexible rhythm to "It's All Over Now" and contains some Eastern-sounding violin to add to a most unusual soundscape. "Lady Day" has some deliciously bluesy bottleneck from Ronnie Wood and a sensitive vocal from Stewart.

"Jo's Lament" is not my favourite on the album, I have always found it a tad mournful, although listening to it again, I am warming to its bleak melody. "You're My Girl (I Don't Want To Discuss It)" is one of the rockiest cuts on the album with some funky guitar and drums and a superb vocal. It contains the album's best guitar throughout, being pretty much irresistible. Great stuff.


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