Friday, 14 September 2018

Rod Stewart


"Well, a musician's life is a lot easier and I can also get drunk and make music, and I can't do that and play football. I plumped for music ... They're the only two things I can do actually - play football and sing" - Rod Stewart 

It was Maggie May that first captivated me as a twelve year-old, watching soon to be legendary cocksman kick footballs around on Top Of The Pops. I liked his flamboyant, laddish cheekiness and it was just such a great song, wasn't it? I duly bought the single and then You Wear It Well, What Made Milwaukee Famous and Oh No Not My Baby as they came out. I became a Faces fan too, unsurprisingly. As the decade continued, I faced the dilemma that faced many Rod Stewart fans as he turned up on Top Of The Pops in make-up to sing The First Cut is The Deepest just as punk was beginning to take off and, by 1978 was coming out with the awful cod-disco of Da Ya Think I'm Sexy? What to do? A hugely credible artist was becoming a preening self-parody in front of our eyes.

The thing is, though, old Rod could still come out with a killer song - I Was Only Joking and You're In My Heart were two such examples. Despite my immersion in punk at the time, Rod was still a guilty pleasure. 

(By the way, the piano playerfeatured on the Top Of The Pops shot above is none other than John Peel, sitting in for a bit of a laugh. I'm not sure if he could play).
 
The eighties saw him decline into synth pop, as did Elton John, The Rolling Stones and even Bob Dylan so I guess he could be forgiven (just) but I have to say I paid little attention to him during his period. I have come back to him with his later albums and caught him live on a few occasions and a good time was had by all, as Stewart himself may have said. He is another of these artists, like Dylan, Elton, The Stones, Springsteen, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello that I have never given up on, over so many years.

The early years, and for many, including myself, by far the best ones....

An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down (1969)

Rod Stewart's debut solo album was a ragged, raw-edged beauty. Taking rock songs and turning them into soulful folk songs, dominated by an aggressive acoustic guitar and punchy drum attack he came up with something quite unique. Something that seemed to complement his throaty, rasping vocal perfectly.

Stewart cut his teeth in the mid-late sixties singing the blues and he applies the blues power to his vocals on here. The opener, The Rolling StonesStreet Fighting Man, is turned into an acoustic-driven but raucous slice of madcap folk-blues, compete with rumbling bass solo at the end. 

A Man Of Constant Sorrow is a traditional folk song sung over a slide guitar, acoustic guitar and bass backing. It is very raw and stark and a little bit of an acquired taste and nothing like later work in Stewart's career. Some searing electric guitar swirls all around Stewart's self-penned Blind Prayer, a song written as if it were an authentic 1930s road blues. As I said, it is all very rough round the edges, and the sound had been considerably polished by the following year's album, Gasoline Alley.

Everyone is familiar with the beautiful 
Handbags And Gladrags by now. It actually comes as a relaxing break from the frenetic blues-folk that had given such a breakneck opening to the album. The piano coda is lovely and Stewart's vocal just sublime. Possibly his finest moment. Yes, it that good. A big rumbling bass on it too.

An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down is a thumping, raw rocker with another big bass sound and Stewart's great vocal matching the pounding drum sound. 
I Wouldn't Change A Thing has an almost jazzy rhythm in its cymbal work, and also some "prog-rock"-style madcap organ. It really didn't sound like anything else at the time, although it has a Blood Sweat & Tears vocal part in it half way through. It is a bit indulgent in that late sixties way, but it has an appeal too, despite that. 

The same sonorous organ introduces Cindy's Lament. Once again the drums are massive and you get the feeling that Rod's vocals are completely ad hoc. It has a Hendrix-y feel to it. A star was born, of that there was no doubt. This young guy certainly had something. The same applied to his guitar-playing mate on this record, Ronnie Wood. The final track is a warm, rhythmic cover of the folk classic Dirty Old Town, complete with some impressive blues harmonica. An interesting album worthy of anyone's spare half hour.

Gasoline Alley (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.

Gasoline Alley 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 FacesMy 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. Artists used to cover each other's songs with regularity in those days without any worries of detracting from each other's sales. 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.

Every Picture Tells A Story (1971)

Rod Stewart's first four albums were mixtures of rock, folk, country and blues with some Sam Cooke-style soul atmosphere thrown in in places. They were highly credible, atmospheric and enjoyable albums. All five members of the Faces appeared on this one, so it was, to all intents and purposes, a Faces album.

The first two albums, An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down and Gasoline Alley were more folky than rocky, in comparison with this album and had just a few rough edges about them, particularly the first one. All such edges were ironed out here, though, and this was Rod Stewart's first real quality release. It all came together and, together with an iconic single release taken from the album, made Rod Stewart a household name.
                                       

The storming Every Picture Tells A Story starts quietly and then kicks into a blast of rock with a few folk influences and a copper-bottomed Stewart vocal remembering how he "fell in love with a slit-eyed girl" in a way he would never have got away with now. This track really rocks and is a great introduction. Then we slow down the pace with the classic Rod Stewart slow bluesy rock ballad, Seems Like A Long Time. Some impressive drums, bass and lead guitar on this one, and, of course, Rod's vocal. Just perfect in so many ways. 

Rod's cover of Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup/Elvis's That's All Right is sensational, pure Faces - brim full of rocking piano, acoustic and electric guitars merging, mandolin, thumping drums and Rod's blues-soaked vocal. It had that extended rocking Stay With Me - style rocking instrumental/vocal ending too. Glorious. Rod loved a bit of mournful , Scottish-influenced folky instrumental, and we had it here with Amazing Grace. The Caledonian folky influence continues in to an impressive cover of Bob Dylan's Tomorrow Is A Long Time. Stewart liked a Dylan cover, and he always did them justice.

The now world-famous, memorable single, 
Maggie May (here with its nice, rarely used on the radio, mandolin intro) was initially the 'b' side to the lovely, and equally seductive Reason To Believe. However, the former's popularity gained through radio play and its "story" style lyrics that everyone sang along to ensured a "flip" of release and it became the 'a' side and a massive number one hit and an undoubted claim to be Rod Stewart's best ever song. Even now, I can never fail to enjoy listening to it. Lovely bass underpinning it too. Oh, and did I forget that mandolin part at the end.

Mandolin Wind with its steel guitar intro, is, like the cover of Tim Hardin's Reason To Believe just beautiful. Soulful, evocative Stewart folky rock of the highest order. Just listen to the mandolin/drum ending to Mandolin Wind or the haunting vocal delivery on Reason To Believe. Both songs are unforgettable. As, too, is Stewart's peerless rendering of The TemptationsI Know I'm Losing You, one of few really credible covers of Motown material. Check out Kenney Jones' drum work at the end, and that guitar. Again, The Faces at their very best. Just a fantastic blues rock track.

"Through the coldest winter in almost fourteen years...". Rod could pen a line or two, it is often forgotten.


Never A Dull Moment (1972)

Rod Stewart's fourth solo album follows the same excellent blues/folk/soul/rock path that was so successful on the previous year's Every Picture Tells A Story. Once again, members of The Faces make large contributions so the album is, once again, very much like a Faces album. True Blue is a fabulous rocking opener - great riffs, drums, blues rock vocals from Stewart and another one of those Stay With Me rocking instrumental (with added vocals) endings that end things on such a high note. 

Lost Paraguayos is one of those mandolin-drive folky rock workouts like Reason To Believe and Mandolin Wind. Again, excellent, thumping drum backing from Kenney Jones and top notch work from the whole band. The quality continues into another impressive, steel guitar-dominated Dylan cover, Mama You Been On My Mind. As mentioned in the review of the previous album, Stewart rarely, if ever, gets his Dylan covers wrong.

The massive hit single, You Wear It Well,  is almost the match of Maggie May. It gets as much radio play, even now, and is up there in Rod's top five. It is another "character" song about a woman, in the Maggie May mould. Its intriguing lyrics certainly are worn well in the song. "I've been meaning to phone yah, but from Minnesot-agh..." has Stewart showing off his vocal affectations to the max.

Stewart's tribute to the recently-deceased Jimi HendrixAngelis soulful and beautiful. A worthy dedication to a great, departed genius. 
Italian Girls is a pure Faces rocker, dominated by Ronnie Wood's guitar and yet another convincing Stewart vocal. I Would Rather Go Blind sees Stewart impressively taking on the Etta James soul classic, rather in the fashion he attacked The TemptationsI Know I'm Losing You, full of grit, blues energy and balls. Rod could cover soul, make no mistake about that. Once again, The Faces and the other musicians are outstanding on this. Then, to finish, Stewart covers a song from another of his heroes, Sam CookeTwistin' The Night Away is a true delight, fast, rocking, full of soulful vigour and marvellously catchy. Oh, and there is that great drum rat-a-tat bit near the end.

Only four original tracks - True BlueLost ParaguayosItalian Girls and You Wear It Well. No matter, the covers are of such a high quality that it still makes for a excellent album. The original 8-track cartridge release apparently included the country-rock hit single What Made Milwaukee Famous, which was ok, but somewhat lightweight and certainly is not missed here. Incidentally, I always thought Rod looked decidedly strange on the front cover.

Smiler (1974)

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.

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.

Blonde mullet, rivers of champagne, eye make-up - oh dear. Rod's transatlantic years....

Atlantic Crossing (1975)
         
Atlantic Crossing is a most enjoyable album,
 immaculately played by top session musicians including the legendary Steve Cropper, but it is the sort of album that, a while after listening to it, you can’t really remember much about it. Its not a classic, but neither is it bad. It was commercially huge, of course, so who am I to say it is ordinary? I do feel. However, that it just didn’t have that appealing folky blues vibe of Rod Stewart’s first five solo albums. Those acoustic guitars and mandolins were gone, replaced by a driving US rock sound. It marked the start of his transatlantic mega-stardom and much of that homely feel of those early albums was gone, forever. Rod Stewart albums would now be musically note-perfect, played by experienced musicians, but from now on they would just be a little soulless, which was a shame. That joie de vivre of those albums and the Faces work would never be repeated, unfortunately.

                                   
There is excellent material on the album though, notably a superb cover of 
The Isley Brothers’ This Old Heart Of Mine; the beautiful, heartbreaking cover of Danny (Crazy Horse) Whitten's I Don't Want To Talk About It that Rod totally made his own; a most soulful cover of Dobie Gray’s Drift Away; and some upbeat, grinding Faces-style rockers (sort of) in Three Time Loser (about venereal disease); All In The Name Of Rock 'n' Roll (with a namecheck for “Mr McCartney”); Stone Cold Sober and Alright For An Hour. All pretty good, but I have to say nothing jump out of your seat incredible. 
There are a couple of fine love songs  present too, though, in the touching Still Love You and It's Not The SpotlightOh, did I forget something? Oh yes, Sailing. I had previously known it from 1972’s dirge-like Sutherland Brothers single. I didn’t go for Rod’s anthemic version then and I still don’t. Sorry Rod. Millions love it though, so fair enough. As I said, a pleasant album, but one I rarely return to. It is so much the sound of 1975 though.

An excellent review of the album can be found on Mark Barry's most informative site :-

https://markattheflicks.blogspot.com/2021/04/atlantic-crossing-by-rod-stewart-august.html

A Night On The Town (1976)
            
Of the albums released after Rod Stewart "sold out"
 and became a somewhat preposterous, preening superstar, this is by far my favourite. I prefer it to the incredibly successful predecessor Atlantic Crossing. It is packed full of excellent, riffy rock songs and big rock ballads of the sort that Stewart did so well.
                             
First up is the sensual, seductive majesty of Tonight's The Night with Rod going all lecherous as he tells his innocent young companion just exactly how good her night is going to be. It is ludicrously corny, of course but I can't help but love it. The original recording had Rod's squeeze at the time, Britt Ekland, sighing and cooing all over the end part. Subsequent releases have deleted it out, which was a shame as the vocals added a certain erotic atmosphere. The First Cut Is The Deepest is an absolutely stonking cover of Cat Stevens' tender original. Stewart turns it into a soulful anthem. Fool For You is a romantic tribute to a lover, with Rod preferring her to StreisandBardot and Loren. This is very much a typical mid-seventies Rod Stewart melodic organ-driven ballad.

The Killing Of Georgie
 is a remarkable song. A slow tempo, moving narrative about a friend of Stewart's killed (possibly) for being gay in the mid-seventies in New York. It may seem strange now, but a song like this was genuinely ground-breaking in 1976. Songs treating homosexuals sympathetically were extremely thin on the ground. Stewart's song was extremely tender and sensitive, coming from such a "lad". Fair play to him at the time.

The old "side two" was the "fast" side, for a night out. It is full of classic Stewart rock. The Balltrap is a pulsating tale about having continual sexual encounters with the same woman, who has poor old Rod by the balls, it would seem. 
Manfred Mann'Pretty Flamingo is covered soulfully in true Stewart style, not detracting from the original in any way. Big Bayou is a pounding, horn-driven Stewart original rocker and The Wild Side Of Life is given a barroom honky-tonk makeover. Trade Winds ends on a slow tempo note with a captivating ballad ending in a big singalong chorus. In many ways this is a commercial album that gets critically-ignored, which is a shame as it has hidden depths. A quick half hour of this every now and again is good for you.

Footloose And Fancy Free (1977)
   
This was perhaps the last completely credible Rod Stewart album for many a year.
 The first five had been excellent, the two "American" ones - Atlantic Crossing and A Night On The Town were more than acceptable. This was another one recorded since he became a Transatlantic superstar and the quality was still pretty good, just about holding on in there. Critically, I have seen it regularly panned as a lazy, complacent offering. I have to beg to disagree here. The next album meets that description, but this one, in my opinion, still has a lot to offer.
                                       
It includes two copper-bottomed Rod Stewart anthems - the evocative I Was Only Joking, with its killer acoustic guitar solo from Jim Cregan and the paean in praise of a lover You're in My Heart, which, although somewhat cheesy in places, is also totally infectious and endearing. "The big-bosomed lady with the Dutch accent who tried to change my point of view.." was a great line. I also learnt what (Aubrey) Beardsley prints were.

A slow, soulful cover of Millie Jackson's If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don't Want To Be Right) is impressive.  The one track that doesn't convince me on the album is the strangely slowed-down cover of Diana Ross & The SupremesYou Keep Me Hangin' On. For some reason it has never done it for me. It sounds clumsy. The experimentation is interesting, but flawed. Its Deep Purple-esque organ intro and rock guitar riff doesn't fit this particular track at all. It is also, at over seven minutes, way too long. He would have done better covering it straight.

You're Insane is a grinding piece of funk-rock with an industrial-sounding guitar and a bluesy rhythm. This is Stewart on Faces-style rocking form, which is good to hear. Born Loose is another solid, upbeat rocker which owes more than a passing nod to The Rolling StonesStar Fucker in both its melody, pace and its slightly risqué lyrics. The line "I wanna get a belly full of beer" comes directly from old mate Elton John's Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting). The track finishes with a bit of Midnight Rambler guitar and harmonica interplay.

Everyone knows saucy old Rod's 
Hot Legs. Again, it is corny and contrived, but it rocks, it has to be said, with some great guitar and vocals. There is a great, little-mentioned Stewart gem in the atmospheric and haunting, folky ballad You Really Got A Nerve. This is certainly no self-satisfied track, it is as good as anything he recorded in the 1974 period onwards. Overall, this is an underrated album and deserves more than the occasional listen. Things got considerably worse from now on, remember. The photo above shows Rod hoisted on the shoulders of Scottish football fans as they invaded the Wembley pitch after beating England 2-1 in 1977.


Blondes Have More Fun (1978)

Having put out a surprisingly good album in 1977's Footloose And Fancy Free, Rod Stewart still a huge chart-topping artist, just about held on to his reputation with this album - just about. Released at the height of punk, it bore no relevance to the revolution that hung in the air, being a mixture of chugging, now typical guitar-driven rockers and somewhat corny romantic, often lecherous ballads. Stewart still knew how to pen a catchy tune, his muse had yet to desert him. 

Some have described the album, over the years, as his "disco album". Personally, I don't really get that. It is still very much a mainstream radio rock album for me, despite the layered disco synthesisers of its most famous track, the abomination that is Da Ya Think I'm Sexy. Even after all these years, I still have a fair amount of contempt for that song. I have to admit, however, that it is impossibly singalong, even for me. There can't be many men who haven't ironically sung it.

Dirty Weekend is a full-on , pounding rock, full of searing guitar and Stewart at his most "dirty old man". "I wanna rock you 'till your pussy's sore..." he sings. Don't hold back eh, Rod, you leery old goat. 
The laid-back, tuneful melodic rock of Ain't Love A Bitch has its appeal, as Rod addresses Maggie from his most famous song. "If you're still out there..." he enquires, nostalgically. The Best Days Of My Life is heartbreaking in its sad vocal delivery, it sounds like something from the mid-seventies, however, three years behind the times. It would have been fine on 1976's A Night On The Town, but not now, in the febrile year that was 1978. As a young punk at the time, I still I couldn't help but love it though. I just love the Sam Cooke-ish "la-da-da" bit at the end.

Another lovely, mid-paced but powerful rocker is the evocative 
Is That The Thanks I Get?. There's certainly no disco in any of this material so far. Again, I loved this song at the time, keeping my secret love for it well hidden as I went to see The Clash and The Ramones
Attractive Female Wanted is another solid rocker with some amusing lyrics as Rod says how he still is forced to buy Penthouse and Hustler to satisfy his lust. Sure you did, Rod. The rest of us really did, though. It is an endearingly funny song. It even launches into a bit of Police-style white reggae in its backing. Blondes (Have More Fun) has an upbeat blues rock guitar straight off The Rolling StonesShake Your Hips. Once again - disco? My backside. 

Last Summer is a wistful, summery slow number full of airy flute and melodic acoustic guitars. Again, Stewart expresses his lust in the lyrics. Lust is all over this album. Let's hope he managed to satisfy it. I'm sure he did. The previous had an unconvincing cover of a Motown classic in Diana Ross & The SupremesYou Keep Me Hangin' On. This time it was the turn of The Four TopsStanding In The Shadows Of Love. This, along with Da Ya Think I'm Sexy is, I suppose, where the disco misconception came from. This has a Miss You-style rubbery bass line and a bit of a disco beat, but it also has some huge rock guitar riffs. It is a much better cover than the previous one. Scarred And Scared was a moving, confessional ballad with Stewart feeling a bit sorry for himself. It is another one I like. Despite this album being utterly incongruous and culturally irrelevant in 1978 I can't help but like it. Yes, I was a punk in 1978, but not everyone was. Rod Stewart still shifted huge amounts of records. This was no different.

Foolish Behaviour (1980)
  
This an almost totally forgotten album from Rod Stewart,
 sandwiched in between the far more popular Blondes Have More Fun from 1978 and Tonight's The Night from 1981 and realised during the punk/new wave/ska period. In many ways, it was a complete irrelevance.
                                 
Better Off Dead is a frantic, guitar-driven rocker to open with, full of riffs and rock 'n' roll saxophone. The only hit single, Passion, is actually an excellent, innovative track, with a mysterious, intoxicating rhythmic backing and a stark vocal from Stewart. It is disco-ish, sort of, but it has some searing guitar in it and some beguiling piano parts. It is one of his most unusual, atypical singles. Foolish Behaviour has some bluesy slide guitar at the beginning and some bizarre lyrics about wanting to kill his wife. It is all tongue-in-cheek, of course, but none the less a little odd. It is a strange song, but infectious at the same time.

So Soon We Change appropriates the opening riff from The Police's Walking On The Moon and continues with a white reggae derivative rhythm throughout. It's a good song, with an atmosphere to it. 
Oh God, I Wish I Was At Home Tonight is one of those solid Stewart rockers with nostalgic, yearning lyrics. He always does these songs so well. The thing about albums like this, the last one and the next one is that they were completely out of touch with the music that was going on all around them. They actually sound ok now, but put yourself in 1980 and imagine listening to this. That is probably why I didn't, back then. There was so much better, new, and exciting stuff around.

Gi' Me Wings is a chugging, unremarkable rocker. My Girl is a similarly ordinary-ish slow number. She Won't Dance With Me is a very Stones-esque rocker sounding so much like Respectable its untrue. 
Somebody Special is laid-back, easy-listening, harmless rock. Unlike its title, though, it isn't particularly special. Say It Ain't True is a soulful late night ballad, with a good guitar solo in the middle.

There is some acceptable material on this album. It is certainly much better than 1983's Body Wishes or 1984's Camouflage. It suffers from having nothing really distinct on it, something that really sticks in the memory. The bonus track, a storming live version of I Just Want To Make Love To You shows that Stewart could still sing the blues. There is also an extended version of Passion which has Stewart in a Rolling Stones Fingerprint File vocal mode.


Tonight I'm Yours (1981)
This was a bit of a patchy album from Rod Stewart.
 We are now moving into the eighties - a decade blighted by "synth-pop" and drum programming. This album was not as bad as the next two would be - 1983's Body Wishes and the appalling Camouflage from 1984. This one has its moments and hangs on to critical credibility far more than those two did. Just as 1978's Blondes Have More Fun was supposedly Stewart's "disco album", this was claimed by some to be his "new wave album". I don't get either claim. They are both completely mainstream rock albums, really.

Tonight I'm Yours is an infectious, lively opener with enough rock guitar to save it from the wall of synthesisers utilised in the backing. A cover of Ace's How Long from the mid-seventies is ok, but nowhere near as soulful as the original. It sounds somewhat perfunctory to me. Tora Tora Tora (Out With The Boys) is a frenetic barroom rocker with Stewart on great vocal form, and some wryly amusing lyrics. It takes its title from a seventies war film about the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbour. 

Tear It Up is another breakneck pace song, with some rockabilly-style stand-up bass and rocking lead guitar.

Only A Boy
 is a mid tempo rock chugger that has Stewart getting regretful and nostalgic about his past, as was often his wont. It has a certain appeal, as I find these songs of his always do, being a shameless nostalgist myself. 
A cover of Bob Dylan's Just Like A Woman may not seem like the best idea, but Stewart's big rock production of it is actually ok. Jealous has one of those Da Ya Think I'm Sexy disco synth mixed with rock guitar backings. It still retains enough "rock" about it to be listenable (whereas some of the material on the next two albums did not).

Sonny is a big rock ballad that seems pretty out of kilter with the 1981 zeitgeist, to be honest. Young Turks, however, has always held an appeal, with its slightly Dire StraitsSultans Of Swing-style guitar and moving, observant lyrics about a young pair of runaway lovers. 
Never Give Up On A Dream is an emotional, piano-led ballad to close what is actually a pleasant enough album, not one of Stewart's best, but certainly not one of his worst, either.

This is undoubtedly the worst period in Rod Stewart's long career. Despite that, however, there are still the occasional gems to be found....

Body Wishes (1983)     

They all put out dreadful albums in the 1980s -
 Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan...Rod Stewart was no different. Synthesisers were the name of the game, and drum machines. Good Lord what a awful period for music it was.

This is one of a series of patchy Rod Stewart albums that saw his decent into being a somewhat of an increasingly irrelevant artist living on past glories, but still putting out material every year or so. The albums were increasingly becoming lazy, self-satisfied affairs and this is certainly that, in places. However, as this is Rod Stewart, there will always be one or two tracks that capture your attention.
                        

Funnily enough, the opener, Dancin' Alone, despite its shallow lyrics, has a solid, traditional rock beat with "proper" drums and rocking Hot Legs style guitar. It is actually not bad at all. The album's massive number one hit, Baby Jane, has never been one of my favourites, but it has a great hook and Stewart's voice is on top form. For me, however, it is too dominated by synthesised keyboards and programmed drums. It has a killer wailing saxophone solo though, to be fair. Move Me is again lyrically bland, just about rescued by some excellent riffy guitar but the beat is buried under the eighties production.

Body Wishes
 is a more mid tempo, laid back rocker. Very vacuous in that eighties way, but it's enjoyable enough, with some good percussion and guitar. 
I have read critics seriously lambasting Sweet Surrender, but personally I find it relatively tolerable. I love the acoustic guitar solo. It would have been fine on a late seventies album like Footloose And Fancy Free. There are worse tracks on here. What Am I Gonna Do (I'm So In Love With You) is the one great track on here. I love it. It is romantic, evocative and the possessor of a sublime keyboard riff. It is just a great love song. I remember hearing it at the time and thinking that washed-out old Rod could still do it when he felt like it. "You are the goal that wins the game, the very last bus home in the rain, you're like rock 'n' roll and champagne...". Corny lines, I know, but very endearingly so. "The Sistine Chapel and The Eiffel Tower, a national anthem, an April shower...". Great stuff, Rod.

Ghetto Blaster brings those programmed eighties drums and synthesised horns out again. Rod tries in the lyrics to put across a message about poverty and social deprivation, which is laudable, but it loses its effect somewhat in the indulgent eighties-dance backing. Against a sparser backing it may have worked. 
Ready Now is a pretty bang average example of the worst of eighties pop. Pretty disposable. The same applies to the slower Strangers Again, it just doesn't stick in the mind. Very ordinary, I'm afraid. This track and the next one, Satisfiedare tried to be lifted by that melodic acoustic guitar used so successfully on tracks like I Was Only Joking in the past but they lack that something special to get there. Satisfied is ok, actually, but certainly nothing really remarkable. The fact I listen to them and then struggle to remember them says it all, I guess. That's What Friends Are For has some cheesy, Disney-soundtrack sounding synthesiser. Indeed, the song would suit a film. Here it just sounds schmaltzy in a Michael Jackson way. Nothing much to see here. Move on please.

Camouflage (1984)
              
Released in the middle of the barren period that was the mid-eighties
 for not only Rod Stewart, but many artists. Music was buried under a swathe of synthesisers ad programmed drums. For me, this album, despite the presence of Stewart's old blues mate Jeff Beck to add some searing guitar in places, is a worse one than its patchy predecessor, Body Wishes. There are only eight tracks on what was, for me, a total lazy indulgence.
                                
The opener, the disco-influenced Infatuation, is just plain dull, getting nowhere, in spite of Jeff Beck's solo. There is a vastly superior alternative version of the track, however, with Beck's riffy guitar well to the fore. This should have been the one that was used. The next track is also given the full synthesised, keyboard dominated disco treatment. Fair enough, I suppose, until you realise that the track is Free's All Right Now. Good grief. The rendition is a pretty unlistenable travesty. Enough said. Next up is an improvement - Stewart's endearing cover of Robert Palmer's Some Guys Have All The Luck which is the best track on the album by a mile.

Can We Still Be Friends
 is a huge slab of extra mature cheese. Lyrically banal and musically even worse, layered with electronic keyboards that strangle any life out of it that it may have had. Even Jeff Beck's appealing guitar parts cannot save it. Bad For You is a bit rockier, but still blighted by eighties backing and eminently forgettable. Neither Heart Is On The LineCamouflage or the maudlin Trouble bother the hairs on the back of my neck. This is Rod Stewart's equivalent of Elton John's Leather Jackets. Comfortably one of his worst.


Every Beat Of My Heart (1986)
               
Rod Stewart's albums in the musically-barren eighties had got progressively worse.
 1983's Body Wishes and 1984's Camouflage were pretty much execrable, buried under mountains of synthesisers, and packed full of lyrically-wanting material.

On this one, because of the presence of the nostalgic, yearning and singalong Every Beat Of My Heart there was an unfortunate misconception that Rod was "back on form". The tender, soulful cover of John Lennon's In My Life added to that idea. It was not the case though. The album was another culturally irrelevant one, full of lazy, cliched rockers, with guitars replaced by synthesisers, as on the uninspired chugging Another Heartache, and syrupy, schmaltzy pop like Love Touch.

Stewart always liked to tell a tragic tale in a narrative song - The Killing Of Georgie and Young Turks are examples. Here, he tries it with Here To Eternity about a guy ending up in jail unjustly. Far from being the moving song that it might be, it tends to grate somewhat. A Night Like This is a regulation rocker but containing nothing special. The riffs are ok, but it just sounds tired and lyrically banal. 
The less said about the awful Who's Gonna Take Me Home the better. It is an example of everything that was wrong with eighties pop, and Stewart's output in particular. It is a truly shocking song, devoid of any redeeming points. 

Red Hot And Black
 is slightly better, but is another rock-by-numbers and once again, the lyrics are an embarrassment. The old lusty roué persona is wearing more than a bit thin by now, it is positively anorexic. Love Touch was actually a minor hit single, but it is dreadful in an eighties tuneful pop sort of way. One of his worst ever singles. It is sad to be lambasting the album like this as a huge follower of Rod Stewart dating from 1971, but it simply has to be said. This was a poor album.

The indulgent and maudlin In My Own Crazy Way does little to raise the bar. Ten Days Of Rain and Hard Lesson To Learn are a pair of ballads that are both ok, but nothing incredibly special. The latter is probably the best of these three tracks. Just in places, there are hints of the old Rod in the majesty of this song. Overall, this was better than Camouflage but it still left a lot to be desired. The eighties were, on the whole, very poor for Rod Stewart. You could actually make a reasonable compilation out of the best from each album, however, so the flame had not gone out completely, it was just about flickering.


Out Of Order (1988)   

This was more like it Rod!
 After three pretty dreadful albums in Body WishesCamouflage and Every Beat Of My Heart, Rod Stewart dispensed with quite a lot of the synthesised backing and went back to what he did much better - full-on guitar-driven rock. This is a good rock album, on the whole. Yes, there are still some eighties-style keyboard-replicated imitation brass parts but basically there is a "proper" drum sound, some great riffs and Stewart on rasping vocal form.
                           
The first two tracks are copper-bottomed Stewart rockers - Lost In You and the thoroughly impressive The Wild HorseLethal Dose Of Love was an unfortunate return to previous bad habits, but the anthemic, moving Forever Young (not Bob Dylan's song) restored the quality. Although it is not Dylan's song, the sentiments are exactly the same. A bit derivative there, Rod, but you're forgiven because it is a great song. He still performs it excellently in concert. It sounded as if he had really got his mojo back here.

My Heart Can't Tell Me No
 is perfectly acceptable compared to previous offerings. Similarly, the powerful rock of Dynamite with its clear eighties-era Rolling Stones influence. 
Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out is a funky, cooker of a track with a great vocal and some searing guitar. Crazy About Her is an appealing brassy rocker, with another bit of Stones influence in the Miss You-style spoken part and several Jaggerisms throughout. It is a bit disco-ish, but in a good way. Rod's cover of Otis Redding's Try A Little Tenderness is top notch. He could still seriously nail a cover.

When I Was Your Man is one of those melodic, nostalgic for lost love ballads that Stewart does so well. Yes he had done it many times before, but I still like it. Some Clarence Clemons-style saxophone appears at the end too. 
Almost Illegal is a great, punchy and riffy rocker. Again it is very like a lot of The Stones' material from the same period. There is some impressive rocking violin on it. This is not a ground-breaking album in way, but considering what had been before it, it seemed like a work of genius. It is a good pop-rock album.

Vagabond Heart (1991)         

The eighties had been a pretty barren period for Rod Stewart,
 with some pretty poor synthesiser-dominated eighties pop albums doing nothing to restore his diminishing reputation. Some synthesised backing still swirls around this album, unfortunately, giving it a slightly tinny sound in places, but it is still undoubtedly such better album than some of its predecessors, notably 1983's Body Wishes, 1984's Camouflage or 1986's Every Beat Of My Heart. 1988's comparatively impressive Out Of Order got him back on track, however.
            
This was actually a great way to start the nineties. The old Rod Stewart seemed to be back. The opener, the hit single was excellent - the singalong, Caledonian-inspired Rhythm Of My Heart. All very atmospheric and inspiring. The upbeat, vibrant feel continues with the solid rock of Rebel Heart which harks back to the mid-late seventies albums. Stewart is on great vocal form on this album - strong and enthusiastic. 

The Band's Robbie Robertson's Broken Arrow is convincingly covered so much that it seems made for Stewart. The old Motown classic It Takes Two is a rousing, ebullient riffy duet with the seemingly ageless Tina Turner. When A Man's In Love is a chugger of a rocker, with some cheesy lyrics and a Springsteen-esque guitar feel to it in places and the cover of Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye's You Are Everything is soulful enough, but no real competition to the original. It's ok, however. 

The next track is a killer, though. 
The Motown Song is a lively, infectious tribute to Motown featuring The Temptations on backing vocals. It has a great hook and just a joie de vivre about it that is irresistible. Go Out Dancing is a bassy, rocking good-time piece of barroom fun. No Holding Back is a bit of a synth-pop ballad that drags along a bit too long, to be honest. It does have an anthemic, singalong chorus, however. 

Have I Told You Lately is an excellent cover of the Van Morrison romantic classic, warm and comforting, but Moment Of Glory is a slightly embarrassing, grating tale of an unfaithful computer executive who commits his adultery on a night away. It has a searing Hot Legs guitar riff but some defining backing vocals that tend to overwhelm the song. Downtown Train is actually a superb, evocative cover of Tom Waits's song, with Stewart on great vocal form. If Only is a mournful, but beautifully-delivered lament from a brokenhearted lover to end what was a timely decent album from Stewart. Some would say about time too.

Spanner In The Works (1995)
                    
This is an often-ignored album from Rod Stewart,
 yet it is not a bad one at all. It contains a mixture of cover versions and original Stewart songs. The awful synthesised backing that blighted the eighties was thankfully long gone and he is backed by a proper rock sound.

The opener is a cover of Chris Rea's evocative, bluesy mid-tempo rock of Windy Town and it is delivered well, with a moving vocal and some suitable excellent guitar (a Rea cover without some good guitar would be a travesty). It is a great song anyway and suits Stewart perfectly. 

The Downtown Lights is a laid-back slow number. Somehow, now, in 1995, songs like this are being given a much better backing than similar songs were being given ten years earlier. It is an atmospheric song and sounds great here. This is a far better album already than anything Stewart put out from 1981 to 1991. Leave Virginia Alone was a song written by Tom Petty intended for his Wildflowers album but instead he gave it to Stewart, who did it justice. It is a mid-tempo rock song with both electric and acoustic guitars at work. 

Bob Dylan's Sweetheart Like You is similarly well done. These were still the days when Stewart could enhance any cover he touched. Ten years or so later, this ability would have left him, but here it was still very much present. This is a bit of an unremarkable but pleasant enough big production ballad. Lady Luck has a Celtic, folky air to its intro and proceeds into a likeable, jaunty Maggie May-style Stewart rocker, with his wry, observant lyrics to the fore. His vocals have that late seventies lilt to them that is always so fetching. Admittedly, this album isn't ground-breaking or relevant to the musical culture of 1995 in any way, but it is a lovely blast from the past. 

You're The Star
 treads a well-trodden path of praise for his latest love in the You're In My Heart fashion. This time, however, it wasn't written by Rod, but by old mate Frankie Miller. It sounds so like a Stewart song, though. Muddy, Sam & Otis is one of those typical Rod Stewart nostalgic songs for times and music gone by. It is a little bit cheesy, but I can't help but like it. It has a delicious chorus refrain. Tom WaitsHang On St. Christopher is a rumbling, brass-driven bluesy slow burner with a great down 'n' dirty feel to it. Stewart hasn't sounded this good in years. Great stuff. It has some excellent B.B. King guitar at the end as well. 

Delicious is a thumping, rousing rocker with typically lusty lyrics. Nothing new here, but enjoyable enough. Soothe Me is another rocker which blatantly uses the riff from T. Rex's Get It On and it has a Sam Cooke-esque hint in its melody. It uses the Hot Legs riff too at the end. These two regulation rockers threaten to end what has been an impressive album on a bit of an average note, but the final cover of the traditional folk air, Purple Heather, is gorgeous, romantically-delivered by Stewart. This has been a much-underrated album worthy of anyone's attention.

When We Were The New Boys (1998)
   
After a good album in 1995's Spanner In The Works,
 Rod Stewart continued the good work with a solid album of cover versions of some contemporary songs, among others, that showed he could still cut it. Rather than revisiting music from his youth as he had previously liked to do, here was taking off some music of the time.

It could have turned out quite embarrassing if he hadn't pulled Oasis's Cigarettes And Alcohol off, but, trust old Rod. He nailed it. It actually sounds great. It doesn't quite have the bombastic thunderous attack of Oasis, but it ain't half bad. The Faces' old standard, Ooh La La, from 1973 is given a big, thumping, bassy and horn-driven makeover. Primal Scream's Stonesy Rocks Off is great too - confident, pulsating, pounding. Proper rock. Nice one Rod. Superstar is a big, guitar-driven stately rock ballad that again suits Stewart down to the ground. Some lovely acoustic guitar in the middle of this.

Secret Heart
 is a mournful, acoustic cover of a song from Canadian artist Ron Sexsmith. I don't know the original, but Stewart sings this beautifully. 
Graham Parker's Hotel Chambermaid is great, given a Hot Legs guitar riff of an introduction, a rumbling bass line and a rasping Stewart vocal. It rocks, big time. Stewart hasn't sounded as vibrant as this for a long time. It is great to hear. Shelly My Love is a Nick Lowe song and is given the syrupy Stewart treatment, but it still convinces, surprisingly. He can do no wrong on this album, hitting the high notes beautifully.

A Rod Stewart album is not one without a bit of nostalgic, sentimental anthemic stuff from Stewart and you get it here on When We Were The New Boys as he once again recalls his glory days as a youth. 
The indie rock of Weak (originally from Skin) is once again covered more than credibly. It has to be said that Stewart's band and the overall sound on this album is top notch too. What Do You Want Me To Do from Mike Scott of The Waterboys actually sounds like a Rod Stewart song, both in its construction and lyrics. It is given some Springsteen-esque harmonica that enhances its feel. This is a really good album - one of Rod Stewart's best latter-day efforts and comparatively little-mentioned ones.

Human (2001)         
  
This has traditionally been lambasted by critics as a clumsy, ill-considered attempt
 by Rod Stewart to "go contemporary" and embrace current programmed r 'n' b stylings (r 'n' b as in polished contemporary soul). It is true that he tried to do that, but in my opinion it was actually quite successful and listenable, the album being nowhere near as bad as many would have you believe. It is far superior to some of the lifeless, synthesised "disco/dance" experiments in the mid eighties, for example. Yes, I understand that recording some typical Rod Stewart songs but giving them a 2001-style chart backing was maybe not the best idea, and he should have stuck with what he does best, but listening to it with an open mind I find that I actually I don't mind it, and I'm not one one for new millennium chart music in any way.
                     
Human, the title track, despite the admittedly programmed, bass heavy contemporary beat, is actually very catchy, featuring a strong Stewart vocal and some searing industrial guitar at the end which turns into a Santana sound-alike piece. Smitten is an appealing and infectious slow number and although Soul On Soul is a bit syrupy in its radio-friendly plastic chart soul sound it does have a laid-back appeal, as does the livelier, but similar Loveless. The duet with "Helicopter Girl", Don't Come Around Here, is probably the most obvious nod to current chart styles but again, it's ok.

If I Had You is quietly and melodically anthemic. Stewart does this sort of thing so well, while Charlie Parker Loves Me, while lyrically strange, is an atmospheric piece of easy listening, late-night groove with some addictive backing rhythms. 
It Was Love That We Needed features some excellent vocals from both Rod and his female backing singers. It also has some sumptuous, mellifluous guitar parts at the end too. To Be With You has Stewart rocking just a little on a mid-tempo ballad and Run Back Into Your Arms is beautifully orchestrated and soulful in its vocal delivery. I Can't Deny It was a single and it has an instant singalong refrain, not a bad track at all. Peach closes the album with some heavy-ish guitar riffage and another catchy chorus. This was certainly nowhere near Rod Stewart's best work. It is nowhere near his worst either. It is very much of its time, however. I'll forgive him though. However, I do not return to the album very often, I have to admit.

Time (2013)    

Rod Stewart's songwriting mojo had deserted him,
 
apparently, for the best part of twenty years, apart from some collaborations here and there that appeared on his various albums in that time. There had still been some good ones, on A Spanner In The Works and When We Were The New Boys, but most of the time had been taken up with seemingly endless volumes of The Great American Songbook, an album of rock covers and one of soul covers (oh and a Christmas one). What he seemed to have lost was the ability he once had to pen a shamelessly nostalgic look back at the good old days of his past, something he previously excelled in. However, writing his autobiography brought all those memories flooding back and he says he suddenly got the desire to write songs again.  This album was the result. There is certainly some good stuff on it, but it is, like many contemporary albums, a little sprawling and disconnected, contains more than a little syrupy schmaltz than my taste is happy with. It was hailed, predictably, as a "return to form" (cliché alert), but I have always found it just a bit patchy. It was great to have Stewart the storytelling songwriter back but there are parts of the album that veer too close to cheesy for my liking.                         

Anyway, on with what's on offer here. She Makes Me Happy starts with a vibrant, wailing Celtic-style fiddle and a beat that owes a bit to the acoustic-driven glories of Gasoline Alley. Stewart's romantic, soft old soul kicks in on the lyrics about the love his life (presumably Penny). It is a barnstorming opener though. The old anthemic nostalgia is firmly back for the stadium-pleasing Can't Stop Me Now, with a nice verse in tribute to his late Father at the climax of the song. Yes, it is a real hands in the air singalong number but I can't help but like it. 

It's Over
 is a mournful lament for a broken marriage, a heartbreaking typical Stewart ballad. Brighton Beach is a song that sees Rod thinking back to a teenage affair in Brighton. It is a nice tale of times gone by with a fetching violin in the backing. Rod describes himself as a "scruffy working class teenage troubadour...". A classic Stewart line.

Beautiful Morning is reasonable rocker, while Live The Life has a bit of a mid-seventies feel to it and some slightly saccharine lyrics about writing an email to his son. 
Finest Woman has Rod praising his wife again, over a Hot Legs-style rock and brass beat. Time is a Stones-ish slow ballad well delivered by Stewart but Picture In A Frame harks back to the crooning songs of The Great American SongbookBy now, after a promising start, I find the album beginning to tire me a little. Sexual Religion is a disco-ish chugger in the Da Ya Think I'm Sexy fashion and also reminds me so much of his eighties synth-pop, soft rock days. It is pretty bland and disposable, I have to be honest. Make Love To Me Tonight has a pure Faces/early solo/Stones' Factory Girl fiddle intro and melody, a real echo of the past, but the lyrics are pretty corny. The tune is a killer though. Pure Love is a bit maudlin and not a little drippy. It also goes on far too long, as indeed does the album. Half way through the album I had exhausted it, I have to admit, I much prefer many of his other albums over many different decades over this, despite the renaissance he had clearly undergone. Obviously I always go for the early and mid-seventies material, but I would also choose A Spanner In The Works, When We Were The New Boys, Vagabond Heart and Out Of Order before this one. This would horrify many, but I would choose Human too.

Another Country (2015)
        
After the success of 2013's Time,
 Rod Stewart returned with more singalong fare with some harks to his past, many of the songs dressed up in a lilting Celtic-style backing, with fiddle and acoustic  guitars used generously throughout the album. His knack for a nostalgic anthem and a syrupy love song are still with him and the album features quite a few of those. As a fan of Rod Stewart since I heard Maggie May, aged twelve, it is good to still hear him putting out quality material, but it is starting to sound just a tiny bit hackneyed, despite Stewart's clear enthusiasm in his delivery that belies his septuagenarian age. There are many albums in his vast collection that I turn to before this one, though. Maybe that's a bit unfair, for a 70 year-old it is a damn good effort.               

As to the music, Love Is is a vibrant, fiddle-enhanced Celtic-tinged rocker to open with. It reminds me of an old American folk song in its chorus but I can't put my finger on what. Shenandoah, maybe. There is a great fiddle solo in the middle too. Please is a solid rocker with some excellent guitar, probably the only nod to his late eighties/nineties-style rockers. He hits a high note at the end too. Walking In The Sunshine is very similar to some of the material on the previous album. It has a big, thumping drum sound and Rod managing to dominate the beat, despite his now clearly ageing voice. It has some quirky female backing vocals throughout that are strangely appealing. Love And Be Loved has the band trying their hand at reggae in a Caribbean-sounding song about palm trees and beaches. It is pleasant in a summery way but a bit bland lyrically. A bit corny, musically, as well.

We Can Win is a Celtic, tub-thumping rousing stadium pleaser that has Rod singing about Glasgow Celtic, his football team. It is a bit like a cup final song, the sort football teams used to be forced to sing, unfortunately. Lyrically, too, it is pretty banal, unless you're a Celtic fan. 
The wistful, Celtic feel is continued on another rouser, Another Country. It is a sentimental tribute to the armed forces, full of bagpipe sounding keyboards, but despite all the laid-on emotion, I cannot help but be moved by it somewhat. Stewart continues the patriotic theme in Way Back Home, as he remembers being born at the end of the Second World War and remembers the hardship of those days. Adding Churchill's "fight them on the beaches" at the end was questionable, however. I understand why he did it and it adds to the emotion, but it all gets a bit too much for me at the end. Many will love it though, so fair enough.

Can We Stay At Home Tonight
 is again half cheese, half beautiful. The lyrics are gloriously humdrum if that is not a complete oxymoron. Stewart is a shameless old softie but I can't help but still love him. He is half laughable old roué, half gnarled, credible veteran rock legend.

Now, unfortunately, come two stinkers - the totally unlistenable Batman, Superman, Spiderman, a cringing lullaby to his four year-old son. Leave things like this for your son Rod. Eric Clapton and John Lennon were guilty of similar offences, so I guess he is in good company. Then there is the upbeat acoustic lament of The Drinking Song, about alcoholism, but sung in a jaunty way. "It was the drink that made me do it..." claims Rod. That accounts for "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" then! Hold The Line is a country-ish romp with some more catchy fiddle riffs. Friend For Life is a heart on my sleeve, plaintive ballad, with more cheesy-but-lovely lines.  The thing is with these last two Rod Stewart albums, Time and this one, they are both incredibly in-your-face emotional and at times I love them, and other times they are a bit overwhelming. Overall, I prefer this one to Time, however. Just.


Blood Red Roses (2018)
  
The question I ask myself,
 as a Rod Stewart fan since I first heard Maggie May in 1971 aged twelve, is do I need another Rod Stewart album? Yes, on balance I probably do. Just.

The last two have been pretty good, since Stewart re-discovered his songwriting muse with the writing of his autobiography, but they have not been ones I have particularly revisited. I suspect this one may be the same, but fair play to him for still putting out vibrant, muscular rock albums, which is what this one mostly is. As you would expect, though, it is crammed full of nostalgia.
                            
Rod's voice still sounds powerful and can cope with the thumping, contemporary programmed drum and bass sounds. The first track, Look Her In The Eyes, is a good, upbeat one, but I find it slightly overwhelmed by the pounding backing, but that is just the way songs are produced in 2018. Rod has always wanted to keep abreast of current musical trends, so that is the way it is going to be. 

Some searing guitar riffs introduce the rocking Hole In My Heart and Stewart is on great vocal form here. Two songs in, it must be time for a nostalgic look back at a misspent youth in those old London days in the mid-late sixties and Rod delivers with the lovely Farewell (using the same title of his earlier 1974 hit). Listening to it, it is a heartbreaking goodbye to an old friend from those days who has recently passed away. Some may say it is cheesy. Not me. It is extremely moving. When he enunciates  "milli-OH-nnaire" like he used to in the seventies, (on You Can Make Me Dance, Sing Or Anything) it takes me right back.

Didn't I
 has been around for a few months now and is another emotional song sung by Stewart in the role of father to an errant, drug-taking daughter. I am not sure if its true. He sings with a singer called Bridget Cady who I am not familiar with. It ends a bit abruptly, though. 
The previous album, Another Country, saw Stewart delving into Celtic folk songs for his inspiration on several occasions. Here he does so again with some rousing Irish-style fiddle for the strident, tub-thumping Blood Red Roses

The Irish feel continues with the wistful, maudlin Grace which is a cover of an Irish "rebel song" (written, however, in the eighties, not 1916-17) He does it pretty well although it will receive criticism for being overblown, no doubt. It is an emotive song and it is clear to see why Stewart was inspired to cover it. Then it is time for some genre-hopping as we get a synthesised disco beat for Give Me Love which sounds as if it should be on one of his eighties albums. Like those, it is similarly unremarkable, to be honest. Some killer bass lines on it, though. 

Rest Of My Life
 is a catchy, convincing Motown-sounding song taking Stewart back to a sound he always loved. He sounds great on the one. You know, all this stuff is nothing ground-breaking, but I still can't help but like the hammy old whatever. His songs just make me feel nostalgic. They are intended to, no doubt, so they are doing their job.

Rollin' And Tumblin' is a stonking cover of the old Muddy Waters song, taking Stewart back to his original mid sixties blues roots. It is the most credible song on the album. If only he would release an album of blues covers as opposed to easy listening crooners. 
I wonder if the girl in the romantic, nostalgic Julia is the same one who appeared in 1978's Last Summer on the Blondes Have More Fun album? There is lots of looking to the past on this album, as there always have been, to be honest, even in the seventies, Rod was looking back to the sixties. Honey Gold is another retrospective memory, for an old partying pal from his Faces days (unnamed). Vegas Shuffle is a bit of a throwaway that is pretty superfluous. It sounds like something from the early nineties. Cold Old London ends the album with more shameless, unrepentant looking back. Bridget Cady joins Rod again for a tender ballad, the only real one of its type on here. On first listen, I have to say I have enjoyed this album more than I thought I would. Of the last three - TimeAnother Country and this one, I think I like it the most, certainly on first hearing, although obviously opinions can change. Anyway, good old Rod.

Also, check out Rod's much-respected body of work with The Faces here :-


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