"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 StewartIt 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 Temptations' I 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.
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.
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 Hendrix, Angel, is 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 Temptations' I 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 Cooke. Twistin' 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 Blue, Lost Paraguayos, Italian 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.
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.
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.
, 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.
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's 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Straits, Sultans 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.
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.
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, Satisfied, are 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.
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 Line, Camouflage 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.
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.
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.
After three pretty dreadful albums in Body Wishes, Camouflage 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Songbook. By 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 - Time, Another Country and this one, I think I like it the most, certainly on first hearing, although obviously opinions can change. Anyway, good old Rod.