Music Reviews

Rod Stewart

Reason To Believe: The Complete Mercury Studio Recordings


Damn, this boy could sing.

Forget all that “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” nonsense. Forget the new American Songbook bit of horrid fluff. Forget the supermodels, the stupid clothes, and remember this. For the period of time covered by this collection of material (1969 to 1974), it could be argued that Rod Stewart was the premier vocalist of his generation, and in the top five songwriters. The six albums found here, The Rod Stewart Album, Gasoline Alley, Every Picture Tells a Story, Never a Dull Moment, Smiler, and the collection Handbags And Gladrags are all at the least great, and each contains moments of brilliance. It’s not by accident that the songs from this period are staples of classic rock radio – “Maggie May,” “Mandolin Wind” or “(Find A) Reason To Believe,” just to name a few. Stewart’s choice of cover material was as well suited to his voice as Cole Porter tunes were to Sinatra. Once Rod sang “(I Know) I’m Losing You,” among others, his raspy depths defined the song.

This body of work would be a formidable legacy for any man, but it must be remembered that during this same time, Rod Stewart was also the leader of The Faces, that barely mentioned British powerhouse that gave us “Stay With Me,” “Silicone Grown” and dozens of other classics, and were England’s best rock band at the time (yes, that includes The Rolling Stones). Through all of this, Stewart was joined by his able cohort in crime, guitarist Ron Wood. The combination of Wood’s distorted slide guitar and the anguished wail of Stewart are linked in rock history. Moments such as “Gasoline Alley” or “You Wear it Well” are both frenetic and assured, and it could be argued that neither man’s talents have been fully utilized since. Rod went and moved to America to escape the ruinous tax rates of the UK, Ronnie went on to join The Stones, where his incredible guitar playing and songwriting light has been hid under the huge Jagger/Richards barrel.

This collection is everything Stewart recorded for Mercury Records, as well as a few off and English-only collection and some B-sides. At nearly 60 songs, this is the definitive Rod Stewart. No one will ever (including Rod himself, sadly) top this. Rod Stewart defined what a rock and roll songwriter (not to be confused with a songwriter who sometimes rocked, i.e. Bob Dylan) could be. Legions of performers from this point forward took him as a blueprint (The Black Crowes, Georgia Satellites, et al), and while they might have made fine music on their own, nothing they ever did in their entire career holds a candle to a song such as “Every Picture…” or “Mandolin Wind,” and they’d be the first to tell you so. This is the voice of rock and roll.

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