Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rod Stewart - Every Picture Tells A Story (1971)

There was no doubt about it. "Maggie Mae" was my favorite song of 1971 and the album it came from, Every Picture Tells A Story, had Rod Stewart standing at the top of the rock 'n roll mountain and looking down on everybody else. Stewart never made a better record as a member of the Jeff Beck Group, The Faces, or as a solo artist.

The disc is one of the best rock albums of any era for two reasons. First, Stewart was once a great vocal interpreter of other people's work and, song for song, the album's arrangements were a lot more colorful and musically diverse than most of the standard rock productions of the period. Yes, electric guitars were prominent, but so were mandolins, fiddles, pianos, and lots of acoustic guitars. As Every Picture Tells A Story, and his other albums recorded during the late 60s and early 70s prove, Rod the Mod was a master at making soulful, bluesy, folk-rock during an era when most Brits were turning their amps up as loud as possible and rocking out as hard as they could. He often showed us that sometimes a little musical subtlety can go a long way.

While his self-penned songs "Maggie Mae," "Mandolin Wind," and the title track are all uniformly excellent Stewart's choice of covers is outstanding. Arthur Crudup's "That's All Right," The Temptations' "(I Know) I'm Losing You," and Tim Hardin's "(Find A) Reason To Believe" all became special in his hands. He loved to cover Bob Dylan and at the time he was one of the best interpreters of Dylan's music. Here his choice is "Tomorrow Is A Long Time." All of the cover songs sound as if they were written especially for this album.

The disc featured a host of sidemen including his band mates from the Faces.

Every Picture Tells A Story makes what happened to Stewart's music in future years all the more frustrating and disappointing. Once he decided that being a celebrity was more important than music his days as a meaningful artist were over. Today his work is a sad state of affairs. He is neither Frank Sinatra nor Michael Buble and he should never have tried to be either.

4 comments:

  1. This is the only Rod album I will give house room unless you count The Faces' 'Nod's as good as a wink...'. Also, it was very nearly the first LP I ever bought but my mate beat me to it - so I taped his copy haha!

    Like you say, shame about the rest.

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  2. Rod's first four albums can stand alongside any four albums made by anybody, anytime--great songs, sensitively performed, with a unique sound. The bigger they are, the harder they fall? After four records that good, absolutely.

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  3. "Every Picture Tells A Story makes what happened to Stewart's music in future years all the more frustrating and disappointing. "

    I have the same thought most every time I listen to this outstanding record these days. What in the heck happened to Rod?

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  4. This album was part of my 1971 soundtrack as well. Like him or not, one thing Rod's proven over his lengthy career is that he's got an uncanny ability to chose music to record with a depth and breadth of musical sensibility that goes way beyond what the hits might suggest. Go deep into any of his records and you'll find some awesome songs by some pretty incredible songwriters. I may never be able to listen to "Hot Legs" but there is lots of great stuff lurking beneath the surface.

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