Rod Stewart – The Rod Stewart Sessions 1971-1998 [reissue]

January 01, 1970

(Rhino)

 

www.rhino.com

 

The idea behind this four-CD collection of Rod Stewart
rarities, as the liner notes explain, is to provide “a secret history of a very
public performer.” But that doesn’t make it any easier to suffer through the
early stab at “Maggie May” that kicks things off here. The music is fine, but
the lyrics? At first, they’re merely unexceptional and aimless. Then, you hit
the part where Stewart tells her, “I don’t mean to tell ya that you look like a
fella but I’ll kick your head in one of these days.” No, really. Those are the
lyrics. Three tracks later, on an early version of “You Wear It Well,” he
muddles his way through a merely forgettable set of temporary words until he
hits the line, “And I fell on the hard floor just because I adore… your
underwear.” Some secrets, it would seem, are better left unshared.

 

An early version of “Hot Legs” is still struggling to nail
down the hook, while the more recent tracks are often sabotaged by that old
bastard, time. The spirit is willing but the voice is weak when he strains to
recapture the grit of his earliest rock recordings.

 

But there’s also plenty here to make it worth your while to
sift through all the rubbish. The alternate take of “I’d Rather Go Blind,” from
the Never A Dull Moment sessions,
features Stewart at his soulful best, while the alternate version of Hendrix’s
“Angel” benefits greatly from stripping away the percussion and glockenspiel of
the official version. Other highlights range from a stripped-down rendition of
Bob Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country,” to a strikingly intimate reading of
Cat Stevens’ classic “The First Cut is the Deepest” that puts the version
you’ve probably taken for granted for decades to shame. In fact, it ranks with
Stewart’s finest vocals. And despite his clearly ravaged vocal cords, an early
‘90s romp through Dylan and the Band’s “This Wheel’s On Fire” is a revelation.

 

Granted, one would have to be in Stewart’s corner to
appreciate the subtle differences that make the best tracks here such welcome
finds, but no one else would bother with this sort of box set in the first
place, making this a deeply flawed yet worthwhile addition to any
self-respecting Rod Stewart apologist’s collection, your humble reviewer’s included.
For the uninitiated, Reason to Believe:
The Complete Mercury Studio Recordings
is the only way to go, a three-CD
collection that boasts remastered versions of his first five albums and non-album
rarities.

 

Standout Tracks: “Angel,” “The First Cut is the Deepest” A. WATT

 

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