Spotlight On: Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story
A look at Rod Stewart's greatest solo effort.
by Dr. Spin
June 27, 2003
I have never been a fan of Rod Stewart, as my earliest memories of his music come from his “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” years when he became more and more of a joke. But back in 1971, Stewart was making a name for himself. Though signed as the lead singer of the Faces (formerly the Small Faces of “Itchykoo Park” fame), Rod Stewart also had a burgeoning career as a solo artist. Because Stewart’s solo career was taking off faster than the Faces’, other band members accused Stewart of keeping his best material for his solo efforts, and surely Every Picture Tells A Story argues their case.
Beginning with the title track, Every Picture explodes and doesn’t let up until the very end. It is a showcase for Stewart’s gravelly yet powerful voice, and the loose, carefree sound of his music that was sadly lost later in his career. The title song tells of Stewart’s wanderings as a young man and the adventures of a carefree spirit. It is poignant and irreverent at the same time.
The next track, the soulful “Seems Like A Long Time,” is a bit of a misstep, and though Stewart gives it his best shot, this is not where his strengths are. Rather, they are in the third number, a rollicking version of “That’s Alright Mama,” more bluesy than Elvis could ever imagine. And Stewart’s handling of Bob Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is a Long Time” is pure gold.
Other highlights are the mega-hit “Maggie May,” the eloquent “Mandolin Wind” and another great cover, the Temptations“(I Know) I’m Losing You.” It is Stewart’s version of this last song that sold me on this album and on Stewart as a performer. His rough vocals are perfect for conveying the heartbreak and his backing band, including fellow Faces member (and future Rolling Stone) Ron Wood, jam looser and freer than just about any other band ever recorded on vinyl.
Every Picture does have a few questionable calls. Though somewhat of a hit, “Reason to Believe” is a bit of a let down as the ending song, especially after the tremendous version of “Losing You.” And Stewart’s decision to include the first verse of “Amazing Grace” on this album can only be attributed to his sense of Scottish pride.
Still, Every Picture Tells A Story is a classic album, and worthy of its peers also released in that magical year of 1971. It is also a sad reminder of what could have been had Rod Stewart not pursued commercial success so recklessly. Yes, Stewart has had a fine career, but to abandon his roots and replace it with schmaltzy shtick is truly a waste of talent.
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This is the third installment of the Spotlight On series.
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