Initially, Rod Stewart hardly seemed destined for the flashy, flamboyant and egocentric life of a Rock n' Roll star. During his first U.S. performance at the Fillmore East Auditorium with the Jeff Beck Group this former gravedigger he hid behind the speakers when he sang the first song. He quickly got over his stage fright.
It was in the Beck Group that Stewart began working with Ron Wood. The future Faces guitarist and eventual Rolling Stone played bass at the time. Switching to guitar he became Stewart's main collaborator.
Between the collapse of the Beck Group and prior to his joining the Faces, Stewart embarked on a solo career (which he would continue after joining the Faces). "The Rod Stewart Album" and "Gasoline Alley" are Rock feasts. These LPs draw on old time Rock, Blues and Soul.
"The Rod Stewart Album" opens with a cover of The Stones "Street Fighting Man." Stewart's vocals are as powerful as Jagger's but the song has a looser feel. Nicky Hopkins' piano is outstanding. "An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down" and "Cindy's Lament" kick the album into high gear along with Stewart's all-time best ballad "Handbags & Gladrags" which was written by Manfred Mann's Mike D'Abo. Again, Hopkins' piano makes the song.
On "Gasoline Alley" the absolute highlights are the title track, plus "It's All Over Now (which was also done by The Stones)," Dylan's "Only A Hobo" and "Cut Across Shorty." All are inspired performances. "My Way Of Giving" featured all the Faces before they officially became a group. There was Elton John's "Country Comfort" which out shined the original.
"Every Picture Tells A Story" and "Never A Dull Moment" were Stewart's breakthrough efforts. While these albums had a number of Rockers, ballads (usually the "hits") abound. Also, Stewart's off-the-cuff approach started to give way to a slicker, more commercial, sound.
The late '70s found him trying disco. "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" was a huge hit. Stewart in the '80s seemed lost at best or uninspired at worst. In the '90s, he made a decent attempt to reclaim his legacy with "Downtown Train: Selections From Storyteller," 'Spanner In The Works" and "When We Were The New Boys."
Stewart managed to revive his career singing M.O.R. standards in the popular "American Songbook" series.
No matter how you cut it, Rod Stewart had a great October-November, '06. Moving away from the American Songbook concept, Stewart recorded a covers album, "Still the Same . . . Great Rock Classics Of Our Time," featuring songs by Bob Seger (hence the title), Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Elvin Bishop, Badfinger and the Pretenders. The first single was a rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Have You Ever Seen the Rain." Stewart also took a swing at "It's A Heartache." Bonnie Tyler's original is the best Stewart impersonation ever - male or female.
He celebrated the album's release (the following day) by filming a live performance at NY's Nokia Theatre Times Square. The concert was shown in 117 U.S. cinemas. The album made its debut at the top of the Billboard 200 chart selling over 184,000 copies in its first week to become the fourth Stewart album to hit #1.
The next month Stewart was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame in London. He entered with Led Zeppelin, James Brown and Bon Jovi. Pretty good company. And that wasn't all. He even got a favorable write-up in Rolling Stone magazine.
"Time" was Stewart's first album of new material in almost 20 years. He produced eleven of the twelve tracks on the '13 release. "Just a good, old-fashioned Rod Stewart album (with) a lot of mandolin and fiddles and good storytelling," said the singer.
To hardly anyone's surprise, a '15 Rolling Stone Reader's Poll named "Maggie May" as Rod Stewart's best song. Interestingly, "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" didn't even make the Top 10.
Shortly after the poll came out, Stewart delivered "Another Country," with songs he penned. The consensus was his raspy pipes were intact but his songwriting needed work.
But who needs good reviews when they've got the royal family on their side? Stewart was knighted by Prince William at Buckingham Palace in '16 for his services to music and charity after more than 50 years in show business. "It's mind-blowing," he told reporters.
1969 Rod Stewart Album
1970 Gasoline Alley
1971 Every Picture Tells A Story
1972 Never A Dull Moment
1975 Atlantic Crossing
1976 A Night On The Town
1977 Foot Loose & Fancy Free
1978 Blondes Have More Fun
1980 Foolish Behaviour
1981 Tonight I'm Yours
1983 Body Wishes
1986 Every Beat Of My Heart
1988 Out Of Order
1991 Vagabond Heart
1995 A Spanner In The Works
1998 When We Were The New Boys
2002 It Had To Be You: The Great American Songbook
2003 As Time Goes By: The Great American Songbook 2
2004 Stardust: The Great American Songbook 3
2005 Thanks for the Memory: The Great American Songbook, Volume IV
2006 Still The Same... Great Rock Classics Of Our Time
2010 Fly Me To The Moon... The Great American Songbook Volume V
2012 Merry Christmas, Baby
2015 Another Country
Also see Faces and Jeff Beck Group.
Stewart launched his solo career with "The Rod Stewart Album." Wood assisted, moving to guitar. The playing is uninhibited. "Gasoline Alley" followed and is another great album. Stewart continued his solo career even after joining the Faces. Good thing too. "Every Picture Tells a Story" and "Never A Dull Moment" are his best albums. The former has the title track, Stewart's first mega-hit "Maggie Mae," a great cover of "I'm Losing You" and the moving "Reason To Believe." The latter has a rousing version of Sam Cooke's "Twistin' The Night Away. After the lackluster "Smiler" album and an OK live set "Atlantic Crossing," Stewart scores with a couple ballads from "A Night On The Town" and that seals his fate. He's just a pop singer and less interesting or compelling. Also, his solo popularity eclipsed the Faces and that caused some problems. Ron Wood, of course, went off with the Rolling Stones.
"Storyteller: The Complete Anthology" covers Stewart's career the best. Through the '90s Stewart, despite some health scares, recorded consistently. These R&B flavored albums have enough ballads and adult oriented material to keep long-time fans happy but not much more.