Friday, January 30, 2004

#87) Rod Stewart - Every Picture Tells A Story (released in 1971, I first heard the album over the summer of 2002. I got the Reason To Believe: The Complete Mercury Recordings box as a Christmas present that year. Thanks, Mom!)

Taking the Beggars Banquet-era Stones sound to its loudest ("(I Know) I'm Losing You") and softest ("Mandolin Wind") extremes, Rod and his drinking buddies do what they basically did on every Stewart album - amble through Stewart's story songs and a bunch of R&B and folk covers until they've filled the tape. This just happens to be the one album of his where each song resonates as much as the next, whether the source is as familiar as "That's All Right, Mama," as obscure as Tim Hardin, or as inimitable as Rod The Mod's noggin. Stewart's interpretive skills make it impossible to tell which songs he wrote himself, with the possible exception of the title track. Too crass to be Dylan and too rich to be anyone else, the song mixes sage advice with lines like "Shanghai Lil never used the pill," providing both youthful absurdity and lyrical detail before bursting into a barroom rave-up, with Stewart and Maggie Bell repeatedly noting that "Every picture tells a story, Tony!" (or so I hear it). I'm not sure with the adage means, but I appreciate their spirit. While I can relate more with 1972's "You Wear It Well"'s I-done-fucked-up humor than "Maggie May"'s tale of a stud who can't say no, there's a reason he revisited the sound so blatantly. Every song hits its mark without it ever coming off like effort. I doubt we'll ever see an album this varied again that doesn't sound either aggressively test-marketed or willfully eclectic.

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