Universal (5 LP box set) [Released 01.12.14]
For the first time, Rod Stewart’s five studio LPs originally released between 1969 and 1974 are released in a boxed set (his Mercury label years before he switched label to Warner Brothers). Each LP has the exact reproductions of original artwork and is pressed to 180 gram heavyweight audiophile vinyl, one for the collectors then. I can’t comment on the feel or sound of the vinyl as I am reviewing this based on CDs.
It contains the albums ‘An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down’ (1969), ‘Gasoline Alley’ (1970), ‘Every Picture Tells A Story’ (1971), ‘Never A Dull Moment’ (1972) and ‘Smiler’ (1974).
Each one is classic in it’s own right and his solo debut ‘An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down’ sets the template for his classic solo period, being a mix of originals like ‘Cindy’s Lament’ and well chosen covers to suit his singing style like Ewan MacColl’s ‘Dirty Old Town’ and ‘Handbags and Gladrags’. Fellow Faces members Ron Wood and Ian McLagan helped out too, along with future prog rock keyboards legend Keith Emerson. Amazingly though the album failed to impact on either the US or UK charts.
‘Gasoline Alley’ is a another good mix of country and folk flavoured tunes and the title track was a hit for Elkie Brooks some years later. He really comes into his own on the acoustic/ballads like ‘Only A Hobo’.
‘Every Picture Tells A Story’ started a run of number 1 UK albums for Rod Stewart. It has the massive hit ‘Maggie May’, which featured John Peel pretending to play mandolin on the ‘TOTP’ appearance. There is a moving version of the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ and a rollicking cover of ‘That’s All Right’.
‘Never A Dull Moment’ sees the country element toned down a little and few more rockers sneaking in like ‘Italian Girls’ and another big hit in ‘You Wear It Well’. By 1975′s ‘Smiler’ the rock ‘n’ roll quota was set to maximum with ‘Sweet Little Rock ‘N’ Roller’, ‘Dixie Toot’ and a soulful bash at ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Man’ (obviously ladies man Rod had to use the Bobby Womack version altered for a man to sing!).
There is no bonus material as this is aimed purely at those who appreciate the joy of listening to an album right the way through and at a high sound quality. Given the massive resurgence in high quality vinyl re-issues and the wait his fans have had for this box set, it is bound to sell well.
Review by Jason Ritchie
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