Gasoline Alley by Rod Stewart

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Gasoline Alley by Rod StewartHis second official solo album, Gasoline Alley, is a critically acclaimed 1970 album by Rod Stewart. It features a diverse mixture of covers and originals that reflect the various styles of Stewart’s various musical projects and this album has been described as one that both celebrates tradition while featuring the rock sensibilities of its present. Ultimately, while the album is a sentimental snapshot of place and time, it has maintained its musical integrity and interest a half century after its creation.

Sir Roderick David Stewart was born in war-torn London, 1945 to parents of both Scottish and English ancestry. As a teenager he developed an interest in English folk music and he began playing harmonica in the early 1960s, joining the rhythm and blues group The Dimensions as a harmonica player and part-time vocalist. One of the group’s earlier gigs in 1963 was opening for The Rolling Stones in London. After leaving The Dimensions, Stewart made his recording début with the single “Up Above My Head” in June 1964, and soon signed a solo recording contract with Decca Records, where he recorded several further singles and made some national television appearances through the mid 1960s but found little commercial success.

In early 1967, guitarist Jeff Beck recruited Stewart to front the heavy blues Jeff Beck Group. The group included bassist Ronnie Wood and the 1968 debut album, Truth, featured contributions from future Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones and acted as a model for Zeppelin’s own debut album. Stewart co-wrote three of the original tracks on this critically acclaimed album, which spawned a world wide tour in late 1968 into 1969. The Jeff Beck Group’s second album, Beck-Ola, was recorded in April 1969 for release that summer.

The heavily-touring group was slated to play the Woodstock Music Festival before Stewart and Wood abruptly left the group to eventually form Faces with former members of The Small Faces. Meanwhile, Stewart recorded and released his debut solo album, An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down (known as The Rod Stewart Album in the US) in late 1969, which established his heartfelt mixture of folk, rock, and country blues in both original and cover material. Faces début album, First Step was released in early 1970 with a more straight-forward rock and roll style and this group quickly earned a strong live following. Simultaneously, Stewart entered the studio with producer Lou Reizner to record Gasoline Alley, which struck a balance between the Faces’ sound and Stewart’s solo debut.


Gasoline Alley by Rod Stewart
Released: June 12, 1970 (Mercury)
Produced by: Lou Reizner & Rod Stewart
Recorded: Morgan Studios, London, February–April 1970
Side One Side Two
Gasoline Alley
It’s All Over Now
Only A Hobo
My Way Of Giving
Country Comfort
Cut Across Shorty
Lady Day
Jo’s Lament
You’re My Girl (I Don’t Want To Discuss It)
Primary Musicians
Rod Stewart – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Martin Quittenton – Guitar
Ronnie Wood – Guitar, Bass
Ian McLagan – Piano, Organ
Mick Waller – Drums

Stewart and Wood collaborated on the opening title track, an excellent folk track with a 12-string acoustic topped by dueling lead guitars and Stewart mimicking the lead riffs throughout to create a catchy melody. Stanley Matthews provides a mandolin lead to “Gasoline Alley” to complete the aura of this ode to a simpler past. the cover of Bobby and Shirley Jean Womack’s “It’s All Over Now” follows as an entertaining track with a country rock feel due to Wood’s twangy guitar and the piano style of Ian McLagan.

A cover of Bob Dylan’s “Only a Hobo”, a song Dylan himself would not release until decades later, offers a nice change of pace as a simple acoustic waltz with sad and moody lyrics delivered masterfully by Stewart. “My Way of Giving” soulfully starts with organ, bass and the masterful guitar chording by Wood. The song was co-written by Ronnie Lane for the Small Faces in 1966 and he, along with Faces band mate Kenney Jones on drums, perform on this track. “Country Comfort” is an Elton John / Bernie Taupin composition and the piano of this folk ballad is delivered nicely by guest Pete Sears, The song also features an odd but charming backing vocal by Jack Reynolds.

Rod Stewart

The album’s second side offers more diversity to its solid overall sound. “Cut Across Shorty” was originally written for Eddie Cochran in 1960 and, a decade later, this version features a duo acoustic beginning by Wood and Martin Quittenton, which is cut across by Mick Waller‘s unique drum pattern before everything kicks in for a driving rhythm under and some fiddle sprinkled throughout. Two Stewart acoustic originals follow, the partly surreal but all feeling ballad “Lady Day” with a fine a fiddle lead, and the celtic-feeling “Jo’s Lament”, with layered instrumental arrangement. “You’re My Girl (I Don’t Want to Discuss It)” wraps things up with a simmering beat and a funk-inflected theme which brings back the Faces’ rhythm section for a final cameo.

While a commercial disappointment in the UK, Gasoline Alley did become the first of 15 consecutive albums for Stewart to chart in the Top 40 in the United States. He would soon reach superstardom with his next 1971 solo record, Every Picture Tells a Story</a,> and continue this success for decades as he became one of the best-selling music artists of all time.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1970 albums.

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Truth by The Jeff Back Group

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Truth by Jeff BeckThere probably has never a debut album like Jeff Beck‘s 1968 solo debut, Truth. This album, of unique interpretations of diverse covers, introduced the talents of future superstar Rod Stewart on lead vocals as well as bassist Ronnie Wood, pianist Nicky Hopkins and the combo future Led Zeppelin members John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page. Further, the choice to focus on hard-edged, guitar-centric, blues-based rock on this debut album pivoted from Beck’s previous solo output which focused on pop-based singles.

Beck was introduced to R&B by Rolling Stone Ian Stewart in the early 1960s, which set the course of his young music career. Through 1963 and 1964 he played in several groups around London, including the Rumbles and the Tridents, while also scoring some gigs as a studio session player. Following the sudden departure of Eric Clapton from The Yardbirds in early 1965, Beck was recruited on the recommendation of Page, a fellow session musician. Beck was present for The Yardbirds commercial peak, including several successful singles and the albums For Your Love in 1965 and the untitled album which became known as “Roger the Engineer” in 1966. Beck launched his solo career with a series of pop singles through 1967 and early 1968 which resulted in three Top 40 hits in the UK.

Aside from the session for the Page-composed track “Beck’s Bolero” in May 1966, recording sessions for Truth took place over just four days in May 1968 with producer Micky Most. The ten-song album features three blues-based original tracks composed by Beck and Stewart.


Truth by The Jeff Beck Group
Released: August, 1968 (EMI)
Produced by: Micky Most
Recorded: Abbey Road Studios, Olympic Sound Studios & De Lane Lea Recording Studios, London, May 1968
Side One Side Two
Shapes of Things
Let Me Love You
Morning Dew
You Shook Me
Ol’ Man River
Greensleeves
Rock My Plimsoul
Beck’s Bolero
Blues De Luxe
Ain’t Superstitious
Primary Musicians
Rod Stewart – Lead Vocals
Jeff Beck – Guitars, Bass, Vocals
John Paul Jones – Organ, Bass
Nicky Hopkins – Piano
Ronnie Wood – Bass
Micky Waller – Drums

 

The album commences with an interesting hard rock remake of The Yardbirds’ 1966 hit “Shapes of Things”. Here, the drums of Micky Waller really stand out throughout as the song features deliberate sections including a unique, the mid-section jam. A definite Cream influence is heard on the original heavy blues rocker, “Let Me Love You”, with a quick turn of co-lead vocals by Beck during the first chorus. Towards the end of the song, Beck’s guitar and Stewart’s vocals do call and response, a technique later borrowed by Page and Robert Plant on Led Zeppelin’s early albums. “Morning Dew” is an oft-covered track by folk singer Bonnie Dobson, with this album’s version focusing on Wood’s thumping bass and a subtle wah-wah-laden guitar throughout.

Next comes Willie Dixon‘s “You Shook Me”, a song first released by Muddy Waters in 1962. This happy-go-lucky version finds Beck, Jones and Hopkins all competing for lead instrumentation during its short duration, in contrast to a more extended Zeppelin cover recorded later in 1968. “Ol’ Man River” is a composition which dates back to the 1920s, with this version showcasing Stewart’s vocals better than any other track n the album, while “Greensleeves” has roots back to the 1500s. This second side opener offers a nice acoustic break to add warmth to the album and further showcase Beck’s diversity as a guitar player. “Rock My Plimsoul” is another original of authentic multi-textured electric blues.

Jeff Beck Group 1968

The hauntingly beautiful “Beck’s Bolero” was recorded while Beck and Page were active members of the Yardbirds and it offered a glimpse into rock n roll’s future back in 1966. Joining the guitar duo on this instrumental was Hopkins, Jones and Who drummer Keith Moon as they re-create a Spanish ‘bolero’ with a highly electric feel led by the Beck’s ethereal Les Paul riff in the main theme. Later, a second part is introduced by Moon’s thundering drums leading to section exemplifying the earliest form of heavy metal music. “Blues De Luxe” is an extended, half jocular original complete with canned studio applause and an impressive, extended piano lead by Hopkins. The album concludes with an indelible cover of Dixon’s “I Ain’t Superstitious” featuring a wild wah-wah guitar which is showcased through strategic stops. After Beck does much indulgence, Waller gets the final album thrill with a short drum solo before the collaborative crash which concludes the album.

Truth peaked at number 15 on the Billboard charts and its influence on future music is immeasurable. A 1969 follow-up album called Beck-Ola was recorded and released by much of this same group before the members went on to other musical endeavors. Despite being offered a slot with The Rolling Stones following the death of Brian Jones, Beck decided to re-form the Jeff Beck Group with new members into the 1970s.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1968 albums.

 

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Every Picture Tells a Story by Rod Stewart

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Every Picture Tells a Story by Rod StewartWith his solo album, Every Picture Tells a Story, Faces lead singer Rod Stewart produced a unique and entertaining album, albeit strange in many ways. The album only really contained four original songs with the other six being covers, but it sounded completely original in the ways the songs were arranged and interpreted. It was done in a year when Faces would release two albums as a group, and each member of Faces contributed to this “solo” album. Guitarist Ronnie Wood and keyboardist Ian McLagan were featured prominently throughout. However, the album’s credits were very vague on some of the credits and recording information. The mandolin player who is front and center on a few tunes is referenced as; “the mandolin player in Lindisfarne” after Rod Stewart had forgotten his name (this was later revealed to be Ray Jackson of the folk-rock group Lindisfarne).

The album blends an incredible mixture of rock, folk, country, blues, and funk. Classical guitarist Martin Quittenton is front and center with his acoustic guitar through much of Every Picture Tells a Story, setting the tone for many of the other intruments and styles to blend along. While constantly alternating between originals and covers, there is a definite consistancy and flow to the album, which was once aptly described as “a romantic, earthy portrait of a young man joyously celebrating his young life”.
 


Every Picture Tells a Story by Rod Stewart
Released: July 9, 1971 (Mercury)Produced by: Rod Stewart
Recorded: Los Angles, November 1970
Side One Side Two
Every Picture Tells a Story
Seems Like a Long Time
That’s All Right
Amazing Grace
Tomorrow Is a Long Time
Henry
Maggie May
Mandolin Rain
(I Know) I’m Losing You
Reason To Believe
Primary Musicians
Rod Stewart – Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Martin Quittenton – Acoustic Guitars
Ian McLagan – Organ, Piano
Ronnie Wood – Electric & Steel Guitars, Bass
Micky Waller – Drums

 
The album starts with the title song, “Every Picture Tells a Story”, which was written by Stewart and Ronnie Wood. A great song with excellent motion (in the music as well as the lyrics) that sets the pace for the feel of the album. Drummer Micky Waller Plays a strong and loose rhythm throughout as the song has a vibe of an improvised jam that comes together serendipitously. Theodore Anderson’s “Seems Like a Long Time” follows as a fine piano ballad with good lead guitars by Wood and nice distance effect on the vocal as the song persists.

The rest of side one works through original interpretations of standard covers. “That’s All Right”, made most famous by Elvis, contains a bluesy, slide acoustic intro to piano driven rocker. The traditional spiritual “Amazing Grace” is in the same bluesy vein and is mostly instrumental then one verse before end. Bob Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is a Long Time” is a fine song to wrap up the side with acoustic, fiddle, and interesting vocals by Stewart as he tries to adopt a “Dylan-esque” accent but comes off sounding more like Johnny Cash.

Maggie May singleThe true genius of the album lies on side two with Quittenton leading the way with a short classical intro to “Maggie May”, which would become one of the most celebrated songs in rock history. Driven nicely with a bright acoustic in the forefront and a driving bass and organ heavy in mix, the song works through the entertaining story of a young man involved with an older woman. Initially released as a B-side (but with its total length), it soon became favorites of radio stations and fans across the world. After the many verses, the song breaks down to feature the solo mandolin of Ray Jackson which leads the song through the famous coda phase.

Jackson is also featured in “Mandolin Wind”, but as a more traditional mid-song solo. This final original by Stewart is a very calm and moody acoustic ballad with a stop/start format and some excellent over-layed guitars in the vein of some recent material by the Stones, giving the song a strong and unique edge. At about 4:50, the song becomes more intense and rock-oriented with the drums kicking in and bringing the song home.

The album concludes with a couple of remakes of sixties songs. “(I Know) I’m Losing You” was first recorded by the Temptations and includes a funk rock groove unlike anything else on the album, making for a nice change of pace. “Reason To Believe” was first recorded by folk singer Tim Hardin in 1965 and became a nice ballad to finish the album as well as a pop hit. The song was re-done by Stewart later in his career but the arrangement on this album, with the fine piano, organ, and fiddle, was the best by far.

Even though it was near the very beginning of a very long solo career, Every Picture Tells a Story would go on to be universally considered as Stewart’s masterpiece. It has timeless quality that introduces pop and rock fans to the best of folk, while still offering rich arrangement and production.

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1971 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1971 albums.

 

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