Monday, 4 August 2014

"Reason To Believe: The Complete Mercury Studio Recordings" by ROD STEWART (2003 Mercury 3CD Set - Suha Gur Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…I Wouldn't Change A Thing…"

I’ve been meaning to heap praise on this “Chronicles” tin of Scots Shortbread for years – so here are the tartan scarves, champagne buckets and caviar pillow stains…

USA/UK released November 2002 (reissued January 2005) – "Reason To Believe: The Complete Mercury Studio Recordings" by ROD STEWART on Mercury/Universal/Chronicles 440 063 422-2 (Barcode 044006342221) is a 3CD set and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (79:19 minutes):
1. Street Fighting Man
2. Man Of Constant Sorrow
3. Blind Prayer
4. Handbags And Gladrags
5. An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down
6. I Wouldn't Ever Change A Thing
7. Cindy's Lament
8. Dirty Old Town
Tracks 1 to 8 are his debut LP "An Old Raincoat Won’t Let You Down" – released February 1970 on Vertigo VO 4 in the UK. It was called "The Rod Stewart Album" in the USA and its September 1969 release on Mercury SR-61237 featuring different artwork to the UK issue (same tracks). As this is effectively an American release – the booklet doesn’t picture the lovely 'photograph' gatefold of the UK artwork.

9. Gasoline Alley
10. It's All Over Now
11. Only A Hobo
12. My Way Of Giving
13. Country Comforts
14. Cut Across Shorty
15. Lady Day
16. Jo's Lament
17. You're My Girl (I Don’t Want To Discuss It)
Tracks 9 to 17 are his 2nd solo LP "Gasoline Alley" – released May 1970 in the USA on Mercury SR-61264 and September 1970 in the UK on Vertigo 6360 500.

Track 18 is "It's All Over Now" – issued as a 7” single edit in the UK on Vertigo 6086 002 in September 1970 (the album track "Jo's Lament" was its B-side).

Disc 2 (77:08 minutes):
1. Every Picture Tells A Story
2. Seems Like A Long Time
3. That’s All Right / Amazing Grace
4. Tomorrow Is A Long Time
5. Maggie May
6. Mandolin Wind
7. (I Know) I'm Losing You
8. (Find A) Reason To Believe
Tracks 1 to 8 are his 3rd album "Every Picture Tells A Story" – released July 1971 in the UK on Mercury 6338 063 and May 1971 in the USA on Mercury SRM-1 609

9. True Blue
10. Lost Paraguayos
11. Mama You’ve Been On My Mind
12. Italian Girls
13. Angel
14. Interludings
15. You Wear It Well
16. I'd Rather Go Blind
17. Twistin' The Night Away
Tracks 9 to 17 are his 4th album "Never A Dull Moment" – released July 1972 in the UK on Mercury 6499 153 and Mercury SRM-1 10646 in the USA

Tracks 18 is "What's Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made A Loser Out Of Me)" is the non-album B-side to "Angel" – a UK 7” single issued in November 1972 on Mercury 6052 198

Disc 3 (70:47 minutes):
1. Pinball Wizard - a cover of The Who track from "Tommy" – it was featured on the June 1973 compilation LP "Sing It Again Rod"

2. Oh! No Not My Baby
3. Jodie – Tracks 2 and 3 were non-album and the A&B sides of a 7" single in both the USA and UK in September 1973

4. Sweet Little Rock ‘n Roller
5. Lochinvar
6. Farewell
7. Sailor
8. Bring It On Home To Me / You Send Me
9. Let Me Be Your Car
10. (You Make Me feel Like) A Natural Woman
11. Dixie Trot
12. Hard Road
13. I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face (Instrumental)
14. Girl From The North Country
15. Mine For Me
Tracks 4 to 15 are his 5th album "Smiler" – released September 1974 in the UK on Mercury 9101 001 and Mercury SRM-1 1017 in the USA

16. Missed You
17. You Put Something Better Inside Me
18. Crying Laughing Loving Lying
19. Every Time We Say Goodbye
20. So Tired – Tracks 16 to 20 all 'Previously Unreleased in the USA' session outtakes first released on the 1995 2CD retrospective set "Handbags & Gladrags"

The 24-page booklet is housed in a three-way foldout card digipak with each flap featuring live photos (pictures beneath the see-through plastic trays also). AMY LINDEN provides the liner notes and there’s discography info on each track and overall recording credits. But the big news is the SUHA GUR remasters which are fantastic – full of presence and life and that raunchy feel Stewart got at the time.

Lyrically and musically – there is so much richness here. Armed with a God-given set of tonsils and a way with observation and melody - song after song smacks you over the head with greatness and smart choices. And all of it with that fantastic band of his - Ronnie Wood, Martin Quittenton, Ronnie Lane, Mick Waller and Ian McLagan- dripping British Rock’n’Roll swagger that seemed to come so easily to them.

But while “Picture” and “Moment” are 5-star Rod Stewart classics with nuggets like the gorgeous “Mandolin Wind” and the raucous “Los Paraguayos” – it’s the first two on Vertigo and the massively underrated “Smiler” that I keep returning to when I play this massive CD haul. We get the superb keyboard contribution of Keith Emerson on “I Wouldn’t Ever Change A Thing” (before ELP) and Stewart's beautifully sensitive cover of “Only A Hobo” – a Dylan outtake from “The Times Are A-Changin’” sessions. And there’s that stunning mixture of rockers versus ballads – the thread runs right through from his fab take on Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Rock ‘n’ Roller” in 1974 backtracking to his own “Lady Day” in 1970.

Amongst the previously unreleased “Missed You” is a gem - but you can see why his take on Labi Siffre’s classic “Crying Laughing Loving Lying” stayed in the can (it just doesn’t suit him). Better is his version of an old Stealers Wheel tune “You Put Something Better Inside Me” (written by Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan). And “So Tired” (an outtake from the “Smiler” sessions) is very good too.

To sum up - five whole albums, rare single sides and a batch of previously unreleased for under nine-quid is a bit of a no-brainer really. “Reason To Believe” is a rare instance of quality and quantity combined - and of all of it wrapped up in that top-quality remastered sound…

"...Combed my hair in a thousand ways…but I come out looking the same…" - Rod sings on "Every Picture Tells A Story". 

Forget all the expensive alternatives - this is the musical mirror you want to look in to…

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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