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Fans will enjoy it, and yet...
on February 12, 2005
Rod Stewart is an amazingly long-lived chameleon with a proven ability to mine whatever is currently popular and strike gold. He's transformed himself many times over, from blues shouter to rock screamer to pop star to disco diva to jazz crooner.
He's pretty much done it all -- and been lambasted by critics and purists both for "selling out." There's some truth in their accusations, since the quality of his work has varied wildly over the years, as Rod himself will admit.
But Stewart is also a talented musician and writer who can usually get to the heart of melodies and lyrics and express them vividly. I'm not much enamored of his latest foray into big band jazz, but his early and middle careers, as profiled on this retrospective, were full of fine moments. Don't be put off by the stories of his debauchery or by the song "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" As the title of this compilation reminds us, he's a storyteller, and the song is about a pair of desperate lovers, not him.
Inspired by such soul greats as Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, Stewart started working with Jeff Beck and The Faces in the 60s, an interesting phase well-covered on Disc 1. Going solo, he charted again and again with the material on Discs 2 and 3, from classic albums like "Atlantic Crossing" and "Every Picture Tells a Story." Disc 4 is lacking, but even here there are bright spots like "Infatuation" and "Downtown Train."
Rod contributes some witty commentary and embarrassing publicity shots in the accompanying booklet, which unfortunately omits details about when or where recordings were made, with whom he performed, or on which albums they were included. Given these omissions, and given that only about two CDs worth of really great stuff is included in this four-CD set, I can't give it more than three stars.