There are some music artists you never can go wrong with because of their great voices, even though not all of their material is top notch. Joe Cocker comes to mind. Another example is Rod Stewart.
Over his remarkable 50-plus-year career, Stewart has touched multiple genres, including rock & roll, soul, standards from the American songbook and even disco. I think he’s always been at his best when he turned to his beginnings – rootsy rock mixed with blues and soul like on his first solo album, An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down, or The Rod Stewart Album, as it was called in the U.S. where it appeared in November 1969.
The album kicks off with a pretty cool remake – The Rolling Stones’ Street Fighting Man. The first part borrows from the Mowtown classic Dancing in the Street, while the second part sounds much closer to the Stones’ version. The song ends with the starting theme from We Love You, another Stones tune.
Another great song on the first side is Blind Prayer, a blues rock, and one of the four pieces written by Stewart. Finishing the side is the classic Handbags and Gladrags written by Mike D’Abo, who also plays the piano on the recording.
Side two starts off with An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down, another Stewart composition. The other standout on that side of the album is Dirty Old Town, a song written by English folk singer Ewan MacColl and made popular by The Dubliners in 1968.
When Stewart recorded his debut, he was still with The Faces, a band formed in 1969 when he and Ronnie Wood left The Jeff Beck Group to team up with the remnants of The Small Faces. So it’s perhaps not a surprise Stewart got a little help from his band mates, namely Wood (guitar, bottleneck guitar, bass guitar, harmonica) and Ian “Mac” McLagan (piano, organ), though he is not credited on the record sleeve. Among the other musicians are Keith Emerson, who played organ on I Wouldn’t Ever Chance a Thing, and Jeff Beck Group drummer Mickey Waller.
Stewart’s debut release climbed to no. 139 on the Billboard 200 album chart and received positive reviews. Rolling Stone called it a “superb album” and AllMusic rated it 4.5 out of 5 stars. Robert Christgau who by his own admission had a strong prejudice against Stewart gave the album an A-.