Written by Tío Esqueleto
Rod Stewart has been making records in one form or another since 1968. His latest effort, The Definitive Rod Stewart plays like a field trip through American pop music over the last 40 years. From the late ‘60s British blues-pop invasion, to the pop ballads of the 1970s, as well as an inevitable turn at disco and ‘80s synth pop, before finally settling comfortably into adult contemporary in the ‘90s and recent years, it is all covered in this collection including 31 of “The Bod’s” biggest hits, as well as a bonus DVD of 14 music videos.
The tracks run chronologically, starting, fittingly, with “Maggie May,” with the first ten tracks or so covering Stewart’s work up through the mid 1970s. Classics such as “You Wear It Well,” “The Killing of Georgie (Part 1 and 2),” and “You’re In My Heart (The Final Acclaim),” as well as “Stay With Me” from his early work with The Faces, showcase Stewart’s undeniable, folk-inspired storytelling and songwriting abilities, as well as that trademark rasp that along with the hair, the pants and the schnoz helped solidify him as a ‘70s pop icon.
Next, Stewart took the next logical step and did what any and every pop star with a record on the horizon did in the late ‘70s: he went disco and he did it quite well. Same strong songwriting, same signature rasp, just a different sound to back it all up. “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” was a huge hit and paved the way for Stewart’s foray into 1980s pop. With the eerie and often forgotten “Passion” from 1980 and 1981’s synth-driven anthem “Young Turks” we are treated to the start of an era of Stewart’s career that is vastly underrated and equally unappreciated. Songs such as the latter two, as well as hits like “Baby Jane,” and mid ‘80s super hits, “Infatuation” and “Some Guys Have All The Luck,” are often tossed aside, or worse, laughed off as ‘80s/bad Stewart, which is simply not true. Hopefully, their inclusion in this collection will help to finally clear that up. Let me just say that this era, “Young Turks” in particular, was the sole reason I took this assignment.
The collection rounds out with Stewart settling comfortably into the adult contemporary realm, starting with 1988’s “Forever Young” and rounding it all out with a healthy dose of critically received cover tunes, thanks in part to a hugely successful appearance on MTV Unplugged in 1993. Included here is an assortment of Stewart’s various covers, including two cuts from the aforementioned special.
The Definitive Rod Stewart also comes with a DVD of music videos. While “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” is probably the most memorable inclusion (I know it is the first video [promo] that I ever saw of his), what’s most notable, here, is the decision to go with some lesser-known hits (some of which aren’t even included on the CDs) for the video portion of this collection. They forwent obvious choices like “Maggie May” and “Tonight’s The Night (Gonna Be Alright),” both of which can be easily spotted on VH-1 Classics, and instead opted for the likes of “The Killing of Georgie (Part 1 & 2),” “Hot Legs,” and “Ain’t Love a Bitch.” All in all, the 14 tracks included on the DVD represent a nice cross-section of the man’s work in music video.
Overall, The Definitive Rod Stewart serves as the perfect snippet of a career that has lasted for 40-plus years. It covers all the bases and goes just deep enough in what it has to offer, without the hefty price tag of an overwhelming, all-encompassing box set. It is an ideal collection for both die-hard and fair-weather Rod Stewart fans.