.
http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/66ba69917d54b3f7b4723fe7ae0d8e2d634acde0.jpg Smiler

Rod Stewart

Smiler

Mercury
Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 0 0
December 5, 1974

The magnificent catarrh has a new album, Smiler, and it contains what by now you would expect: several energetic new examples of the Stewart/Wood world view, a couple of boozy renditions of classic R&B standards, a sentimental soundalike of Rod's smasheroo "Maggie May," at least two ho-hum instrumental interludes lasting an average of less than a minute, plus at least one good old Dylan song and maybe a stray ballad or two. This must be Rod's conception of what a well-rounded pop album should be.

Stewart began his career as a dramatic blues shouter (with Jeff Beck) but has completely abandoned the blues for a more easygoing format. Still, the material that stands out from this largely unmemor-able new album is the abandoned, old-fashioned, pounding and tinny English rock & roll that Stewart and his mates cut their teeth on.

The rockers include Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Rock 'n' Roller" (the English have always been Chuck's most faithful interpreters), "Sailor," an awesome blast with Stones-style horns and a great, throaty chorus, "Let Me Be Your Car," another high-energy piece of automotion by Elton John and Bernie Taupin with an unfortunately overwrought Eltonian finale and "Dixie Toot," a decent tribute to the unsung British "trad" pub band. "Hard Road" is the last of the rockers, a soaring number that Stewart handles with his customary ease and high spirits.

Smiler's "Maggie May" reincarnation, cowritten with Martin Quittanton, is called "Farewell" and is not as distinguished as the song's last life, in which it was known as "You Wear It Well." Rod's nods to R&B classicism are a Sam Cooke medley and "A Natural Woman" transsexed into "A Natural Man." On the former Rod cackles woozily above a swamp of syrupy violins; on the latter he provides a sincere but pallid attempt, in light of Aretha's monumental version. "Girl from the North Country" is the mandatory Dylan song and Stewart performs it admirably. But his best vocal is saved for Paul McCartney's pretty but lyrically weak "Mine for Me."

Smiler is Stewart's first solo album in more than two years and his weakest to date. It sticks to the same format as Every Picture Tells a Story and Never a Dull Moment but lacks the lyrical cohesion that unified those two and made them work. Personally I sorely miss the simple virtuoso acoustic musicianiship and sensitive vision that made The Rod Stewart Album and Gasoline Alley such important records. It's time for Rod to kick the format and look to his roots again.

prev
Album Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “San Francisco Mabel Joy”

    Mickey Newbury | 1969

    A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com