Review - Reason to Believe: The Complete Mercury Studio Recordings

Artist: Rod Stewart

Every picture truly does tell a story, don't it? The story here -- as told by a simple comparison of this set's casually drunken rock-god booklet photos to the pretentious cover shot on Rod's new "standards" collection -- is that of a once-powerful and totally bad-ass singer fallen deep into the throes of narcissistic "adulthood."

As The Faces were once possibly the greatest rock band on Earth -- and it was Rod Stewart's persona that helped make that true -- it's not surprising that Rod was at the absolute height of his powers when he was simultaneously fronting that band and staking a claim as a solo artist on Mercury. To be sure, this material isn't possessed of the same swaggering cool as The Faces' best work, but even in his more acoustically solipsistic moments, Rod still sang like he loved it and like there was nothing else he could imagine doing.

This triple-disc set covers the era of 1969-1974 and most of the material is bursting with Stewart's then ineffable personality. Far away was "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy." The Rod Stewart here is a folksy, post-blues rocker whose smoky voice is dripping with brashly sensual cool. In other words, it helps explain why someone so currently irrelevant deserves the career he's yet to bow out of.

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