Random Access Vinyl: Night on the Town

Rod Stewart

Hello once again, and welcome to another installment of Random Access Vinyl, where I go through the collection and randomly pick a record to share. Hope everyone had a good week, I know it’s been a couple of weeks since I last did one but I have just been so busy with family and baby things. I’m back tonight though and tonight I will be reviewing Rod Stewart’s “Night on the Town”.Rod Stewart is a renowned singer-songwriter who has sold something like 100 million copies of his albums since his career started. Born Roderick David Stewart on January 10th 1945 in North London, he came onto the musical scene in the late 1960’s, and has had a successful career not only with bands but also as a solo artist.

In 1967 a guitarist by the name of Jeff Beck was looking for a new lead singer to join his group after leaving The Yardbirds. Beck asked Rod Stewart, he agreed and the group were quickly off making their debut album. “Truth” was released in August of 1968. Stewart found himself singing everything from rock n roll to folk, he even co-wrote three tracks on the album which later he said really helped him find his voice as a songwriter. During this time he met another guitarist Ronnie Wood, the two started sharing their musical ideas and quickly became friends. Stewart left The Jeff Beck Group after their sophomore album “Beck-OLa” because of conflicts growing between him and their manager, plus his own solo career was starting to take off.

By the early 1970’s Rod Stewart was making a major name for himself as a singer-songwriter and with  Ronnie Wood helped form a new band known as “Faces”. The band came out of another group called “The Small Faces” which both Stewart and Wood where not a part of. The groups first album “First Step” had Rod Stewart singing in much the same style as he had with The Jeff Beck Group, singing mainly rock blues tunes. Rod Stewart continued to see success not only with “Faces” but also on his own but by the end of 75 the group called it quits. Rod Stewart has since become a superstar who left the rock scene to cover 30’s and 40’s American Standards, however this year saw Stewart returning to his rock roots with his new album “Time” which consisted of all new material written by him.

“A Night on the Town” is Stewart’s seventh album, it was released on Warner Bros. Records in 1976 and in my personal opinion is one of his last truly great rock n roll albums. Rod Stewart and Elton John have always reminded me of each other because when both of their careers started they were phenomenal in what they each did but as they progressed their styles just became two much for me. Elton John with his over the top dramatics and style and Stewart with his kind of wishy-washy love songs, this album however is not one of those. “A Night on the Town” is broken up into two very different styles of music, Side One or the “slow side” as it is referred to is full of soft more mellow tracks while Side Two or the “fast side” is full of fast rock songs.

Side One even though it is slow and I prefer my Stewart fast is still a great start to this record and in fact I’m glad it is done this way, had the album been reversed I think I would have found myself a little bored by side two. This way the record starts off a little slower but allows the listener to really get in the mood before it rocks your socks off. The opening track “Tonight’s the Night” is definitely the most noticeable track on the album, I had heard it many times as a child before I had ever really known it was by Rod Stewart. This track deals with putting everything else aside and making sweet sweet love to that special person in your life, it also kind of gave me a feeling like this is this person’s first time, maybe not Stewart’s but the person he plans to you know. After that is an amazing version of Cat Steven’s song “The First Cut is the Deepest” in which Rod Stewart really makes this song his own, his voice on this track really lends something to it. You don’t really hear the Cat Steven’s version very much and I have heard the Sheryl Crow cover so much that it makes me sick, but this version was kind of refreshing and I really enjoyed it. The other really memorable track on this side is “The Killing of George (Part I and II)”. This song is about a man who is forced from his home as a child after his parents discover he is gay, he then moves to New York City where he is excepted and liked by all. The song ends with him being killed by a gang and during “part II” Stewart goes in to this almost blues style with his voice and keeps repeating the line “George please stay”. I liked this song a lot and I liked that it was at the end of this side, it puts you in a kind of sad state which only makes the “fast side” that much better.

Side Two leaves nothing for the imagination and lets you know right away what kind of music you are about to hear, the opening guitar rift to “The Balltrap” is pure 70’s rock and Stewart’s raspy voice gives you a hint of Led Zeppelin for me. This song is about being hung up on a girl after having a one night stand and being putty in the girl’s hands. I don’t know if the title is actually referring to your testicles being in some sort of trap but that’s kind of the impression I get. this song also has this really cool honky tonk piano at the end of it that I really liked. One thing that differs from this side to the other is that “Balltrap” is the only song written by Stewart on this side, the rest are written by other artists. “Big Bayou” written by Gib Gilbeau has a rockabilly feel to it with a really strong horn section and fiddle in the background. “The Wild Side of Life” is another song that feels like a Zeppelin or more of a Rolling Stones song. The guitar and piano in it really do remind me of “Honky Tonk Women” and with Rod Stewart’s voice it just fits. The only song I didn’t care for on this side and really on this album was “Trade Winds” which closes out side two. This song unlike the other songs on this side is not a rock song of any sorts, it’s a really drawn out slow ballad, but unlike some of the slower songs on side one, this song really just does nothing for me. It sounds like a Kenny G. song and the background vocals and the lyrics themselves just don’t do anything for the song, Stewart sings fine on the track but its just not a great track. It’s basically about how at that  specific point in time humanity was going through a hard time, talking about bad things happening in the world and how everything feels so confusing. I guess the same still holds true for today but really just not a great song.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this album, like I said before it seems like unless it’s early Rod Stewart (which this kind of is) its either hit or miss with me and even though I wouldn’t say this is a great record, its not bad. I was worried at first when the opening track was “Tonight’s the Night” because its not really a great song plus you hear it all the time but after that I really enjoyed this album. You have a lot of what I really loved about him playing with Jeff Beck and Faces on this record, I mean say what you will about the guy, I understand if not everyone likes him but the guy can sing and back in his younger years you’d be hard pressed to find a better blues or rock singer, I mean to me personally his voice reminds me a lot of Robert Plants, not identical but there are a lot of very similar qualities. All in all this record only cost me 50 cents so I think it was well worth every penny, I’ll catch you guys next week.