Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Rescued From Obscurity: A Rod Stewart Double Shot

How YOU doin'?
While Rod Stewart definitely isn't obscure--I think by now even his detractors would agree that he's reached "legend" status--the following two songs could definitely be categorized as such. And since I was going to post both videos on here anyway, I figured I might as well use the RFO tag, even though it's just the tracks themselves that are relatively unknown and not the artist.

I get a lot of flak for being a Rod Stewart fan. One reason is because, well, he's Rod Stewart. At best he's seen by non-fans as sort of a campy old relic from the seventies. At worst he's viewed as a musical whore who sold his soul several times over, first by abandoning his "respectable" rock roots and embracing pop in the mid-seventies ("Tonight's the Night"), then from pop to disco in the late seventies ("Do Ya Think I'm Sexy") then synthesizer-infused pop rock in the eighties, ("Young Turks," "Passion") and then from about 1990 on sliding steadily down the adult contemporary slope and straight into old fogey/Vegas territory with his Great American Songbook series. 

It makes me wish that some of Rod's "deep cuts" were in the public consciousness. "In a Broken Dream" is just one of many breathtakingly awesome songs that are pretty much known only to Rod's hardcore fans, and that's a shame. If "In a Broken Dream" had the fame it deserved, I don't see how anyone aware of its existence could sneer at anything else Rod recorded, no matter how cheesey. The song is truly sublime: it manages to be sad and angry and darkly funny all at the same time. It could be argued that while "In a Broken Dream" is great song on its own, the lyrics and music comprise only about 20% of its awesomeness. The remaining 80% is all ROD. It's in his voice and his delivery, and it makes my knees go weak.           

While it's hard to imagine "In A Broken Dream" being a commercial success in any decade, I feel like "Leave Virginia Alone" could have been a hit had it existed five years earlier. As luck would have it, Rod Stewart's seventeenth studio album A Spanner in the Works was launched into the world in May 1995, smack in the middle of a musical period where watered-down grunge and Top 40-approved gangsta rap ruled, leaving no room for anything that fell outside those two dismal categories. No surprise then that "Leave Virginia Alone" barely got any love at all, peaking at #52 in the US charts. It shouldn't have been that way, dammit, because it's an amazing song. It was written by Tom Petty, who (to my knowledge) never recorded it himself. I like Tom Petty, but there's no way his voice could do justice to the song's whimsical, melancholy lyrics. No one does whimsy or melancholy like Rod Stewart--see "Maggie May," "You Wear It Well," "Some Guys Have All the Luck," and pretty much every hit he's ever had. The video is beautifully shot, too (by director Zack Snyder, who I guess is a big deal these days) and it fits the track perfectly. I love the vintage shabby chic New Orleans-y feel of this clip, particularly the giant papier mache heads that look like something out of a Mardi Gras parade (and the throwaway shot of that one head breaking into dance at the 3:29 mark is fabulous). 

And because I'm such a fan of Rod the God, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention his new album--his first one of original material in several years--just dropped last month . I got my copy the day it was released, and it's fantastic. I'm so glad that Rod is back in the game and that he has (for now) gotten away from the old standard covers he kept cranking out over the last decade. I mean, I loved hearing his voice on songs like "My Funny Valentine" and "That's All," but seriously, it was time for him to move on from all that.

It was "time" for him to move on....get it?

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