Every Picture Tells A Story

Rod Stewart

Mercury, 1971


REVIEW BY: Mark Millan


By the time Rod Stewart released Every Picture Tells A Story (his third LP) in 1971, he was already one of the most well-known and charismatic rock singers in the UK.  Right from his early beginnings as a singer in the Jeff Beck Group through to fronting the hard-drinking Faces, he had earned the respect and admiration of his peers and the adoration of many a fair maiden.  Along the way, he had also found time to release his first two solo albums (An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down and Gasoline Alley), which both brought his singing and songwriting skills to new heights. 

Rod still preferred to cover the songs of others, and although he had proved himself to be a wonderful writer, it was a pattern that would remain in place for the rest of his career.  Not that he has stopped recording, but he has certainly stopped creating, and that’s a shame, because its albums like this one that remind us what a brilliant artist this guy really was.  His iconic voice was so soulful and rough around the edges that it allowed Rod to record pretty much whatever he wanted, and for the most part, his choices were spot-on. 

Deciphering who exactly played what on this record is a tough task because the liner notes are pretty vague and I’ve read for years that every member of the Faces does actually appear on almost every track, despite what the print says.  All of the trivial stuff really doesn’t matter, though, because regardless of who played what, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Every Picture Tells A Story is absolutely brilliant in every way and thoroughly deserves its place in history as one of the great rock albums of all time. 

The record kicks off with the barroom boogie of the title track (penned by Stewart and best pal Ronnie Wood), which sports a classic Stewart lyric and some of Wood’s best guitar licks.  This is followed by the beautiful piano-led ballad “Seems Like A Long Time,” on which Stewart sounds right at home (the guy has always loved a good ballad and this remains one of his best.)  Next up is a six minutes booze-soaked version of “That’s Alright Mama” (the song that made Elvis a star) that Rod clearly revels in singing – it’s very much a Faces moment. 

A fantastic country-styled cover of Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” is superbly handled by Stewart, and whenever I hear this I struggle to remember a better cover version of a Dylan song at all.  The monster hit single “Maggie May” was the song responsible for turning Stewart from a famous singer into a superstar the world over.  It’s the centerpiece of the record and one of the most melodic arrangements ever recorded, over which Stewart weaves his tale (a true story) of Maggie who takes his virginity then brushes him aside to figure out his feelings for himself. 

The track slides beautifully into another ballad and one of Stewart’s most enduring self-penned songs, the sublime “Mandolin Wind,” which is just a simple but emotive love song that gives the record some real heart.  “(I Know) I’m Losing You” keeps the rock rolling on the second side of the album and gives Rod a chance to get a little loose with the material for once here; it’s just a great slow-burning album track.  The record closes with another sublime ballad that has remained one of Stewart’s personal favorites, a wonderful old song called “Reason To Believe,” and although it’s been covered many times over the years, Rod’s version is the only one you need to hear, ever. 

Every single minute of this eight-track (“Amazing Grace” was not included for the CD remastered edition), forty-minute LP is superb, and it thoroughly deserved the massive success it did enjoy, becoming a number one album in both the US and UK (a first for Rod) and many other countries around the world.  Every Picture Tells A Story is, was, and always will be one of the greatest albums recorded in the rock era. 

Rating: A

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