Rod Stewart’s third solo LP saw the singer finally achieve international success, and established him as one the finest white R&B vocalists of his generation, whose voice was a combination of whisky-soaked hoarseness and blue-eyed soul. Its mix of fine originals and choice covers would prove to be a winner, finding Stewart acknowledging his mentors while also establishing his own style. Backing him were The Faces, who provide solid instinctive support throughout, especially on the title track which opens the album. Co-written with Ron Wood, “Every Picture Tells A Story” is a veritable (politically incorrect at times) tour de force where the band sound as though they are literally flying by the seat of their pants. Here the playing is loose and understated, much like the rest of the album.
Stewart rasps his way through a version of Theodore Anderson’s “Seems Like A Long Time”, before breathing new life into Arthur Crudup’s “That’s Alright” (made famous by Elvis Presley), then delivering an abrasive though no less moving interpretation of “Amazing Grace”. Bob Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is Such A Long Time” is given an emotional reading, before we get to the highlight, which is of course, “Maggie May”, a song that if I never hear again probably wouldn’t bother me, due mainly to forty years of over exposure. Still, that shouldn’t detract from what was, and remains, a classic pop anthem, and a sort of English equivalent to “Mrs. Robinson”.
“Mandolin Wind” is a rare Stewart original, and one of his finest. A blend of folk and rock rarely has Rod sounded better. His considerate and thoughtful interpretation of The Temptation’s “(I Know) I’m Losing You” brings new dimensions to what was already a Tamla/Motown classic, while final song “Reason To Believe”, by Tim Hardin, is sung with equal conviction and purpose.
Every Picture Tells A Story remains the greatest realisation of Stewart’s talents, as well as being the most definitive document of his entire career. However it would also mark the beginning of the end of The Faces, as Stewart became something of a superstar in his own right, spending more time in America, and whose albums would become slicker and increasingly polished in the years to come. But for fans of his early years, this LP, along with Gasoline Alley, Never A Dull Moment, his first solo record, and of course his work with The Faces, are quintessential for any English rock obsessive. So, crack open a can (or two) of your favourite British Ale, crank up the volume, and let Rod and his bunch of drunken (though ever professional) merry minstrels take you on a soulful, sentimental and sometimes spontaneous journey that is as memorable as it is endearing. If there’s one album in Rod Stewart’s oeuvre that stands head and shoulders above all his other efforts, it is this.