Rod Stewart – Foot Loose & Fancy Free

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The title says it all

When Foot Loose & Fancy Free hit the stores Rod Stewart had come a long way from digging graves and singing “Maggie May.” As lead singer of The Faces, Stewart established himself as one of the finest R&B exports England had ever known, whose raspy, down to earth vocals were authentically working class to the core, the everyman’s singer who despite fame could still hang out at the local and enjoy a pint or two (or three) with the lads.

His previous album, 1976’s A Night On The Town, was his biggest selling yet, thanks mainly to #1 US single “Tonight’s The Night.” It turned Stewart into a superstar in the States, however each subsequent LP became cheesier as a consequence, less soul and more sausage roll (just check out “D’ya Think I’m Sexy” as proof). And while the musicians who back him here are professional and proficient in their playing, much of what is presented lacks the warmth and personality of The Faces, whose own playing might have sometimes been on the sloppy side, but at least it was sloppiness one could groove to.

Opener “Hot Legs” is the sort of thing The Glimmer Twins could have knocked off in half an hour. It also marked the beginning of Rod’s ‘sleaze-rock’ period – although some might argue that the sleaze was there all along (“Stay With Me” being a case in point).

The sentimental “You’re In My Heart” was the big hit, and whether he was singing about his soul mate or favourite football team, probably doesn’t really matter, as it comes across as a fine love ballad all the same (despite the music barometer indicating otherwise). Guitarists Gary Grainger and Billy Peek do their best to replicate the sound and feel of early Stones on “Born Loose,” while the stale reggae funk of “You’re Insane” lacks the edginess of “Hot Stuff,” despite Rod’s impassioned delivery.

His cover of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” has nothing on The Sepremes’ original 1966 recording (Ron Wood, Kenny Jones and Ronnie Lane would have made a better fit as backing band), although at least “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right” has Stewart sounding convincingly forlorn and heartbroken, just as he did in his younger days.

“You Got A Nerve” is one of those impudent put-down tunes Rod was famous for with The Faces, albeit minus the sense of humour. He plucks at the listener’s heart strings with “I Was Only Joking,” one of the more genuinely moving numbers out of all the ‘ladies tunes’ on this platter, and a fitting way to end things.

While critics were disparaging, Foot Loose & Fancy Free was a commercial winner, going on to sell over three million copies and further establish Stewart’s grip on international stardom. However the irony in all this is that the more time he spent in US, the home of much of the music he loved, the further he moved away from what made him such a potent singer in the first place. So by the time of his next album, he increasingly became a mere caricature of his former self, surpassing that of Mick Jagger in the self-parody stakes.

At this point Stewart was literally raking it in, both money-wise and woman-wise. And Foot Loose is certainly a document of its time – an enjoyable, though relatively shallow one.

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