Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rod Stewart, "Gasoline Alley" (1970)


This has long been a favorite for me by Rod Stewart, even for this period, which I have to admit, exhaustion notwithstanding, on the two albums Gasoline Alley and Every Picture Tells a Story it all pretty much comes in shades of excellence. We know that because people have been shouty about it for better than 40 years and also the radio bludgeoning. I don't have much to add except agreement. It may not amount to some of the outsize things people falling all over themselves have claimed for it (and him). And it may not sound as fresh as it once did—it definitely fits now with a lot of stuff recorded 1968-1972 as sounding exactly as if it were recorded 1968-1972. Maybe that's the exhaustion from the overexposure talking, but I don't think so. At the same time, it sounds positively ancient, built on an eerie vibration more apt to be found somewhere strange like a cemetery in the middle of the night. Much of that resides in the sound of Stewart's singing voice, the grain of it. But all hands know what they're doing here, and that goes for Stewart too. He's blessed with this voice, but he knows how to use it. The result is profoundly yet indeterminately authentic, conjuring impressions of Irish immigrants in the Midwest, field workers in the 19th-century South, mountain men in the Rockies in the 1840s, the Jesse James gang, so on and so forth. It's extraordinary—I seem to be falling all over myself. And I think the tension still works. Where once this confounded by sounding impossibly fresh and ancient, now the effect is achieved by sounding just a little dated (1968-1972) and impossibly ancient. This is a good trick to have in your bag.

No comments:

Post a Comment