Well, actually there are a few. We can start with the ragged cover of Hendrix’s stodgy proto power ballad “Angel” – a lousy song from Jimi’s unfocused later period, although at least his version had some spacey soul. Rod and co try to get funky but end up just getting funky, or try to sound bad and just sound bad. You get the idea. The drum track is sloppily performed and poorly recorded – listen to those tentative, off tempo fills and you get the sense that maybe Rod had too many lagers one night and couldn’t be kept from having a go at the drum kit himself. Fair enough, but to use that take on the album? The cover of Dylan’s “Mama You Been On My Mind” is more subtle in its transgressions. It feels like a sappy rom com version of a cleverly nuanced novel, having cut away all of the flighty bewilderment of Dylan’s narrator (he likes the girl, but he lacks the courage of his commitment: “I’m not asking you to say words like yes or no/Please understand me/I got no place for you to go”), only for Stewart to turn the song into a bland AM radio ballad. Fortunately he doesn’t completely succeed, and the overly lush arrangement sort of works as a curio cover version of Dylan’s classic castoff. “You Wear It Well” wants to be “Maggie May Part Two” so badly that it even tries to recreate the classical guitar introduction, which this time is given its own track title, “Interludings.” It reminds me of EPMD re-recording “You Gots To Chill” as “You Gots To Chill ’97.” Rod really should have called this one “Maggie May ’72.” Although in both cases the original song is a classic, and the remake retains the same good groove. And “You Wear It Well” does have one of the record’s best melodies with a fun fiddle accompaniment. So who cares if it steals from the previous year’s hit? Why get worked up over an old Rod Stewart album?
On the other hand, the fact that this album doesn’t open with “Italian Girls” is a crime against humanity. No exaggeration. Have you heard “Italian Girls”? It is such a great song, with that slinky riff, and those goofy lyrics about cars and kinky contessas: “Oh the Italian girls sometimes hold their religious habits in front of your eyes/Just to get you tied.” I want to put the needle down on Side One and hear that song, that riff, that attitude to set the tone for the album. But instead the first track is “True Blue.” Have you heard “True Blue”? It’s an okay little blues rocker with a descending chord progression and drunkenly somber chorus (“Don’t you think I better get myself back home?”) that feels like a side ending song. A wrap up. So that after we’ve heard all the tales of cars and women and other stuff that Rod Stewart probably cares about that I can’t think of right now, we get this early morning reflection tune that feels in spirit like the tipsy dissidence of the Faces’ best work. Trying to make sense of things, but not really caring either way. There’s even a breakdown and a faster full band ending that sounds like the resounding finale before the end of the show. So “True Blue” should not be the first song on Side One, “Italian Girls” is the proper first song. But they’ve been switched, and I don’t know if we should blame Rod or Ronnie Wood or Nixon but this is a problem that has to be addressed. I feel like this is an issue for a congressional select committee hearing, so that we can get the full powers of federal jurisdiction involved in this thing to mandate an official change in the song numbering on this album. My current plan calls for all previous copies of the album to be destroyed and new ones printed at taxpayers’ expense. I’d like to be able to get a meeting with Obama, so I could play him Side One of the album in full, and then present my case with my complete power point presentation that I’ve tentatively titled, “The Remedy For A Dull Moment: A Study In Song Transposition On Side One Of A Rod Stewart Solo Album.” (My first slide is a quote from Maya Angelou, I figured that would add some gravitas to the proceedings.)