Some guys have all the luck: Rod Stewart is about to see his first four Warner Bros. Records albums collected on a new vinyl box set. Stewart moved to the Burbank label with 1975’s Atlantic Crossing, inaugurating his most commercially successful period. Atlantic Crossing, A Night on the Town (1976), Foot Loose and Fancy Free (1977), and Blondes Have More Fun (1978) took the Faces co-founder to new heights of superstardom, with each album earning platinum (or multi-platinum) certifications on the U.S. and/or the U.K. charts. The simply-titled Rod Stewart 1975-1978 features each one of those four albums in newly remastered sound, plus Encores 1975-1978, a bonus disc of ten session outtakes (five of which are previously unreleased). It’s due on June 4 in vinyl and digital/streaming formats.
Abandoning the rootsy rock and roll of The Faces, Atlantic Crossing found Stewart with a sleek new sound. Produced by Tom Dowd and recorded at various studios including A&R in New York, Criteria in Miami and Muscle Shoals in Alabama, the LP introduced his renditions of Danny Whitten’s “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” and Gavin Sutherland’s “Sailing;” the latter was a major international hit, topping the charts in the U.K., Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Norway. While Dowd lent the sound a slick veneer, Stewart leaned heavily into his blue-eyed soul stylings on songs including a cover of The Isley Brothers’ Motown classic “This Old Heart of Mine” and Gerry Goffin and Barry Goldberg’s “It’s Not the Spotlight.” When Faces embarked on one last tour following the release of Atlantic Crossing, only the Stewart original “Three Time Loser” made it into the setlist.
Dowd and Stewart expanded upon the same formula for A Night on the Town. But for as wildly successful as the album was – No. 1 in the five countries (including the U.K.) and No. 2 in the U.S. – it pushed the envelope with its self-written material. “Tonight’s the Night” was a gorgeously melodic slice of pop that also happened to be rather risqué. Despite controversy over its lyrics and spoken-word cameo from Stewart’s girlfriend, actress Britt Ekland, the song was the U.S.’ best-selling song of 1977 in the wake of a record-breaking run at No. 1 that was the longest run atop the chart (eight weeks) since The Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” Stewart also penned the two-part “The Killing of Georgie.” The unflinching story of a gay man murdered in New York City was inspired by a true story about a friend of Stewart and the Faces. Part I was released as a single, reaching No. 2 in the U.K. and No. 30 in the U.S., no small feat for a song with such serious subject matter. Stewart’s hot streak continued with his cover of Cat Stevens’ “The First Cut Is the Deepest.” A No. 3 AC hit in the U.S., it was a double-sided A-side with “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” in the U.K. where both sides reached No. 1.
Stewart and Dowd split 1977’s Foot Loose and Fancy Free into two parts: Side One was “The Fast Side,” and Side Two was “The Slow Side.” The Fast Side yielded the rowdy rocker “Hot Legs” (No. 28 U.S./No. 5 U.K.) and the football (soccer) anthem “You’re in My Heart (The Final Acclaim)” (No. 4 U.S./No. 3 U.K.). The Slow Side offered soul-imbued cuts from Motown (“You Keep Me Hangin’ On”) and Stax (“(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right” as well as the Stewart/Gary Grainger-written “I Was Only Joking,” featuring Jim Cregan’s impressive guitar solo and another sensitive lyric from the typically swaggering star.
The final LP in this Warner quartet, Blondes Have More Fun, was critically divisive as Stewart and Dowd embraced disco and dance music. But the public had no such reservations, taking it to No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 3 across the pond. The infectious “Da’ Ya Think I’m Sexy” rode its disco beat all the way to the top of the U.S. Hot 100 and the U.K. Singles Chart as well as similar success internationally. The other material reflected Stewart’s usual interests. Despite its title, “Ain’t Love a Bitch” was another vulnerable rumination; “Standing in the Shadows of Love” reinvented the Four Tops’ Motown classic.
The Warner box ends with Blondes Have More Fun. In 1979, it was followed in stores by a greatest-hits package. On this set, it’s followed by a rarities collection. The first five tracks were released on Rhino’s 2009 Deluxe 2-CD editions of Atlantic Crossing and A Night on the Town. Unfortunately, that series never continued with Foot Loose and Fancy Free and Blondes Have More Fun. But now we can finally hear a selection of session material (five songs total) from those albums including a rendition of Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got a Hold on Me.”
Rod Stewart 1975-1978 is due on vinyl and digitally on June 4 from Rhino. You’ll find the track listing and pre-order links below.
LP 1: Atlantic Crossing (Warner Bros. K 56151 (U.K.)/BS 2875 (U.S.), 1975)
LP 2: A Night on the Town (Riva RVLP1 (U.K.)/Warner Bros. BS 2938 (U.S.), 1976)
LP 3: Foot Loose and Fancy Free (Riva RVLP5 (U.K.)/Warner Bros. BSK 3092 (U.S.), 1977)
LP 4: Blondes Have More Fun (Riva RVLP8 (U.K.)/Warner Bros. BSK 3261 (U.S.), 1978)
LP 5: Encores 1975-1978
- Holy Cow (with The MG’s)
- To Love Somebody (with The MG’s)
- Return to Sender (with The MG’s)
- Rosie (Early Version)
- Get Back (Alternate Version)
- You Really Got a Hold on Me
- Honey, Let Me Be Your Man
- Lost Love
- Silver Tongue
- Don’t Hang Up
Tracks 1-3 from Atlantic Crossing: Deluxe Edition – Warner Bros. R2 516571, 2009
Tracks 4-5 from A Night on the Town: Deluxe Edition – Warner Bros. R2 516570, 2009
Tracks 6-8 previously unreleased recordings from the Foot Loose and Fancy Free sessions
Tracks 9-10 previously unreleased recordings from the Blondes Have More Fun sessions