When you’ve been around as long as Rod Stewart, greatest hits albums seem to appear on pace with the recommended colonoscopy schedule, so it should come as no surprise that 2008 brings the release of The Definitive Rod Stewart. After all, it’s been seven years since the release of The Story So Far: The Very Best of Rod Stewart, a 34-song two-disc set that has plenty of overlap with this newest, “definitive” collection.
The Definitive Rod Stewart collects 31 songs from the ‘70s up through the late ‘90s on two discs, with one previously unreleased track. The deluxe version includes a DVD with 14 Stewart music videos.
There’s nothing terribly appealing here to attract anyone with a decent base of Rod Stewart records in hand already, but The Definitive Rod Stewart should act as a nice starter kit for the uninitiated. Warner Brothers would do well to remaster the older tracks, which don’t sound any better on this release than on any other, and until they do, there will be no reason for anyone other than newbies to pick up these greatest hits collections they keep pushing.
The Definitive Rod Stewart is organized roughly in chronological order, with Disc One devoted to Stewart’s ‘70s work, and Disc Two containing selections from the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Disc One is the far superior disc, containing hits like “Maggie May,” “You Wear it Well,” “Sailing,” “Hot Legs” and “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” and the excellent “The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II)” and “Mandolin Wind.”
Strangely, the first disc contains the song “Stay With Me,” which Stewart recorded with Faces, but it is the only song on the compilation not culled from Stewart’s solo career.
Stewart’s career hit a clear slump in the ensuing decades, and Disc Two shows it, although there are a few hits like “Baby Jane,” “Rhythm of My Heart” and the Tom Waits cover “Dowtown Train.” Disc Two is populated with unplugged versions and collaborations with artists like Ronald Isley and The Temptations – it’s mired in gimmick, and it doesn’t make the music any better.
The unreleased track, “Two Shades of Blue,” was recorded during the sessions for When We Were the New Boys, Stewart’s last album with Warner Brothers, and is a languishing ballad that samples the St. Petersburg Orchestra. It’s an interesting track, and probably should have been included on When We Were the New Boys, which only ended up with one Stewart original on it.
The DVD included with the deluxe version contains 14 music videos spanning Stewart’s career. Five of the songs are not on the CDs, but none of these make much of an impression. The music videos show their age, and just like the music, there has been no attempt to remaster the videos, ensuring poor quality for most of them. Several of the videos look like a VHS recording somebody taped from their television – you might as well look these videos up on YouTube. It’s hard to imagine anyone doing much with the DVD after taking one look at it.
The Definitive Rod Stewart is an entirely non-essential release, although there’s nothing to complain about with the song selection. For those looking to start or fill out a Rod Stewart collection, it’s a good choice, but the deluxe version with the DVD is hardly worth it. Save a couple bucks, and just buy the standard version.