I get a new turntable and dust off some old records. Vinyl Tap #56:
I’ve worn it out well.
Patterned after and released on the heels of Rod Stewart’s masterwork Every Picture Tells a Story, and nestled firmly between Long Player and Ooh-La-La by the influential Faces — Small no more with the influx of Stewart, along with Ron Wood, in 1969 — the raucous, rollicking Never a Dull Moment from 1972 is a near-perfect merger of Stewart’s glorious rasp and the Faces ramshackle instrumentation. It also held some of the last gasps of the rock, blues, and folk surety that Stewart drew from “back down to Gasoline Alley where I started from” before he slid into 1974’s disappointing post-Faces Smiler and the disco beat musings for mulling over “If you want my body and you think I'm sexy.”
Though not as wide-ranging as Every Picture, the frayed charm of Never a Dull Moment packs enough of a varied wallop from the spirited get-go as the kick-off track “True Blue” strikes the right cavalier chord: “Never been a millionaire / and I tell you mama I don't care…” I just don’t know what to do, the singer debates as he considers whether to go home or not: “Maybe I'll walk, maybe I'll ride, maybe I'll never ever decide.” And then, with an exuberant eureka-fied yelp, impulse strikes as the rubber hits the road and the car peels out: gotta get home ASAP!
Well, after a couple of detours and good-byes, that is. “Got to get me some South America sun,” Stewart takes pains to explain in the breezy and Latin-flavored folk-rock of “Lost Paraguayos”: “Honey don't even ask me if you can come along.” Because “Your ridiculous age, start a state outrage,” it’s just not an option. In the infectiously frisky "Italian Girls," though, it’s a different matter, and he has his reasons for missing a certain little heartbreaker so much:
- She was tall, thin and tarty
and she drove a Maserati
faster than sound
I was heaven bound
With the standout track “You Wear It Well,” a bittersweet single suggestive of the big hit “Maggie May” — mandolin and all — Stewart conveys an affecting and warm nostalgia without spilling over into sentimentality. For this fully-realized song, an insistently tuneful melody is helped along by poignant and often self-effacing lyrics as Stewart reflects upon those universal feelings of what might have been and how hard it’s been to carry on:
- Remember them basement parties, your brother's karate
the all day rock and roll shows
Them homesick blues and radical views
haven't left a mark on you, you wear it well
A little out of time but I don't mind
But I ain't forgetting that you were once mine
but I blew it without even tryin'
Now I'm eatin' my heart out
tryin' to get a letter through
Stewart and the Faces — and other similarly loose-limbed and loose-lipped studio musicians going for a loose-end sound — round out Never a Dull Moment with some choice cover songs that offer up an array of folk, blues, and rock reinforcement. An almost hypnotically heartrending version of Bob Dylan’s “Mama You Been On My Mind” nicely balances the fun and frivolity of the LP’s side one, while a spare and percussive “Angel,” by Jimi Hendrix, effectively launches side two.
Furthermore, the drawling-organ blues of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind” contrasts with the rousing good-time album closer, Sam Cooke’s “Twistin’ the Night Away,” as Stewart salutes in giddy fashion the artist he's often compared to. If he can’t beat ’em, he may as well join ’em where “they have a lot of fun, puttin' trouble on the run / Oh man you'll find the old and young twistin' the night away.”
Seems like there’s never a dull moment…