During the span covered by these four CDs, Stewart charted 41 singles – 14 of them in the Top 10 – and he had earlier hits like “Maggie May” and “You Wear It Well” to weave into his high-wattage concerts. He always employed first-rate sidemen and paid them well, but for all their talent, with maybe a couple of exceptions, Rod’s guitarists might as well be in the witness protection plan. In fact, the rhythm section of drummer Carmine Appice and bassist Phil Chen became better known than Jim Cregan, Gary Grainger, Billy Peek, Robin LeMesurier, Wally Stocker, Todd Sharp, Jeff Golub, Oliver Leiber, and John Shanks.
Which is ironic, considering Stewart’s repertoire requires true versatility – from soul ballads to post-disco to old-time rock. Unfortunately, the mix on “Sweet Little Rock ’N’ Roller” renders almost inaudible an excellent Chuck Berry impersonation courtesy of Cregan, who combines with Golub for a Them-inspired “Baby Please Don’t Go.”
Five hours of previously unreleased Stewart at the peak of his powers and pre-“Songbook” popularity; what’s not to recommend?
This article originally appeared in VG‘s September ’14 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.