Song 222: Rod Stewart, “Tomorrow Is a Long Time” (1971)

Rod_Stewart-Every_Picture_Tells_A_Story-Frontal

Every Picture Tells a Story sounds great on vinyl, but not for the usual reasons. My particular used copy  is beat to shit, and each play reveals a new imperfection, another crack or hiss.

Those flaws fit the record, which already sounds well-worn and a little broken. There’s something charmingly old-fashioned about it, like Rod Stewart has shown up on your doorstep as a one-man band, eager to entertain you and maybe get a few coins thrown in his hat. The instrumentation—mostly acoustic guitars, fiddles, and the occasional electric guitars for jangle—certainly encourages that effect. Then there’s that cover, which makes the album look like a faded, forgotten book.

There are so many great songs on this album, from hits like “Maggie May” and “Reason to Believe” to lesser-known tracks like “Seems Like a Long Time,” but I chose “Tomorrow Is a Long Time” because it stops me in my tracks every time I hear it. Bob Dylan wrote it in 1962, but his original version didn’t see official release until 2010. I didn’t notice until today that Stewart’s version doesn’t feature any drums, that it’s propelled only by the rhythm of the acoustic guitar, helped along by an electric slide and that bittersweet violin.

This may sound like pure snobbery, but I think it’s a shame that Rod Stewart decided to, well, give up creatively. His work with the Faces, as well as much of his early solo music, was so inspired, so full of life. That he now releases album after album of watered-down covers is such a bummer. His Unplugged record seemed to mark a reminder, to himself and his fans, that amazing things can happen when he’s surrounded by the right songs and some acoustic guitars. Too bad it didn’t stick. (Though I’ll admit that “Downtown Train” and “Broken Arrow” are among some notable exceptions.)

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