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'WHEN WE WERE THE NEW BOYS' / 'BACK TO THE ROOTS'
posted by Dan Perreira, April 11, 2019


By the mid-nineties it was becoming quite obvious that Rod's writing well was running a bit dry - his output was slowing down after nearly thirty years, and was struggling as a lyricist... Unlike most of his previous albums - the last two releases had just four original tracks each. And also, to Rod's disappointment, none of his self-penned songs were selected as singles by the record company since 1984's top ten smash "Infatuation", with the one exception being the minor UK / German hit "Lady Luck". So what does an artist do when they are fresh out of new material to record? Well, at first you put out a live recording (UNPLUGGED... AND SEATED), and then you will resort to issuing some greatest hits / best of packages - we all know how much record companies love to release compilations (easy money there). Next move, the artist usually proceeds to work on an entire album of well-known songs to buy some time with the hopes that their knack for songwriting will eventually return... Although Rod had already tried out the full albums worth of remakes idea with 1993's LEAD VOCALIST - partially ruined by Warner Bros. Records in the UK with the inclusion of seven old Rod favorites (thankfully, this was rectified by Rhino with the release of ONCE IN A BLUE MOON). But by recording an album of well-chosen cover songs, it doesn't necessarily guarantee you're going to have a huge seller on your hands - but Rod was optimistic. Enter Rob Dickens, with the idea of having Rod record another "all-covers" type of album. However, this time, Dickens concept would be much different than the songs Rod would have usually tackled. Instead of recording long-time classics, the vision Dickens had in mind would be for Rod to record more up to date songs by current artists (with one exception the title track), especially the edgier British bands. He also had in mind that Rod would go into the studio with the spirit of his personal masterpiece, EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY (and returning Rod to his rock 'n' roll roots...?) - setting the bar very high indeed (an impossible feat without Ronnie Wood!). Another suggestion he had, (and a very very good one) was that Rod should produce the entire album himself, as he had done so successfully with his first five long players. Somewhat surprisingly, Rod was completely on board with Dickens proposed plans for this roll-of-the-dice project. And instead of using different musicians on various tracks as in the past, Rod would recruit a first-rate core band that featured two solid- rock guitarists (and they definitely looked the part on stage), Oliver Leiber and John Shanks, and on bass the highly regarded Lance Morrison, with his trusty long-time drummer, David Palmer is the only hold-over from his stage band. Kevin Savigar also co-produced and plays keyboards on seven tracks. With the majority of songs picked out in advance (not always his usual method... ) Rod went into the studio highly enthusiastic... Well over twenty songs were tried-out and recorded during the WHEN WE WERE THE NEW BOYS sessions. Some worthy tracks that didn't make the final cut would eventually be available on the SESSIONS: 1971-1998 boxed set. Especially good are: The Supernaturals' "Dylan's Day Off", Oasis' "Rockin' Chair" and Paul Weller's "The Changingman".

The surprising track selections included the powerhouse opener, Oasis' "Cigarettes And Alcohol": A loud-in-your-face swinging tune that makes the original almost sound tame by comparison, and that's serious praise. The Faces' "Ooh La La" (a pleasant surprise!): Sadly, Ronnie Lane passed away during these recordings. So it was agreed by all in the studio to record this Lane classic as a tribute and was issued as the albums first single, making it Rod's last top 40 pop hit in the US. Primal Screams' "Rocks": Hard-rocking and smokin' hot - this is how it's done, kids! The Indie band Superstar supplied "Superstar": Mournful and profound all the way through (in parts, sounding almost like "In A Broken Dream"). Elvis Costello suggested the delicate and beautiful ballad by Ron Sexsmith, "Secret Heart": Rod's vocals on here are simply exquisite. Graham Parker's "Hotel Chambermaid" (another surprise pick): "Hot Legs" with a lot more wit! Costello also recommended that Rod record the lovely Nick Lowe song "Shelly My Love": This one comes across as a near folk-soul standard - Rod's reading is pure class. Rod wrote one song with Kevin Savigar for the album, the title cut "When We Were The New Boys" (can easily be considered a better version of "Forever Young"): Heartfelt and reflective, and proof positive that Rod still had it in him as a songwriter - Why wasn't it the lead-off track? Skunk Anansie's stunning song "Weak": Now, this was a real unexpected choice! Emotionally mind blowing vocals by Rod and the album's showstopper! It would have made for a great single. The album ends with a real deep song by Mike Scott of the Waterboys (filling in for a Bob Dylan number), "What Do You Want Me To Do?": Both religious and spiritual in tone without being too preachy. Radiates with truth and depth, sung beautifully by Rod. A truly magnificent rendition.

Even though WHEN WE WERE THE NEW BOYS wasn't the huge seller that it should have been in the US, it's still a high-grade album with much to offer.

Very disappointingly, this release marks the first time that a Rod album wasn't issued on vinyl. Making the serious listener and collector ask: "wot no vinyl"?!

Was WWWTNB as good as EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY? No, what album is? But Rod sure gave it his all - and it was a robust endeavor and an album that Rod can be extremely proud of.

ROD STEWART: BACK TO THE ROOTS (WHEN WE WERE THE NEW BOYS - ALTERNATE COPY)

1 - When We Were The New Boys
2 - Ooh La La
3 - Rocks
4 - What Do You Want Me To Do?
5 - Love Minus Zero/No Limit (taken from Diana, Princess Of Whales: Tribute CD)
6 - Cigarettes And Alcohol
7 - Superstar (edited single version - 4:00 from 4:21)
8 - Shelly My Love
9 - Weak As I Am (should be the proper title of the song)
10 - Careless With Our Love (bonus track available only on the Japanese version - This cut is way too good not to have made the original release)
11 - Now that You're On Your Own (lyrically incomplete outtake: what a shame that they gave up on this cracker - the music is terrific and the vocals are fierce... but needs to be edited down to less than three minutes for it to actually work as a song)
12 - Hotel Chambermaid (The perfect album closer!)

Is there enough strong and useful material from the NEW BOYS sessions for a second album?

To be continued...

- Dan Perreira


Note: New cover concept and album title (I switched "his" for "the") was from an advert.





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So what? you might well ask..well here goes:





BLOGSsubmit
John Gray, music enthusiast and founder of SMILER fanclub, was born in Romford, Essex in 1960. He bought his first Rod Stewart record (Maggie May) in 1971 and has been a keen fan and collector ever since. He first witnessed Rod live on stage when he was just 13 years old and has now seen well over 100 different Rod Stewart concerts all over the world.
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It was late '77 shortly after the passing of Elvis who was his childhood musical idol, that Dan Perreira first heard Rod's "distinctive voice", singing "Tonight's The Night" on a television comercial for a K-Tel various artists LP. Lucky for him and his curiosity, located at his local library were two books about Rod which would educate him very well on both Rod and the Faces. He was completely intrigued, especially by the Faces years and became an instant fan. From then on he would buy and collect anything he could get his hands on and still continues to do so to this very day.
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Irishman Pat Brett is a mere novice fan having first become aware of Rod when Baby Jane topped the charts 30 years ago and only discovering SMILER in 1990. Despite his first purchase being the much maligned Camouflage album, Pat was hooked and has stuck around to champion Rod's middle years - after the heights of the seventies and before the crooner era.
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Neal Webb has been a Faces/Rod Stewart fan for over forty years; he has been fortunate enough to have seen the Faces live and the very first Rod Stewart solo shows. His first love has always been The Faces and he has followed each member of the bands solo careers since the band split in 1975. Favourite Faces album is Oh La La and Rod Stewart solo album is Gasoline Alley.
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dave
Dave Edwards has been a fan of Rod Stewart and The Faces since going to a party in 1971 and finding the next morning someone had put their Every Picture Tells A Story album into his Electric Warrior sleeve! After listening to the album and loving it he then gave it back to the rightful owner and found they had a spare ticket for the Edmonton concert! So at the age of thirteen he went to his first gig and was hooked.
Dave was asked to contribute a blog to provide a balance on the site as, unlike John and Steamy, his love of the man's music has not diminished over the years. Whilst still loving the 'Mercury Years' he is also a fan of the Songbook albums (and everything in between!).
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