Photographers: Charles Gatewood; Scott Schinder; Barry Plummer; Aaron Sixx; Tom Wright .
Technically, the 24 tracks that show up on Universal's 2013 double-disc collection Rarities are indeed rarities, as they never showed up on any Rod Stewart LP, but that doesn't mean they're all that hard to find. Stewart's Mercury recordings have been anthologized many times, most notably on the 2002 triple-disc set The Complete Mercury Studio Recordings, and he also had an exhaustive four-disc outtakes box called The Rod Stewart Sessions 1971-1998 released in 2009, whose first 12 tracks were devoted to Mercury-era cuts. These 12 tracks -- including alternate takes on "Maggie May," "Seems Like a Long Time," "Italian Girls," "You Wear It Well," "Lost Paraguayos," "I'd Rather Go Blind," and "Angel," along with early versions of "Mystify Me" (here called "Think I'll Pack My Bags") and "Farewell" -- account for half of Rarities, with the rest devoted to the odds and sods that have appeared on 1992's The Mercury Anthology and the exhaustive 2002 set: the single version of "It's All Over Now," "Pinball Wizard" from the Tommy soundtrack, "Oh! No Not My Baby," "Jodie," "Missed You," "You Put Something Better Inside Me," "Crying Laughing Loving Lying," "Every Time We Say Goodbye," and "So Tired." This leaves only two genuine hard-to-find rarities in BBC versions of "Country Comfort" and "Maggie May," strong items both but perhaps not enough for the Rod fan who has either the 2002 Complete collection, as that is where all the real keepers here also reside. As interesting as it is to hear Stewart work out "Maggie May" (original lyric: "I don't mean to tell ya/That you look like a fella") and "You Wear It Well," the gems on Rarities are the ragged, low-key groove of "Jodie," the soulful "Oh! No Not My Baby," the rolling folk-pop of "Crying Laughing Loving Lying," items that are of a piece with what made it onto the official albums. Once, they were easiest to hear on Reason to Believe: The Complete Mercury Studio Recordings, but that is a relic of the peak CD age. This helps keep worthwhile Stewart oddities in circulation during the digital era and that's necessary indeed. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine