That's what could be called a collector's dream - the sides Rod had nailed down before he hit the big time. Now you can't stop hunting high and low for singles and obscure compilations, all of them are here for your convenience, spread on 2 CDs. Rod started rocking under the guidance of Long John Baldry, having joined in 1964 the latter's HOOCHIE COOCHIE MEN and it's together with John that he had his first recording done, the streamline B-side "Up Above My Head", which shows signs of things to come when towards the end singers break into "Swing Low Sweet Chariot". Stewart was more than anyone turned onto soulful side of R&B, doing a faithful rendition of Sam Cooke's "Shake" in 1966, yet defined his leanings not before he tried pure blues such as Sonny Boy's "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" (John Paul Jones a bass slinger), much more impressive with his acoustic arrangement and jiving piano than rather similar YARDBIRDS' version. A pity that this jazzy vibe got lost because it was so wonderful in a bunch of demos the artist made in 1964, "Bright Lights Big City" among them, which Rod sung with Baldry live as early as that year's February - a great document of the era. John was all up for jazz and no surprise his new outfit STEAMPACKET included, along with The Mod, future TRINITY members Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll, angelic voice and organ a fine environment for Baldry's and Stewart's gravel voices in classics of "Can I Get A Witness" sort, plus Micky Waller, who later played with Stewart in JEFF BECK GROUP.
Beck's stuff, accessible easily, here isn't while some forgotten combos' material is, giving a chance to savour rarities like "I Could Feel The Whole World Turn Round Underneath Me" from short-lived SHOTGUN EXPRESS, which ranks featured Peter Green (enjoy the picture of Rod and Peter together in the accompanying booklet crammed with text and photos, some of them are on CD3), his namesake Bardens, later of CAMEL fame, and Mick Fleetwood. And stars are more there: Mick Jagger produced one 1967's session and wasn't satisfied with Stewart not hitting the high notes of "Little Missunderstood" - Rod's performance was really quite rough on this one, contrary to his usual standards, and demo lacked the edge of the final product - compare both recording. The only other surviving track is "Come Home Baby" that Rod recorded in company of PP Arnold, Keef Richard, Keith Emerson, Waller and Nicky Hopkins, another Beck's band guy. Aynsley Dunbar, incidentally, made this compilation too, due to Rod providing his voice for RETALIATION's "Stone Crazy".
Surprisingly, no matter how diverse these recordings are, all of them somehow cohere and follow Stewart's progress from skinny mod to tubby millionnaire, from shy boy to strutting bottom-shaker. On the other hand, stylistically this collection fits in R&B format altogether, with just a few exceptions, like piquant ballad "In A Broken Dream" that Rod recorded for Python Lee Jackson's album, or Zappa-produced weird "Shock Treatment" from THE GTO's. In 1969 Steart laid down "Diamond Joe" and "Engine 444" with Art and Ron Wood, Kenny Jones and Ian McLagan under the QUIET MELON monicker and that lead to him joining THE FACES, his last step to stardom.