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What on earth has happened to Rod Stewart?
He’s been in this business for over 40 years. He was a force in amazing bands, including the Jeff Beck Group and The Faces, he wrote AMAZING songs like Maggie May, Stay With Me, and Every Picture Tells A Story. I’ll even give him some credit for “Young Turks.”
In the past decade, Rod has made the transition from rocker/disco one-hit-wonder/pop star to suited-up performer of the Great American Songbook. He’s released quite a few albums of standards, performed in blacktie, and basically abandoned his songwriting.
Well, apparently he’s been inspired by something, and that something is ‘Time.’ It’s 12 tracks of original material – most co-written by Stewart with a Tom Waits-written song thrown in there – and if you’re looking for Rod to pick up the guitar on the cover of his album and seriously rock, you may be disappointed – particularly if you are a fan of his work.
I decided to take my friend and old-school Rod Stewart fan, Robert, out for a drive to listen to his new album. Apparently Robert had already seen some clips of the new album on Youtube and said we should prepare ourselves for disappointment.
Here’s the track preview from Youtube:
The album starts off with a very bubblegum-sunny-day song called “She Makes Me Happy.” These are the lyrics you hear upon its beginning:
She makes me happy on the coldest day
She makes me happy when the clouds are gray
Every day’s like Christmas when she’s in my house
She makes me happy and I wanna shout
Really? “Every day’s like Christmas?” These are not the same caliber of lyrics of someone who once wrote “Well, I suppose you’re thinking/I bet he’s sinking/Or he wouldn’t get in touch with me/Oh, I ain’t begging or losing my head/I sure do want you to know/That you wear it well/There ain’t a lady in the land so fine, oh my” (“You Wear It Well,” Stewart/Quittenton, 1972).
Here’s the video for “She Makes Me Happy” so you can decide for yourself:
Stewart’s writing and musical ability certainly hasn’t evolved, it’s devolved into this mushy, gooey stuff that could just as well be sung by a pop star, remixed and given the autotune treatment and possibly turn into a hit.
In his younger days, Stewart was known for being a bad boy – he wrote songs that bragged of
his real-life exploits with women, sweetly begged to deflower a chaste young woman in “Tonight’s The Night” and also wore plenty – perhaps too many – tight, shiny pairs of trousers. In this album, yes, he’s a bit grown-up. But there’s no sense of atonement or apology. In the song “Can’t Stop Me Now,” he’s talking about how he’s made his Dad proud with his many years of success.
In “Brighton Beach,” he’s reminiscing happily about a teenage love. Now, I’m not one to spread rumors so y’all didn’t hear it from me, but the woman about whom this song is supposedly written has come before The Daily Mail basically upset about the whole thing, saying the song has brought her very painful memories – including a story of a child the two had that was given up for adoption. The Daily Mail has also grabbed an interview of the aforementioned child, who has forgiven and is now in contact with Rod.
I think the main problem with this album is that he wrote and produced 11 of the 12 tracks. You know who should have produced this album? Rick Rubin. It would have been perfect! The album’s on Capitol Records, Rick Rubin is the co-President of Capitol, and Rick can produce the hell out of some albums – most notably Johnny Cash’s “American Recordings” albums. He gets to the substance beyond the style – something Rod has apparently overlooked and now, at 68, is still overlooking. Apparently he started writing these songs in preparation for his memoir:
Suddenly ideas for lyrics were piling up in my head,” he says. “Next thing I knew, I had a song called ‘It’s Over’ about divorce and separation. And now I was getting up in the middle of the night and scrambling for a pen to write things down, which has never happened to me. I finished seven or eight songs very quickly and I still wasn’t done, and it became apparent that I would eventually have a whole album of material to record.”
Very quickly? You don’t say.
Well, you can check Rod out on Jimmy Kimmel Live tonight (5/6/13), where he’ll most likely be performing “She Makes Me Happy” and when I’ll most likely be sleeping. The album comes out tomorrow, and you can buy it on iTunes and Amazon.
I say, if you’re a fan of Rod’s early recordings, prepare for disappointment. If you have enjoyed Rod Stewart since about 1984, it might be right for you. This music fan is disappointed.