Still The Same...Great Rock Classics Of Our Time

Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart is no dumb blonde. For decades, he’s woven a stylish wardrobe from a patchwork of musical trends. And he wears it well. Whether setting the flamboyant standards for future hard rock singers while fronting the Jeff Beck Group, howling fast and loose with The Faces, or rasping solo with rock, ballads, contemporary standards, or even disco, the one constant about Stewart has been change. Change fortified by his ability to stamp his own unique interpretation on anything he sings. Which is why Still The Same...Great Rock Classics Of Our Time is not the same.

Stewart is no longer the yowling, young Mod prancing around in animal print jumpsuits. He’s matured — and, OK, maybe even mellowed — into a suave crooner. This CD isn’t Gasoline Alley or Every Picture Tells A Story, and it has gotten considerable flack for that. However, artists who don’t evolve — even minimally — and churn out the same-old-same-old end up sounding formulaic and falling off the musical map. For Stewart, those early albums were the dazzling beginnings of a musical career whose length is as rare as it is far-reaching. And now it’s payback time: Stewart has influenced scads of musicians; now he’s reimbursing those who have enriched him.

This, apparently, includes not only artists who affected him as a fledgling singer, but who inspired him throughout his career, and the selections suit his style. His sand-blasted voice sounds a bit weaker (no doubt due to his 2001 throat surgery that threatened to sideline him completely), but just as soulful and distinctive. It tastefully complements Cat Stevens’ “Father & Son,” Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” and Bob Seger’s “Still the Same.” And it’s almost as much with a wink as a nod that he covers “It’s a Heartache,” originally recorded by female vocal twin, Bonnie Tyler. Stewart also deftly captures the tender wistfulness of John Waite’s “Missing You,” and interprets the Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand by You” with a thoughtful balance of resolve and poignancy. He only misses the mark on two songs in which his typically emotive style turns perfunctory: a mechanical delivery of The Eagles’ “Best of My Love” and a mild remake of Nazareth’s “Love Hurts,” which lacks the wrenching angst that made Dan McCafferty’s original rendition so effective. For the most part, though, Stewart’s done a fine job of paying tribute to these songs. He’s not reinventing the wheel here. Just showing his love for how it rolls....and rocks.

~ Merryl Lentz

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