(As published in the Illinois Entertainer in early 2005...)
ROD STEWART: Stardust … The Great American Songbook Volume III (J)
Those befuddled by Rod Stewart’s foray into pre-rock ’n’ roll standards are overlooking the obvious—namely, that for years Stewart’s main objective in cutting a song has been whether it will make some voluptuous blonde more susceptible to his bedside manner. With this in mind, the Great American Songbook series makes complete sense.
For while Stewart has long demonstrated a predilection for marrying women young enough to be his daughters, he must know that his days as a hot item on their CD-shopping lists are over. So he zeroes in on their mothers, many of whom no doubt first became mothers to the resistance-weakening strains of “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)” or “Hot Legs.” Now pushing fifty if not sixty (if not wheelchairs), these women have reached the stage at which the timeless appeal of a classic Broadway tune can, if done right, function like female Viagra. Also, between alimony payments and Social Security, they’re awash in disposable income.
So does Rod do right by these songs? For the most part, yes, and, as he could be applying his voice to compositions considerably more vacuous, more power to him (better “Embraceable You,” “For Sentimental Reasons,” and “But Not for Me,” in other words, than whatever’s rolling off Diane Warren’s production line). His persistent weakness for gaucherie shows only when he succumbs to the obvious (“What a Wonderful World”) or hams it up with women better seen than heard (Dolly Parton, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”).