Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Rod Stewart - Another Country (2015)


  

Released October 2015

After the success of 2013's "Time", Rod Stewart returned with more singalong fare with some harks to his past, many of the songs dressed up in a lilting Celtic-style backing, with fiddle and acoustic  guitars used generously throughout the album. His knack for a nostalgic anthem and a syrupy love song are still with him and the album features quite a few of those. As a fan of Rod Stewart since I heard "Maggie May", aged twelve, it is good to still hear him putting out quality material, but it is starting to sound just a tiny bit hackneyed, despite Stewart's clear enthusiasm in his delivery that belies his septuagenarian age. There are many albums in his vast collection that I turn to before this one, though. Maybe that's a bit unfair, for a 70 year-old it is a damn good effort.

As to the songs, "Love Is" is a vibrant, fiddle-enhanced Celtic-tinged rocker to open with. It reminds me of an old American folk song in its chorus but I can't put my finger on what. "Shenandoah", maybe. There is a great fiddle solo in the middle too. "Please" is a solid rocker with some excellent guitar, probably the only nod to his late eighties/nineties-style rockers. He hits a high note at the end too. "Walking In The Sunshine" is very similar to some of the material on the previous album. It has a big, thumping drum sound and Rod managing to dominate the beat, despite his now clearly ageing voice. It has some quirky female backing vocals throughout that are strangely appealing. "Love And Be Loved" has the band trying their hand at reggae in a Caribbean-sounding song about palm trees and beaches. It is pleasant in a summery way but a bit bland lyrically. A bit corny, musically, as well.

"We Can Win" is a Celtic, tub-thumping rousing stadium pleaser that has Rod singing about Glasgow Celtic, his football team. It is a bit like a cup final song, the sort football teams used to be forced to sing, unfortunately. Lyrically, too, it is pretty banal, unless you're a Celtic fan. The wistful, Celtic feel is continued on another rouser, "Another Country". It is a sentimental tribute to the armed forces, full of bagpipe sounding keyboards, but despite all the laid-on emotion, I cannot help but be moved by it somewhat. Stewart continues the patriotic theme in "Way Back Home", as he remembers being born at the end of the Second World War and remembers the hardship of those days. Adding Churchill's "fight them on the beaches" at the end was questionable, however. I understand why he did it and it adds to the emotion, but it all gets a bit too much for me at the end. Many will love it though, so fair enough.

"Can We Stay Home Tonight" is again half cheese, half beautiful. The lyrics are gloriously humdrum if that is not a complete oxymoron. Stewart is a shameless old softie but I can't help but still love him. He is half laughable old roué, half gnarled, credible veteran rock legend.

Now, unfortunately, come two stinkers - the totally unlistenable "Batman, Superman, Spiderman", a cringing lullaby to his four year-old son. Leave things like this for your son Rod. Eric Clapton and John Lennon were guilty of similar offences, so I guess he is in good company. The there is the upbeat acoustic lament of "The Drinking Song", about alcoholism, but sung in a jaunty way. "It was the drink that made me do it..." claims Rod. That accounts for "Da Ya think I'm Sexy" then!

"Hold The Line" is a country-ish romp with some more catchy fiddle riffs. "Friend For Life" is a heart on my sleeve, plaintive ballad, with more cheesy-but-lovely lines.  The thing is with these last two Rod Stewart albums, "Time" and this one, they are both incredibly in-your-face emotional and at times I love them, and other times they are a bit overwhelming. Overall, I prefer this one to "Time", however. Just.

C

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