Sunday, 29 December 2019

Rod Stewart - The Eighties And More (1983-2018)



The albums covered here are:-

Body Wishes (1983)
Camouflage (1984)
Every Beat Of My Heart (1986)
Out Of Order (1988)
Vagabond Heart (1991)
A Spanner In The Works (1995)
When We Were The New Boys (1998)
Human (2001)
Time (2013)
Another Country (2015)
and Blood Red Roses (2018)

Scroll down to read the reviews chronologically.

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BODY WISHES (1983)

1. Dancin' Alone
2. Baby Jane
3. Move Me
4. Body Wishes
5. Sweet Surrender
6. What Am I Gonna Do (I'm So In Love With You)
7. Ghetto Blaster
8. Ready Now
9. Strangers Again
10. Satisfied
11. That's What Friends Are For         

They all put out dreadful albums in the 1980s - Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan...Rod Stewart was no different. Synthesisers were the name of the game, and drum machines. Good Lord what a awful period for music it was.

This is one of a series of patchy Rod Stewart albums that saw his decent into being a somewhat of an increasingly irrelevant artist living on past glories, but still putting out material every year or so. The albums were increasingly becoming lazy, self-satisfied affairs and this is certainly that, in places. However, as this is Rod Stewart, there will always be one or two tracks that capture your attention.

                           
Funnily enough, the opener, Dancin' Alone, despite its shallow lyrics, has a solid, traditional rock beat with "proper" drums and rocking Hot Legs style guitar. It is actually not bad at all. The album's massive number one hit, Baby Jane, has never been one of my favourites, but it has a great hook and Stewart's voice is on top form. For me, however, it is too dominated by synthesised keyboards and programmed drums. It has a killer wailing saxophone solo though, to be fair. Move Me is again lyrically bland, just about rescued by some excellent riffy guitar but the beat is buried under the eighties production.

Body Wishes is a more mid tempo, laid back rocker. Very vacuous in that eighties way, but it's enjoyable enough, with some good percussion and guitar. I have read critics seriously lambasting Sweet Surrender, but personally I find it relatively tolerable. I love the acoustic guitar solo. It would have been fine on a late seventies album like Footloose And Fancy Free. There are worse tracks on here. What Am I Gonna D (I'm So In Love With You) is the one great track on here. I love it. It is romantic, evocative and the possessor of a sublime keyboard riff. It is just a great love song. I remember hearing it at the time and thinking that washed-out old Rod could still do it when he felt like it. "You are the goal that wins the game, the very last bus home in the rain, you're like rock 'n' roll and champagne...". Corny lines, I know, but very endearingly so. "The Sistine Chapel and The Eiffel Tower, a national anthem, an April shower...". Great stuff, Rod.


Ghetto Blaster brings those programmed eighties drums and synthesised horns out again. Rod tries in the lyrics to put across a message about poverty and social deprivation, which is laudable, but it loses its effect somewhat in the indulgent eighties-dance backing. Against a sparser backing it may have worked. Ready Now is a pretty bang average example of the worst of eighties pop. Pretty disposable. The same applies to the slower Strangers Again, it just doesn't stick in the mind. Very ordinary, I'm afraid. This track and the next one, Satisfied are tried to be lifted by that melodic acoustic guitar used so successfully on tracks like I Was Only Joking in the past but they lack that something special to get there. Satisfied is ok, actually, but certainly nothing really remarkable. The fact I listen to them and then struggle to remember them says it all, I guess. That's What Friends Are For has some cheesy, Disney-soundtrack sounding synthesiser. Indeed, the song would suit a film. Here it just sounds schmaltzy in a Michael Jackson way. Nothing much to see here. Move on please.

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CAMOUFLAGE (1984)

1. Infatuation
2. All Right Now
3. Some Guys Have All The Luck
4. Can We Be Friends
5. Bad For You
6. Heart Is On The Line
7. Camouflage
8. Trouble               

Released in the middle of the barren period that was the mid-eighties for not only Rod Stewart, but many artists. Music was buried under a swathe of synthesisers ad programmed drums. For me, this album, despite the presence of Stewart's old blues mate Jeff Beck to add some searing guitar in places, is a worse one than its patchy predecessor, Body Wishes. There are only eight tracks on what was, for me, a total lazy indulgence.
                                  
The opener, the disco-influenced Infatuation is just dull, getting nowhere, in spite of Jeff Beck's solo. The next track is also given the full synthesised, keyboard dominated disco treatment. Fair enough, I suppose, until you realise that the track is Free's All Right Now. Good grief. The rendition is a pretty unlistenable travesty. Enough said. Next up is Stewart's endearing cover of Robert Palmer's Some Guys Have All The Luck which is the best track on the album by a mile.

  

Can We Still Be Friends is a huge slab of extra mature cheese. Lyrically banal and musically even worse, layered with electronic keyboards that strangle any life out of it that it may have had. Even Jeff Beck's appealing guitar parts cannot save it. Bad For You is a bit rockier, but still blighted by eighties backing and eminently forgettable.

Neither Heart Is On The LineCamouflage or the maudlin Trouble bother the hairs on the back of my neck. This is Rod Stewart's equivalent of Elton John's Leather Jackets. Comfortably one of his worst.

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EVERY BEAT OF MY HEART (1986)

1. Here To Eternity
2. Another Heartache
3. A Night Like This
4. Who's Gonna Take Me Home
5. Red Hot In Black
6. Love Touch
7. In My Own Crazy Way
8. Every Beat Of My Heart
9. Ten Days Of Rain
10. In My Life
11. Hard Lesson To Learn                   

Rod Stewart's albums in the musically-barren eighties had got progressively worse. 1983's Body Wishes and 1984's Camouflage were pretty much execrable, buried under mountains of synthesisers, and packed full of lyrically-wanting material.

On this one, because of the presence of the nostalgic, yearning and singalong Every Beat Of My Heart there was an unfortunate misconception that Rod was "back on form". The tender, soulful cover of John Lennon's In My Life added to that idea. It was not the case though. The album was another culturally irrelevant one, full of lazy, cliched rockers, with guitars replaced by synthesisers, as on the uninspired chugging Another Heartache, and syrupy, schmaltzy pop like Love Touch.

Stewart always liked to tell a tragic tale in a narrative song - The Killing Of Georgie and Young Turks are examples. Here, he tries it with Here To Eternity about a guy ending up in jail unjustly. Far from being the moving song that it might be, it tends to grate somewhat.

A Night Like This is a regulation rocker but containing nothing special. The riffs are ok, but it just sounds tired and lyrically banal. The less said about the awful Who's Gonna Take Me Home the better. It is an example of everything that was wrong with eighties pop, and Stewart's output in particular. It is a truly shocking song, devoid of any redeeming points. Red Hot And Black is slightly better, but is another rock-by-numbers and once again, the lyrics are an embarrassment. The old lusty roué persona is wearing more than a bit thin by now, it is positively anorexic.

Love Touch was actually a minor hit single, but it is dreadful in an eighties tuneful pop sort of way. One of his worst ever singles. It is sad to be lambasting the album like this as a huge follower of Rod Stewart dating from 1971, but it simply has to be said. This was a poor album.

  

The indulgent, maudlin In My Own Crazy Way does little to raise the bar. Ten Days Of Rain and Hard Lesson To Learn are a pair of ballads that are both ok, but nothing incredibly special. The latter is probably the best of these three tracks. Just in places, there are hints of the old Rod in the majesty of this song.

Overall, this was better than Camouflage but it still left a lot to be desired. The eighties were, on the whole, very poor for Rod Stewart. You could actually make a reasonable compilation out of the best from each album, however, so the flame had not gone out completely, it was just about flickering.

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OUT OF ORDER (1988)

1. Lost In You
2. The Wild Horse
3. Lethal Dose Of Love
4. Forever Young
5. My Heart Can't Tell Me No
6. Dynamite
7. Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out
8. Crazy About Her
9. Try A Little Tenderness
10. When I Was Your Man
11. Almost Illegal   

This was more like it Rod! After three pretty dreadful albums in Body WishesCamouflage and Every Beat Of My Heart, Rod Stewart dispensed with quite a lot of the synthesised backing and went back to what he did much better - full-on guitar-driven rock. This is a good rock album, on the whole. Yes, there are still some eighties-style keyboard-replicated imitation brass parts but basically there is a "proper" drum sound, some great riffs and Stewart on rasping vocal form.
                             
The first two tracks are copper-bottomed Stewart rockers - Lost In You and the thoroughly impressive The Wild HorseLethal Dose Of Love was an unfortunate return to previous bad habits, but the anthemic, moving Forever Young (not Bob Dylan's song) restored the quality. Although it is not Dylan's song, the sentiments are exactly the same. A bit derivative there, Rod, but you're forgiven because it is a great song. He still performs it excellently in concert. It sounded as if he had really got his mojo back here.

  

My Heart Can't Tell Me No is perfectly acceptable compared to previous offerings. Similarly, the powerful rock of Dynamite with its clear eighties-era Rolling Stones influence. Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out is a funky, cooker of a track with a great vocal and some searing guitar. Crazy About Her is an appealing brassy rocker, with another bit of Stones influence in the Miss You-style spoken part and several Jaggerisms throughout. It is a bit disco-ish, but in a good way. Rod's cover of Otis Redding's Try A Little Tenderness is top notch. He could still seriously nail a cover.

When I Was Your Man is one of those melodic, nostalgic for lost love ballads that Stewart does so well. Yes he had done it many times before, but I still like it. Some Clarence Clemons-style saxophone at the end too. Almost Illegal is a great, punchy and riffy rocker. Again it is very like a lot of The Stones' material from the same period. There is some impressive rocking violin on it.

This is not a ground-breaking album in way, but considering what had been before it, it seemed like a work of genius. It is a good pop/rock album.

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VAGABOND HEART (1991)

1. The Rhythm Of My Heart
2. Rebel Heart
3. Broken Arrow
4. It Takes Two
5. When A Man's In Love
6. You Are Everything
7. The Motown Song
8. Go Out Dancing
9. No Holding Back
10. Have I Told You Lately
11. Moment Of Glory
12. Downtown Train
13. If Only           

The eighties had been a pretty barren period for Rod Stewart, with some pretty poor synthesiser-dominated eighties pop albums doing nothing to restore his diminishing reputation. Some synthesised backing still swirls around this album, unfortunately, giving it a slightly tinny sound in places, but it is still undoubtedly such better album than some of its predecessors, notably 1983's Body Wishes,  1984's Camouflage or 1986's Every Beat Of My Heart. 1988's comparatively impressive Out Of Order got him back on track, however.
              
This was actually a great way to start the nineties. The old Rod Stewart seemed to be back. The opener, the hit single was excellent - the singalong, Caledonian-inspired Rhythm Of My Heart. All very atmospheric and inspiring. The upbeat, vibrant feel continues with the solid rock of Rebel Heart which harks back to the mid-late seventies albums. Stewart is on great vocal form on this album - strong and enthusiastic. The Band's Robbie Robertson's Broken Arrow is convincingly covered so much that it seems made for Stewart. The old Motown classic It Takes Two is a rousing, ebullient riffy duet with the seemingly ageless Tina Turner.

  

When A Man's In Love is a chugger of a rocker, with some cheesy lyrics and a Springsteen-esque guitar feel to it in places and the cover of Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye's You Are Everything is soulful enough, but no real competition to the original. It's ok, however. The next track is a killer, though. The Motown Song is a lively, infectious tribute to Motown featuring The Temptations on backing vocals. It has a great hook and just a joie de vivre about it that is irresistible.

Go Out Dancing is a bassy, rocking good-time piece of barroom fun. No Holding Back is a bit of a synth-pop ballad that drags along a bit too long, to be honest. It does have an anthemic, singalong chorus, however. Have I Told You Lately is an excellent cover of the Van Morrison romantic classic, warm and comforting, but Moment Of Glory is a slightly embarrassing, grating tale of an unfaithful computer executive who commits his adultery on a night away. It has a searing Hot Legs guitar riff but some defining backing vocals that tend to overwhelm the song.

Downtown Train is actually a superb, evocative cover of Tom Waits's song, with Stewart on great vocal form. If Only is a mournful, but beautifully-delivered lament from a brokenhearted lover to end what was a timely decent album from Stewart. Some would say about time too.

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SPANNER IN THE WORKS (1995)

1. Windy Town
2. The Downtown Lights
3. Leave Virginia Alone
4. Sweetheart Like You
5. This
6. Lady Luck
7. You're The Star
8. Muddy, Sam & Otis
9. Hang On St. Christopher
10. Delicious
11. Soothe Me
12. Purple Heather   
                     
This is an often-ignored album from Rod Stewart, yet it is not a bad one at all. It contains a mixture of cover versions and original Stewart songs. The awful synthesised backing that blighted the eighties was thankfully long gone and he is backed by a proper rock sound.

The opener is a cover of Chris Rea's evocative, bluesy mid-tempo rock of Windy Town and it is delivered well, with a moving vocal and some suitable excellent guitar (a Rea cover without some good guitar would be a travesty). It is a great song anyway and suits Stewart perfectly. The Downtown Lights is a laid-back slow number. Somehow, now, in 1995, songs like this are being given a much better backing than similar songs were being given ten years earlier. It is an atmospheric song and sounds great here. This is a far better album already than anything Stewart put out from 1981 to 1991.

Leave Virginia Alone was a song written by Tom Petty intended for his Wildflowers album but instead he gave it to Stewart, who did it justice. It is a mid-tempo rock song with both electric and acoustic guitars at work. Bob Dylan's Sweetheart Like You is similarly well done. These were still the days when Stewart could enhance any cover he touched. Ten years or so later, this ability would have left him, but here it was still very much present.

  

This is a bit of an unremarkable but pleasant enough big production ballad. Lady Luck has a Celtic, folky air to its intro and proceeds into a likeable, jaunty Maggie May-style Stewart rocker, with his wry, observant lyrics to the fore. His vocals have that late seventies lilt to them that is always so fetching. Admittedly, this album isn't ground-breaking or relevant to the musical culture of 1995 in any way, but it is a lovely blast from the past. You're The Star treads a well-trodden path of praise for his latest love in the You're In My Heart fashion. This time, however, it wasn't written by Rod, but by old mate Frankie Miller. It sounds so like a Stewart song, though.

Muddy, Sam & Otis is one of those typical Rod Stewart nostalgic songs for times and music gone by. It is a little bit cheesy, but I can't help but like it. It has a delicious chorus refrain. Tom WaitsHang On St. Christopher is a rumbling, brass-driven bluesy slow burner with a great down 'n' dirty feel to it. Stewart hasn't sounded this good in years. Great stuff. It has some excellent B.B. King guitar at the end as well. Delicious is a thumping, rousing rocker with typically lusty lyrics. Nothing new here, but enjoyable enough. Soothe Me is another rocker which blatantly uses the riff from T. Rex's Get It On and it has a Sam Cooke-esque hint in its melody. It uses the Hot Legs riff too at the end. These two regulation rockers threaten to end what has been an impressive album on a bit of an average note, but the final cover of the traditional folk air, Purple Heather is gorgeous, romantically-delivered by Stewart. This has been a much-underrated album worthy of anyone's attention.

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WHEN WE WERE THE NEW BOYS (1998)

1. Cigarettes And Alcohol
2. Ooh La La
3. Rocks
4. Superstar
5. Secret Heart
6. Hotel Chambermaid
7. Shelly My Love
8. When We Were The New Boys
9. Weak
10. What Do You Want Me To Do       

After a good album in 1995's Spanner In The WorksRod Stewart continued the good work with a solid album of cover versions of some contemporary songs, among others, that showed he could still cut it. Rather than revisiting music from his youth as he had previously liked to do, here was taking off some music of the time.

It could have turned out quite embarrassing if he hadn't pulled Oasis's Cigarettes And Alcohol off, but, trust old Rod. He nailed it. It actually sounds great. It doesn't quite have the bombastic thunderous attack of Oasis, but it ain't half bad. The Faces' old standard, Ooh La La from 1973 is given a big, thumping, bassy and horn-driven makeover. Primal Scream's Rocks Off is great too - confident, pulsating, pounding. Proper rock. Nice one Rod. Superstar is a big, guitar-driven stately rock ballad that again suits Stewart down to the ground. Some lovely acoustic guitar in the middle of this.

Secret Heart is a mournful, acoustic cover of a song from Canadian artist Ron Sexsmith. I don't know the original, but Stewart sings this beautifully. Graham Parker's Hotel Chambermaid is great, given a Hot Legs guitar riff of an introduction, a rumbling bass line and a rasping Stewart vocal. It rocks, big time. Stewart hasn't sounded as vibrant as this for a long time. It is great to hear. Shelly My Love is a Nick Lowe song and is given the syrupy Stewart treatment, but it still convinces, surprisingly. He can do no wrong on this album, hitting the high notes beautifully.

  

A Rod Stewart album is not one without a bit of nostalgic, sentimental anthemic stuff from Stewart and you get it here on When We Were The New Boys as he once again recalls his glory days as a youth. The indie rock of Weak from Skin is once again covered more than credibly. It has to be said that Stewart's band and the overall sound on this album is top notch too. What Do You Want Me To Do from Mike Scott of The Waterboys actually sounds like a Rod Stewart song, both in its construction and lyrics. It is given some Springsteen-esque harmonica that enhances its feel. This is a really good album - one of Rod Stewart's best latter-day efforts and comparatively little-mentioned ones.

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HUMAN (2001)

1. Human
2. Smitten
3. Don't Come Around Here
4. Soul On Soul
5. Loveless
6. If I Had You
7. Charlie Parker Loves Me
8. It Was Love That We Needed
9. To Be With You
10. Run Back Into Your Arms
11. I Can't Deny It
12. Peach                
  
This has traditionally been lambasted by critics as a clumsy, ill-considered attempt by Rod Stewart to "go contemporary" and embrace current programmed r 'n' b stylings (r 'n' b as in polished contemporary soul). It is true that he tried to do that, but in my opinion it was actually quite successful and listenable, the album being nowhere near as bad as many would have you believe. It is far superior to some of the lifeless, synthesised "disco/dance" experiments in the mid eighties, for example. Yes, I understand that recording some typical Rod Stewart songs but giving them a 2001-style chart backing was maybe not the best idea, and he should have stuck with what he does best, but listening to it with an open mind I find that I actually I don't mind it, and I'm not one one for new millennium chart music in any way.

                        
Human, the title track, despite the admittedly programmed, bass heavy contemporary beat, is actually very catchy, featuring a strong Stewart vocal and some searing industrial guitar at the end which turns into a Santana sound-alike piece. Smitten is an appealing and infectious slow number and although Soul On Soul is a bit syrupy in its radio-friendly plastic chart soul sound it does have a laid-back appeal, as does the livelier, but similar Loveless. The duet with "Helicopter Girl", Don't Come Around Here, is probably the most obvious nod to current chart styles but again, it's ok.

If I Had You is quietly and melodically anthemic. Stewart does this sort of thing so well, while Charlie Parker Loves Me, while lyrically strange, is an atmospheric piece of easy listening, late-night groove with some addictive backing rhythms. It Was Love That We Needed features some excellent vocals from both Rod and his female backing singers. It also has some sumptuous, mellifluous guitar parts at the end too. To Be With You has Stewart rocking just a little on a mid-tempo ballad and Run Back Into Your Arms is beautifully orchestrated and soulful in its vocal delivery.

I Can't Deny It was a single and it has an instant singalong refrain, not a bad track at all. Peach closes the album with some heavy-ish guitar riffage and another catchy chorus. This was certainly nowhere near Rod Stewart's best work. It is nowhere near his worst either. It is very much of its time, however. I'll forgive him though. However, I do not return to the album very often, I have to admit.

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TIME (2013)

1. She Makes Me Happy
2. Can't Stop Me Now
3. It's Over
4. Brighton Beach
5. Beautiful Morning
6. Live The Life
7. Finest Woman
8. Time
9. Picture In A Frame
10. Sexual Religion
11. Make Love To Me Tonight
12. Pure Love       

Rod Stewart's songwriting mojo had deserted him, apparently, for the best part of twenty years, apart from some collaborations here and there that appeared on his various albums in that time. There had still been some good ones, on A Spanner In The Works and When We Were The New Boys, but most of the time had been taken up with seemingly endless volumes of The Great American Songbook, an album of rock covers and one of soul covers (oh and a Christmas one). What he seemed to have lost was the ability he once had to pen a shamelessly nostalgic look back at the good old days of his past, something he previously excelled in. However, writing his autobiography brought all those memories flooding back and he says he suddenly got the desire to write songs again.  This album was the result. There is certainly some good stuff on it, but it is, like many contemporary albums, a little sprawling and disconnected, contains more than a little syrup schmaltz than my taste is happy with. It was hailed, predictably, as a "return to form" (cliche alert), but I have always found it just a bit patchy. It was great to have Stewart the storytelling songwriter back but there are parts of the album that veer too close to cheesy for my liking.

                            
Anyway, on with the songs. She Makes Me Happy starts with a vibrant, wailing Celtic-style fiddle and a beat that owes a bit to the acoustic-driven glories of Gasoline Alley. Stewart's romantic, soft old soul kicks in on the lyrics about the love his life (presumably Penny). It is a barnstorming opener though. The old anthemic nostalgia is firmly back for the stadium-pleasing Can't Stop Me Now, with a nice verse in tribute to his late Father at the climax of the song. Yes, it is a real hands in the air singalong number but I can't help but like it. It's Over is a mournful lament for a broken marriage, a heartbreaking typical Stewart ballad. Brighton Beach is a song that sees Rod thinking back to a teenage affair in Brighton. It is a nice tale of times gone by with a fetching violin in the backing. Rod describes himself as a "scruffy working class teenage troubadour...". A classic Stewart line.

Beautiful Morning is reasonable rocker, while Live The Life has a bit of a mid-seventies feel to it and some slightly saccharine lyrics about writing an email to his son. Finest Woman has Rod praising his wife again, over a Hot Legs-style rock and brass beat. Time is a Stones-ish slow ballad well delivered by Stewart but Picture In A Frame harks back to the crooning songs of The Great American Songbook. By now, after a promising start, I find the album beginning to tire me a little. Sexual Religion is a disco-ish chugger in the Da Ya Think I'm Sexy fashion and also reminds me so much of his eighties synth-pop, soft rock days. It is pretty bland and disposable, I have to be honest.

Make Love To Me Tonight has a pure Faces/early solo/Stones' Factory Girl fiddle intro and melody, a real echo of the past, but the lyrics are pretty corny. The tune is a killer though. Pure Love is a bit maudlin and not a little drippy. It also goes on far too long, as indeed does the album. Half way through the album I had exhausted it, I have to admit, I much prefer many of his other albums over many different decades over this, despite the renaissance he had clearly undergone. Obviously I always go for the early and mid-seventies material, but I would also choose A Spanner In The Works, When We Were The New Boys, Vagabond Heart and Out Of Order before this one. This would horrify many, but I would choose Human too.

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ANOTHER COUNTRY (2015)

1. Love Is
2. Please
3. Walking In The Sunshine
4. Love And Be Loved
5. We Can Win
6. Another Country
7. Way Back Home
8. Can We Stay Home Tonight
9. Batman Superman Spiderman
10. The Drinking Song
11. Hold The Line
12. Friend For Life        

After the success of 2013's TimeRod 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 At 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.

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BLOOD RED ROSES (2018)

1. Look In Her Eyes
2. Hole In My Heart
3. Farewell
4. Didn't I
5. Blood Red Roses
6. Grace
7. Give Me Love
8. Rest Of My Life
9. Rollin' And Tumblin'
10. Julia
11. Honey Gold
12. Vegas Shuffle
13. Cold Old London      

The question I ask myself, as a Rod Stewart fan since I first heard Maggie May in 1971 aged twelve, is do I need another Rod Stewart album? Yes, on balance I probably do. Just.

The last two have been pretty good, since Stewart re-discovered his songwriting muse with the writing of his autobiography, but they have not been ones I have particularly revisited. I suspect this one may be the same, but fair play to him for still putting out vibrant, muscular rock albums, which is what this one mostly is. As you would expect, though, it is crammed full of nostalgia.
                              
Rod's voice still sounds powerful and can cope with the thumping, contemporary programmed drum and bass sounds. The first track, Look Her In The Eyes  is a good, upbeat one, but I find it slightly overwhelmed by the pounding backing, but that is just the way songs are produced in 2018. Rod has always wanted to keep abreast of current musical trends, so that is the way it is going to be. Some searing guitar riffs introduce the rocking Hole In My Heart and Stewart is on great vocal form here. Two songs in, it must be time for a nostalgic look back at a misspent youth in those old London days in the mid-late sixties and Rod delivers with the lovely Farewell (using the same title of his earlier 1974 hit). Listening to it, it is a heartbreaking goodbye to an old friend from those days who has recently passed away. Some may say it is cheesy. Not me. It is extremely moving. When he enunciates  "milli-OH-nnaire" like he used to in the seventies, (on You Can Make Me Dance, Sing Or Anything) it takes me right back.

 

Didn't I has been around for a few months now and is another emotional song sung by Stewart in the role of father to an errant, drug-taking daughter. I am not sure if its true. He sings with a singer called Bridget Cady who I am not familiar with. It ends a bit abruptly, though. The previous album, Another Country saw Stewart delving into Celtic folk songs for his inspiration on several occasions. Here he does so again with some rousing Irish-style fiddle for the strident, tub-thumping Blood Red Roses. The Irish feel continues with the wistful, maudlin Grace which is a cover of an Irish "rebel song" (written, however, in the eighties, not 1916-17) He does it pretty well although it will receive criticism for being overblown, no doubt. It is an emotive song and it is clear to see why Stewart was inspired to cover it.

Then it is time for some genre-hopping as we get a synthesised disco beat for Give Me Love which sounds as if it should be on one of his eighties albums. Like those, it is similarly unremarkable, to be honest. Some killer bass lines on it, though. Rest Of My Life is a catchy, convincing Motown-sounding song taking Stewart back to a sound he always loved. He sounds great on the one. You know, all this stuff is nothing ground-breaking, but I still can't help but like the hammy old whatever. His songs just make me feel nostalgic. They are intended to, no doubt, so they are doing their job.


Rollin' And Tumblin' is a stonking cover of the old Muddy Waters song, taking Stewart back to his original mid sixties blues roots. It is the most credible song on the album. If only he would release an album of blues covers as opposed to easy listening crooners. I wonder if the girl in the romantic, nostalgic Julia is the same one who appeared in 1978's Last Summer on the Blondes Have More Fun album? There is lots of looking to the past on this album, as there always have been, to be honest, even in the seventies, Rod was looking back to the sixties. Honey Gold is another retrospective memory, for an old partying pal from his Faces days (unnamed). Vegas Shuffle is a bit of a throwaway that is pretty superfluous. It sounds like something from the early nineties.

Cold Old London ends the album with more shameless, unrepentant looking back. Bridget Cady joins Rod again for a tender ballad, the only real one of its type on here. On first listen, I have to say I have enjoyed this album more than I thought I would. Of the last three - TimeAnother Country and this one, I think I like it the most, certainly on first hearing, although obviously opinions can change. Anyway, good old Rod.

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