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The Farr Side: Another set of standards for Rod Stewart

David T. Farr

Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer Rod Stewart tossed aside his pop-rocker image for a more subdued appeal for his albums “The Great American Songbook,” a collection that stretched from one to four album releases. 

The “Songbook”series featured Stewart tackling some of the most beloved standards of all time, something that came rather easily for the man who once adorned leopard print spandex pants and hopped around stage asking, “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”

Stewart’s willingness to put himself outside the box and win over audiences not only garnered him industry acclaim and Grammy Awards, it also helped him to sell millions of albums.

It was a smart move for a number of reasons, and the music was excellent and tastefully arranged.

His next move was to record and release “Still The Same: Great Rock Classics Of Our Time,” another album of covers.

It was another great release: Stewart sang  more great songs, some well-suited for his trademark raspy vocal style. 

His latest set, “Soulbook,” finds him revisiting soulful tracks, songs that he says got him into music. 

Are you sensing a pattern?

After four consecutive “Great American Songbook” CD’s and an album of classic rock covers, he sings soul music? 

My first thought was, OK, I can respect his love for the old songs, but does he have to re-perform them all? What’s next, country?

That being said, I had to hear the music. “Soulbook” is yet another sugary tribute to an era gone by, Stewart-style. 

Stewart said he chose songs that inspired him to become a singer in the first place. I can believe that. He seems to have a soulful connection to the material.

There are a few immediate standouts, including his cover of The Everly Brothers’ “Let It Be Me,” which Stewart sings in duet with Jennifer Hudson. This interpretation deserves a gold star.

Hudson and Stewarts’ voices blend beautifully on the delicate ballad, whereas Stewart and Mary J. Blige fall in sync with one another on “You Make Me Feel Brand New.”

I found his collaborations with Hudson and Blige to be better than the tracks featuring Stevie Wonder and Smoky Robinson. Both “My Cherie Amour” (Wonder) and “Tracks Of My Tears” (Robinson) seemed too close to the originals to stand out. I would have hoped for something a little more to come from their collaborations.

I hope Rod goes back to doing his own thing on his next release. I’ve enjoyed these excursions, but I think he has a lot more of his own music left in him to record. Someday, other artists will want to record their own versions of “The Rod Stewart Songbook” like he has some of his idols. 

David T. Farr is a Sturgis (Mich.) Journal correspondent. E-mail him at farrboy@hotmail.com.