Stewart Swings with Soul

Rod Stewart
“Fly Me to the Moon:
The Great American Songbook:
Volume Five”
Arista Recrods

With great love for the music traditionally considered the American Songbook I waited with baited breath for this release. This is the swinging cocktail party of some of the greatest songs of the 20th Century as performed by one of pop music’s most unique chameleons, Rod Stewart.

The American Songbook is comprised of mid-century classics that our parents and grandparents danced to in their youth. The work of the late great Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, and Henry Mercer may not be the bump and grind that we crank out of our car stereo, but these songs are perfectly constructed pop nuggets best enjoyed at medium volume with a significant other. (Think Louis Prima, Frank Sinatra, and Tony Bennet.)

Stewart’s career spans over 40 years. From the early days of Maggie May to the slicker mid-80’s days of Young Turks and Forever Young the man once referred to as the greatest white soul singer continued to reinvent himself and grew up with his audience.

The past decade has seen Stewart turn his attention to the American Songbook. He has released four previous incarnations each with a slightly different twist. Each disc documents music that is rarely heard these days. Each disc introduces one more generation to songs that shaped the public consciousness at a time of great growth in the United States.

Stewart presents a dozen of these beauties in an impeccably played collection that are performed perfectly. There is not one note out of place. The orchestra is seamless and Stewart’s voice is appropriately sandy.

Here is where things kind of get hazy for a music lover. This collection is so flawless and sterile there is no hint of Stewart’s swagger. You get no sense of history of the singer. When the singer is Rod Stewart, his personality should be infusing these songs with a wink and nudge (at the very least).

I am a sucker for the American Songbook and the many different interpretations of these wonderful songs. They have been recorded time and time again by talents great and small. I expected Stewart to bring something new to them.

While he did some cool things (check out his retooled intimate introduction to Fly Me to the Moon) and some interesting tributes (some piano riffs in Love me or Leave Me owe no small debt to Nina Simone) there is not a lot of invention here.

Perhaps that was Stewart’s intention. Perhaps he and co-producer Richard Perry just set out to make a perfect disc of a dozen masterpieces. Perhaps people should use this disc as a springboard back into the last ten years of Stewart’s career as well as their own introduction to the Great American Songbook.

Stand Out Tracks
September in the Rain
Fly Me to the Moon
Love Me or Leave Me
Moon River

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