The Rod Stewart Sessions 1971-1998 (Warner Bros.)
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., Dec. 11, 2009
Rod StewartThe Rod Stewart Sessions 1971-1998 (Warner Bros.)
Anyone who thinks Rod Stewart's career slipped into a mishmash of covers in recent years hasn't been paying close attention to his repertoire. Since he was Rod the Mod he's been a purveyor of other people's songs and, once upon a time, didn't sound like a charmless hack. Even the carefully worded text with The Rod Stewart Sessions 1971-1998 all but admits that these outtakes, B-sides, and other ephemera don't hold up to being an alternative take on Stewart's estimable career. A once-vibrant vocalist of supreme blue-eyed soul, Stewart's chicken-scratch voice is nonetheless limited in range, something he used to his advantage in the 1970s and 1980s, such as on a gorgeously rendered outtake of Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind," but most of these tracks hardly do his style justice ("Girl From the North Country"). Worse, most of the hits you're interested in fall on the first disc (an unwieldy "Maggie May," a spirited "Los Paraguayos"), though very few survive with any dignity; "You Wear It Well" is as difficult to listen to as that bootleg tape of Linda McCartney. Much of this is Stewart during his best years, and often the musicianship is stellar (Booker T.'s MGs!), but if the answer to "Why are these tracks so lame?" is that they're outtakes and throwaways, the question becomes: When does a set like this serve the artist and when does it simply illustrate how the artist's once-vital career went from brilliant to suck?