Rod Stewart's take on soul


If you are going to get a copy of Rod Stewart’s new CD, Soulbook, and I highly recommend you do, please make sure you read his liner notes on the sleeve before you listen to even the very first cut. He makes such a heartfelt introduction to the album.

Rod says: “This is the album I have waited my whole life to record. These are the songs that I’ve danced to, made love to, cried to and yes, even fell on the floor to as a young man in the infancy of my career. These songs and singers were the oxygen that fueled my passion to sing…”

Those songs may have also given us the passion but only a lucky few from among us ended up singing them on the stage. Otherwise though, what Stewart says truly holds true for most of us who also grew up during that time. That was when the beautiful, strangely new sound of Motown and other soul labels woke us up to the pop appeal of Black America’s music.

Rod has done the oldies before and I do consider his Great American Songbook series landmark recordings. Who would have thought it would be the Maggie May rocker who would put a new spin to those classics? And he did. Wonderfully so! Rod could have gone on doing the same for a lifetime. The treasure trove of American hits has no limits. But he has instead chosen to give us something new to enjoy. It is soul and he is singing the songs we love to remember.

I think Rod missed out on having something by The Supremes, think Baby Love or Aretha Franklin, Chain Of Fools would have been perfect. But from the way the CD plays, he certainly did very nicely in choosing e tunes he could do justice to. I believe that is what counts most when doing albums like this one. Don’t touch the song if you cannot do it well.

Here’s the line-up: It’s The Same Old Song from The Four Tops; My Cherie Amour featuring original artist and creator Stevie Wonder on the harmonica; You Make Me Feel Brand New by the Stylistics as a duet with Mary J. Blige. I didn’t know she could sing like this!; (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher by Rita Coolidge; Tracks Of My Tears featuring also the creator and original artist Smokey Robinson.

Let It Be Me, a bit of country from The Everly Brothers as a duet with Jennifer Hudson who sounds magnificent; Rainy Night in Georgia by Brook Benton; What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted by Jimmy Ruffin; Love Train, the No. 1 seller from The O’Jays; You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me by The Miracles; Wonderful World by Sam Cook; If You Don’t Know Me By Now by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes; and Just My Imagination by The Temptations.

I have always thought Michael McDonald, another rocker, remember, the guy was a Doobie Brother, did the best remake of this type of songs in his Motown series. Vocally and arrangement by arrangement, his version still ranks high, but Rod’s Soulbook has a lushness of tone that is almost magnetic. This, I believe, is what took the songs out of the nostalgia circuit and brought the album into the present time.

I thought only one guy could have thought of this approach, Clive Davis, who was responsible for Rod’s Great American Songbook. Besides, the label is J Records, and that is Davis’. Clive remains big boss of J, but what do you know, listed as producers are Steve Jordan and Steve Tyrell. I checked out Jordan and it turns out he is a famous producer, drummer plus other things who has worked with Keith Richards, John Mayer and other big names. Tyrell, who was in town last year, is a well-known producer and vocalist. With these two at the helm I am not surprised Soulbook turned out so well.

But of course, this CD is really about Rod Stewart. The guy is a superb interpreter and he so loves what he does, you can almost hear the smile in his heart for every song.

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