Rod Stewart


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Once he became a superstar, Rod Stewart essentially gave up on songwriting because, let's face it, it's easier to play endless football and cavort with models. Every once in a while his muse returned, so he tried a little bit harder, such as in 1988 when he spun Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" into a song of his own, which wound up as the last hit single of his that he ever wrote. After that, he floated through the '90s before finding a comfortable groove as an old-fashioned crooner in the new millennium, spending no less than a full decade revisiting songs from the Great American Songbook. Authoring his memoir -- simply titled Rod: The Autobiography -- jostled something within the old boy and he picked up his guitar once again, writing songs about his past and present. Hearing that Stewart strapped on a guitar suggests that perhaps he's returned to the well-weathered folk-rock of his earliest solo albums and, certainly, parts of Time -- the 2013 album that has his greatest concentration of originals in a quarter century -- flirt with folk. Appropriately, these are the songs where Rod is besotted with the past, offering what amounts to a capsule synopsis of his memoir on "Can't Stop Me Now," revisiting his early pre-fame days as a busker on "Brighton Beach," then telling us all to "Love the life you live/Live the life you love," a sentiment that manages to not be the stickiest thing here thanks to a wealth of love songs to his third wife, Penny. Stewart's overwhelming devotion certainly seems sincere -- it's a common thread that ties Time to Rod: The Autobiography, which had a running theme of how he was saved by the love of a good woman -- but it's also quite drippy, not helped by his decision to thread in elements of the Vegas schmaltz of his Great American Songbook ("Picture in a Frame") within what's essentially his revival of the glassy adult contemporary pulse of his Out of Order/Vagabond Heart days. At this point, after years of synthesized soft rock and glad-handed standards, this is a reflection of who Rod Stewart is in 2013: he is still a crowd-pleaser, still a bit of a sap, ready to romanticize days gone by but wanting to sound modern. As such, Time winds up a bit muddled, swinging from moments of genuine sweetness toward sharp saccharine, but even with all its flaws it's nice to hear Stewart engaged again, both as a writer and a singer.

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