Thanks to Clive Davis, Rod Stewart found a career revival in 2002 with It Had to Be You: The Great American Songbook, the album that refashioned the lovable rogue into a swanky swinger. Davis' gamble paid off -- he figured that the public, already aware of Stewart's status as a great singer, would believe that he could sing classic pop songs as well as he sang rock, soul, and folk, and he was right: the public did buy the record. But just because a record sells doesn't necessarily mean that it's all that good, and It Had to Be You suffered from one simple thing: Stewart's talents and skills are not well-suited for traditional pop. Still, the concept was a good one so the record sold and spawned a sequel, As Time Goes By: The Great American Songbook, Vol. 2. Released a year later, nearly to the day, As Time Goes By is basically the same album as It Had to Be You, relying on a similar song selection of well-worn warhorses and adhering to the same simple, straight-ahead cocktail-bar arrangements as its predecessor. There are some slight differences, most notably the presence of two duets: a version of "Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered" with Cher, while Queen Latifah joins in on the title song (neither cut is very good, but Latifah is much better than Cher, who is less-suited for this material than Rod). Then, there's the slight upper hand of producer Richard Perry, who helms more tracks this time around than the other two producers, Clive Davis and Phil Ramone, who are also returning from It Had to Be You Overall, the album has a looser feel, but that doesn't mean more relaxed; it means sloppy -- to the point that the producers failed to correct a glaring computerized vocal correction error at 1:20 on the opening track, "Time After Time." Stewart's delivery is lazy and unfocused; his asides and offhand turns of phrase work wonders on rock, pop, and soul, where it's more about being in the moment than being in the song, but on finely crafted songs like these, precision is needed and Stewart's delivery makes it seem like he just doesn't have his heart in it. He never sounds bad; he merely sounds awkward on occasion, but the record is so casual that it doesn't make much of a difference. As Time Goes By just coasts by on its style and concept, which is about as satisfying and pleasant as it was the first time out, but the slight differences -- the duets, the sloppiness -- make the artifice more apparent this time around. It still works as background music, though, for those who buy into the concept.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Queen Latifah