Rod Stewart

It Had to Be You: The Great American Songbook

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It's the kind of concept that seems brilliant on paper: revive the career of one of the great vocalists of the rock era by having him sing the great American pop songs of the pre-rock era. It was done before with Linda Ronstadt, and it worked well, so why not Rod Stewart, whose career was in shambles in 2002 following the disastrous modern R&B record Human? Clive Davis, the man behind Santana's comeback, masterminded the whole thing, and It Had to Be You was born. Again, the whole thing sounds good on paper, but in practice, it's a bit of a mixed bag. Certainly, following a throat operation, Stewart is singing better than he has in years, and he feels much more comfortable here than he did on Human, but the whole project has an artificial undercurrent that's hard to shake, especially since the song selection, the arrangements, and the performances play it so safe they're largely undistinguished. It's not necessarily bad, but it doesn't have much character outside of Rod's voice, and his soulful rasp isn't really suited for these songs. Nevertheless, this is exactly what it's billed as -- Rod sings the Great American Songbook -- and it's done with professionalism and ease, so it's a pleasant listen. But it won't replace Sinatra, of course, or even Ronstadt's similar work with Nelson Riddle.

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