Celebrating the hugely successful series that has completely rejuvenated Rod Stewart's previously flagging career, The Great American Songbook: Live features eight performances of his most popular covers of 1930s-1940s standards. Five make the cut from 2002's first volume, It Had to Be You, which, with the help of mogul Clive Davis, saw the Scottish veteran abandon his familiar pop/rock sound in favor of big-band swing, including a stripped-back piano-bar arrangement of Hal Kemp's "For All We Know," Joe Venuti & His Orchestra's jazz classic "Moonglow," and numbers penned by two of the period's legendary songwriting talents, the Gershwin brothers ("They Can't Take That Away from Me") and Cole Porter ("Every Time We Say Goodbye"). The record that returned him to the top of the U.S. charts for the first time in 25 years, 2004's third installment, Stardust, is represented here by Rodgers & Hart's torch song "Blue Moon," Nat King Cole's number one "For Sentimental Reasons," and one of the series' most recent tunes, Louis Armstrong's 1968 signature hit "What a Wonderful World," all of course minus their previous guest appearances from Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, and saxophonist Dave Koz, respectively. Entirely ignoring the other three volumes ensures that this slim collection doesn't fully represent Stewart's love of mid-20th century U.S. pop, but with his renowned roguish charm more apparent than on the studio recordings and his trademark gravelly tones as delightfully world-weary as ever, it's an enjoyable, if inessential, addition to his surprisingly sparse live back catalog.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien