Rod Stewart

The Tears of Hercules

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The Tears of Hercules Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

The Tears of Hercules continues the late-career renaissance of Rod Stewart the singer/songwriter, marking the fourth consecutive album he's largely written either on his own or in collaboration with his producer Kevin Savigar. Time, the first of these, arrived in 2013 when Stewart was fresh from penning his 2012 memoir Rod: The Autobiography, so it carried a measure of introspection. The Tears of Hercules came out in 2021, nearly a decade removed from the publication of his autobiography, and Stewart is in a decidedly looser frame of mind. While there are quieter moments here, such as a tribute to his late father on "Touchline," they're overshadowed by the return of Randy Rod. He opens the album asking a lover for "One More Time" before they break up, reasoning that "the sex was immense," he eulogizes Marc Bolan as a pioneer of boogie and sensuality, then he refashions George Michael's "I Want Your Sex" into a carnal celebration on "Kookooaramabama," a song that's as absurd as its title. All this untrammeled horniness is wrapped up in a gleaming digital bow by Savigar, who emphasizes modern R&B rhythms and gilded surfaces. When things get a little slower and sweeter, as they do on the title track, the productions don't seem quite so desperately imposing, yet there's a certain tacky appeal to these garish, overblown feints at contemporary pop. The settings are modern, but Stewart's ribald charm is old-fashioned, often ingratiatingly so. Sure, "Kookooaramabama" is silly, but Rod's embrace of sexual pleasure is as sincere as his denunciation of "bigots, racists, and those that divide" on "Hold On," an earnest ballad in the vein of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come." The sacred has always sat comfortably with the profane in Rod Stewart's art, and he's holding true to that on The Tears of Hercules, an album that's alternately baffling, absurd, sweet, and endearing.

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