Rod Stewart

Unplugged....And Seated

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Eric Clapton's Unplugged turned the MTV series into a pop culture phenomenon, one that was especially appealing to veteran rockers because all they had to do was dust off their old hits and give them a nice, relaxed reading -- the perfect re-imagining for middle-aged rock stars. Rod Stewart leaped at the opportunity and, in many ways, he seemed even better suited for the gig than Clapton as much of his '70s prime prominently featured acoustic guitars, including "Maggie May" and "Every Picture Tells a Story." Stewart upped the ante by reuniting with his old friend and Faces bandmate Ron Wood, giving Unplugged...and Seated the appearance of an event...an appearance that was entirely intentional. That Unplugged...and Seated falls well short of actually being an event is a disappointment but also inevitable. Where Clapton's Unplugged was a natural phenomenon, a blockbuster delivered with no preconceived notions, Unplugged...and Seated is designed as a hits revue, playing upon nostalgia while delivering mellow sounds for middle age. This is no bad thing, necessarily, particularly when the song selection is so strong -- all the big hits from that early-'70s golden age, plus Rod's recent cover of Van Morrison's "Have I Told You Lately," Tom Waits' "Tom Traubert's Blues," and a reworked version of the folk standard "Highgate Shuffle" thrown in for good measure -- and the chemistry between Stewart and Wood is still so cheerful. Occasionally, this frivolity is a wee bit forced but that's not quite as big of a problem as the punchy, professional production; these are ultimately nothing more than mild signs of road wear on a record that's a nice night out with the boys, nothing more, nothing less.

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