Album review: Rod Stewart, Soulbook (2009)


By Steve Newton

I heard a rumour a while back that the Faces might be getting back together. I remember seeing them at Pacific Coliseum in the ’70s—with Foghat opening up!—and they were a raggedy-ass rock ’n’ roll machine. Ronnie Wood was blasting out that wonderful trash-can-tinny guitar noise that was his alone, and Rod Stewart was a gravelly-voiced, soccer-ball-kicking hooligan.

If the Faces were to reunite for a tour now, though, the return to their previous party mode would surely cause widespread liver failure and death after a couple of gigs. At least Woody wouldn’t be around to rough up the ladies anymore, and Rod the ex-Mod would finally be stopped from churning out these lame-ass, anti-rock oldies collections.

“This is the album I have waited my whole life to record,” spouts Stewart in the Soulbook liner notes, as if that somehow justifies the way that he’s drenched soul classics like “It’s the Same Old Song” and “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” in cheesy, overwrought string arrangements, then hired smooth-jazz veterans like saxophonist Tom Scott and keyboardist Greg Phillinganes to lame them up even more.

Stewart’s version of “My Cherie Amour” is credited as “featuring Stevie Wonder”, but you can barely hear the soul-pop genius anywhere on the song. That might be him doing some of the “laa-laa-laa”s and harmonizing in the background, I suppose.

Too bad Stewart didn’t let Little Stevie sing lead on a verse; maybe he was worried about being shown up, as he is by Mary J. Blige on the next track, “You Make Me Feel Brand New”. Now there’s a singer with soul.

There’s no reason at all for CDs like Soulbook to be taking up space in the world; I’m sure that even the grey-haired-granny contingent can do without them. Haven’t their Lawrence Welk–loving hearts all been stolen away by the pseudo-Sinatra stylings of Michael Bublé, anyway?


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