Rod Stewart

RCA, 2009

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan


I was driving down the highway recently with a mate and our lengthy conversation singing the praises of James Brown’s classic period was crudely brought to a halt when the CD changer did its business and spat out the first track on Soulbook, a lifeless cover of “It’s The Same Old Song.” As we drove, skipping and relaying tracks, my mate couldn’t take anymore and summed it up best when he turned to me and said, “What the hell happened to this guy?” Later that night, I gave it another chance (one of several) to impress me in some way, but after an hour or so, I gave in and threw it away in disgust. 

I should have known that based on Rod Stewart’s recent offerings, this one wasn’t going to be any different. I did, however, expect a reenergized Stewart to come out firing, since I’ve read countless interviews with the man professing his love for soul music and crediting it for influencing his decision to start singing. This disc, however, contains nothing that even closely resembles soul music; in fact, I’ve heard more soulful songs in several elevators throughout Melbourne. 

The most painful aspect of listening to this tripe is Rod’s voice, which is now barely able to get through a few words before creaking and cracking like a rusty old gate. Hearing him trying to hit those high notes on a horrid cover of “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher” is one of the most pathetic things I’ve ever heard a singer attempting to do. Why the producers thought this was acceptable I’ll never know, but short of pulling the plug altogether, there’s not much anyone could have done to rescue this turkey.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

A great old song like “Love Train” is put to death here by a flat and lifeless arrangement and Stewart’s raspy, bass-less monotone; the backing vocals are its only saving grace. Stewart’s idol, Sam Cooke, is covered here with a careful but ill-advised up-tempo version of “Wonderful World,” which is hands down the worst interpretation of this great song I’ve ever heard. 

Another completely unnecessary choice was the dreadful cover of Simply Red’s classic “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” The track was originally released by a little known soul group in the early ‘70s, but the Red nailed it and it became one of their most-loved hits. But Stewart took all of the feeling out of the song because his voice is now unable to convey any emotion at all. 

He does get some help on a few tracks, as Stevie Wonder plays some harmonica on his own “My Cherie Amour,” which sports an almost passable performance from Stewart. Jennifer Hudson (nothing wrong with her performance) sings on the grotesque cover of “Let It Be Me” which sums up everything that is wrong with this album in a few short minutes. The great Smokey Robinson also graces one of his own songs with a faithful and not-half-bad cover of “Tracks Of My Tears.” 

Smokey’s harmony vocals are sublime and instantly reveal Stewart’s shortcomings as a singer these days. Hands-down the best track on this disc is “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” on which Stewart is again owned by his guest vocalist – this time a stunning vocal by Mary J. Blige, who has become one of the great modern day soul singers. 

I won’t continue because nothing more could possibly be said about how shockingly bad Soulbook really is and how out of touch Rod Stewart is these days. So, Scotty, I don’t know what happened to this guy, but I can tell you one thing – if he doesn’t give it up soon, he runs the risk of reducing himself to a complete joke, and with a back catalogue as great as his, that would be an even greater shame than the crap that he continues to serve up.

P.S. The only thing that saved this from an F rating is the presence of Smokey and Mary J.

Rating: D-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


I can't rate this album because I haven't heard it.But I do beleive Mark Millan's review. Just because an artist might love a song or a genre doesn't mean that they can hang with it. The only problem I have with your review is that he called Harold Melvin and the Blue notes "A little known soul group". This blows any he might have for reviewing anything close to R&B. They were a very succesful act. They had several platinum and gold albums and singles. They also spawn a king of R&B before Luther Vandross came along.Mr Teddy Pendergeass. Please (no offense)but stick to the music you know and love. That's where you gain credibility, and readers can trust your reviews.
Pick, cut me some slack on this one. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes never had a hit record in Australia which is where I have spent my 30 years of life so far. I could have named them I suppose but none of us can know everything about everyone who has ever released a record. I fail to see how my credibility has been damaged. I know and love lots of R&B and Soul music and plan to keep searching out music from way before my time. I have a couple of Teddy P's LP's and absolutely love them. I satnd by this review 100%.
Sorry Mark, I did'nt Know you from Austraila. I do beleive your review of this album. I like Rod Stewert, but by know he should know his range. I'll stand corrected.
I haven't (and now won't) listen to this, but I trust your review havcing heard some of his horrid covers of pop standards recently. Rod was an amazing talent, and I've been a fan since I was a kid. His work with The Jeff Beck Group and his early solo albums are classics. It's sad really.

Oh and thanks Pick for pointing out Mark's oversight, be nice to him though, he knows what he's talking about :-)

© 2010 Mark Millan and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of RCA, and is used for informational purposes only.