Rod Stewart - Time
Record Label: Capitol/Decca
Release Date: May 3, 2013
Rod Stewart released a new album. Hurray. Only took 20 years. Stewart has cited "writer's block" and a "lack of inspiration" for the gap in original content, but a spade is a spade is a spade. Rod, you're just lazy.
Time is a fine album. Well, sort of.
Lead single and album opener "She Makes Me Happy" is an acoustic foray into saccharine honey pop that is nothing more than a Colbie Caillat single or an Uncle Kracker web gem. "Can't Stop Me Now" is hard-charging, decidedly British, feel good and harmless. When he sings "Thanks for the Tartan pride," it's probably one of the more life-affirming things he's said on a record in God knows how long. Ostensibly a song about him being happy with his place in life, the song sort of serves as Time's mission statement or modus operandi. Any discussion about Stewart often leads to his laundry list of exes and the winsome, warm and golden heartbreak ballad "It's Over" is a testament to that. Both sweeping and painfully honest, it is a fine single and makes one think maybe just maybe he still has that magic.
But for every nugget, there's a clodhopper like "Brighton Beach." If the song serves anything, it works as a candid narrative. "Remember when you were only 17. You were the finest girl that my eyes had ever seen. I guess you found it hard to simply ignore this scruffy beat up working class troubadour. So we fell in love and I toured your heart," Stewart sings, but somewhere in the mix all of it sounds redundant.
Haven't we heard this refrain before, haven't we heard Rod do this at least a few times? Somebody please stop this broken record from repeating. Now.
Stewart used to be a ball of wanton energy and would entertain for hours on end. That shaggy rocker heart is still beating in full force on the self-indulgent highway song "Beautiful Morning." Sax cuts in at the 2:45 mark to give the album some much needed oomph, but whether or not it lasts as something worth revisiting depends on how much Stewarts' credo tugs at your heart.
The mid-tempo, harmonica-fueled "Live the Life" is a call to arms, a paean to embracing life, being happy and treasuring those "life is good" moments. Crunching guitars kickstart "Finest Woman," another song that like "Beautiful Morning" plays to his rocker's heart. But alas, just like any aging musician trying to revive a now distant career, the song goes nowhere and is rather boring. Sure horns help augment it, but really the album is losing steam and quickly.
Even with female soul singers wailing in the background, you don't know quite what to make of it. Sure Stewart sounds like he's having fun and enjoying himself and the song probably lends itself to being heard live and watching the rooster-haired singer prance and preen on stage. But really, is this Stewart's best effort? Did it really take 20 years to put this together? Of the album's final five songs, few if any are worth writing home about and one might as well just give up on the whole shebang. Those that find Stewart's plays for sexuality exciting might find the heat of "Make Love To Me Tonight" and "Sexual Religion" intriguing, but honestly the idea of the near-septuagenarian Stewart doing the nasty is enough to send this writer into convulsions.
Once upon a time Stewart was classic, legendary, almost iconic. He probably still deserves that status but after two decades of exhausting the American songbook, it's hard to take Stewart seriously. Time is far from his best effort, but that statistic alone is why the album should have been released 10 to 15 years ago. Perhaps Stewart won't make another rock album again and if Time is indeed his swan song, then it's a limp and loose way to close out a career.
For now, let's just sit back and listen to A Spanner in the Works. Even then, you felt like Stewart was aging and aching. After all, few of the songs on the album were his. But at least then it felt authentic, intimate and engaged. Time just feels far too fabricated, far too forced and well far too late. Even an adage of "Better late than never," can't buttress this watered-down concoction of Hallmark pop.
But hey, it's selling in England. So maybe the bleached-blonde former Lothario really has it all worked out.