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  Listen Up! 10/2/02 Listen Up!

Wednesday, Oct. 2

Rod Stewart, “It Had To Be You . . . The Great American Songbook,” J Records. Oh, my God! This is an abomination, an affront to the powers of great music, and to the reputation of a singer whom I thought couldn’t sink any lower than he already had. Rod Stewart has no conception of how to phrase for jazz vocals; the best he can do is fall back on some old Sam Cooke-isms left over from the days when he was one of the finest white r’n’b-influenced singers of his time. Mostly, he tries to smoothly deliver the melodies, and thus fails to swing, fails to make the lyrics sound meaningful, fails to stamp anything with personality. No wonder he hires the likes of Dave Koz to play saxophone on this record! Nineteen years ago, when Linda Ronstadt clumsily meandered her way through these same sorts of standards, we could at least hear a hint of what made them so great in the first place. She hired Nelson Riddle, for Christ’s sake, to do the arrangements. Rod the Mod hires Phil Ramone! No, he wasn’t in the Ramones. He was producing Billy Joel. I always believed that Stewart had the potential to one day remember what made him so great 30 years ago, but this record is going to indisputably put the kibosh on my hopes.

--Steve Pick



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