Rod Stewart – Time (2013)
To be honest, I wouldn’t have dreamed about buying this album if there hadn’t have been so many reviews proclaiming this to be “return to form” and “Rod’s best album for years”. To me, Stewart was best in the 1970s, when he made some truly excellent solo albums (as well as his great work with The Faces), and tailed off from the 1980s onwards, with a few good tracks making cameo appearances on otherwise ordinary or mediocre albums… and the less said about the “American Songbook” series, the better. Any claims that this is Rod’s best work for years therefore mean very little, but some of the positive noises were coming from quite respectable sources who were comparing this album to this greatest work, so I decided to take the plunge. I have to say that, after owning this album for a while and listening to it a few times (including seeing a few tracks live in Manchester), that it’s, sadly, really rather ordinary and far from the brilliant piece of work many are making it out to be.
My initial grumble is with people who are saying that Rod wrote all of the songs himself. Looking at the track listing and credits, I see that every single track has at least one co-writer. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing at all wrong with artists co-writing songs with others, but it does make the fact that so much has been made of Stewart’s authorship of his album a little questionable and the fact that six people are credited with writing the opening track, “She Makes Me Happy” (not a bad song at all, a nice, jaunty mandolin-led number) is evidence that he has had more than a little help on this venture. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; I just think it’s important to dispel the myth that this is a wholly Rod Stewart-written project, when the amount of people given song writing credits on “Time” would give an album by Britney Spears a run for its money.
There are a couple of really great songs on “Time” which almost make it a worthwhile purchase. “Brighton Beach” is a touching, nostalgic piece, reminiscing about a particularly memorable teenage romance, with Rod wondering what has happened to his old love. It’s a lovely, tenderly-written composition and it’s believably sung from the heart. The second excellent song is one of the bonus tracks “Legless”, which surely should not have been relegated to bonus track status, as it is one of the very few songs on offer here which has a genuine punch to it, actually possessing the kind of life and energy that made me like Rod in the first place. “Live The Life” is a pretty good track, too, but it is all a bit too familiar; almost as if he has re-written one of his seventies hits with new lyrics. The same applies to “Pure Love” which, on the surface, feels like a classy ballad but then, in places, reminds me of the Village People/Pet Shop Boys track, “Go West”! Never a good thing for what is supposed to be a heartfelt ballad.
This isn’t a bad album. It would be wholly unfair to suggest that there was anything dreadful on offer here (although “Finest Woman” and “Sexual Religion” come close), but it only manages to have the feel of a good album by default. It feels like a decent piece of work only because of the absence of blatantly bad songs, not because the majority of the compositions and performances are in any way exceptional. I suppose what bothers me the most about “Time” is the overall lack of edge. This is a very safe project, extremely middle-of-the-road, has a little bit too much polish and there are only a couple of songs which are anything approaching special. Although I’m sure that long-time, loyal fans of Rod will enjoy this release, others who have a more broad taste in music may find that this isn’t suitable for anybody who likes something a little more challenging than the pleasant but bland ditties you will find on inoffensive mainstream commercial radio stations, such as Heart or Magic FM. If Rod’s bland output has frustrated you for years and you were hoping to hear Stewart rediscovering his “mojo” and recapturing the magic made his late sixties and early seventies songs so good, then you may be more than a little disappointed with “Time”, just as I am.