It’s a dream come true for Rod, but what about for everyone else?
Mike Diver 2009
Honestly, there’s little that needs saying about this that you haven’t already assumed. It’s already in your head. It’s Rod Stewart. Doing soul covers. Most of which (okay, all of which) you’ll be familiar with. In Rod’s “exceptional style” (says the sticker adorning the cover). If you like Rod and you like soul, you’re going to like this; if you dig one but not the other, you might dig some of it. If neither floats your boat, you’ll feel like you’re sinking to the very depths of depression from the get-go.
The versions largely stay close to the originals, the arrangements for My Cherie Amour, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted and You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me as uplifting as ever. A handful of collaborations lend extra vocal gravitas when Rod might otherwise struggle – Mary J. Blige delivers a fine turn on You Make Me Feel Brand New, a 1974 hit for The Stylistics, and Smokey Robinson drops in on Tracks of My Tears, a number he first recorded in 1965 when a member of The Miracles.
Jennifer Hudson’s appearance on Let It Be Me, best known in its Everly Brothers-sung guise, represents the single concession to a younger audience here – Hudson burst into the public eye on the 2004 series of American Idol, and has made good on promise shown there by scoring an Academy Award for her performance in the 2006 movie Dreamgirls. That film was based on the career of The Supremes and several other Motown acts, and the Motor City’s legendary label has the final say here (pre bonus tracks, anyway) with Just My Imagination, a number one hit for The Temptations in 1971.
Throughout, Rod does Rod doing soul, and the results are precisely that. There’s little point going into the pros and cons of having his raspy, croaky tones draped across such classic arrangements, as the purpose of this release is to give his legions of fans another release in time for Christmas and to satisfy a personal desire to record this material. The man says he’s waited his whole life to record the songs on Soulbook (though does he need to add that he’s made love to them, really?), and you’ll be pleased he has – though for differing reasons depending on your response to that first paragraph. It’s either pointless or perfect, with no in-between.