Rod Stewart | The Great American Songbook Vol. 5 (J Records)

Although his first few albums post-surgery were touch-and-go, Vol. 5 has proven Stewart is nothing if not resilient and a true artist.


The great British crooner Rod Stewart has yet another Great American Songbook volume to add to his collection. The Great American Songbook Vol. 5 brings us more of the same slow, melodic, nostalgic tracks in a way only Rod Stewart could sing them. It’s no secret that in more recent years Stewart’s voice has undergone a tremendous amount of change, starting with his diagnosis of thyroid cancer in 2000. Stewart faced career altering surgery in May of the same year. It was questionable as to whether or not the surgery would allow him to ever sing again. Ultimately, though he was left with an even huskier voice than before, he came back with a vocal swagger that will mystify even the most cynical of listeners. Although his first few albums post-surgery were touch-and-go, Vol. 5 has proven Stewart is nothing if not resilient and a true artist.
Stewart’s rendition of "Beyond the Sea" is smooth, relaxing and crisp with a sound likely to find its way into a luxury travel commercial if it hasn’t already. The album hits a lull about six tracks in with "I Get A Kick Out Of You," but picks back up at "Love Me or Leave Me"—a song originally performed by Ruth Etting in the Broadway musical Whoopie! in the 1920s. Stewart’s rendition reminds you that a strong classic is unisex, giving the artist ample room for interpretation. "Fly Me to the Moon" couldn’t be any more depressing as Stewart sings it, and sadly this is a detriment to the album and the song as a whole. Its tempo lacks the same careless, love-inspired wistfulness of the original and doesn’t compliment Stewart’s voice at all. It really is the stinker of the album.

The last track on the album, "Moon River," leaves listeners on a melancholy note. During his interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Stewart said that the track was actually given the boot by the record company until Stewart’s very pregnant wife, Penny Lancaster, insisted it be included. Though she may have been infatuated with the track, Stewart might have been wiser to side with the label. Nobody will ever live up to our expectations or give us the same satisfaction to these songs like the Rat Pack, but Stewart gives it a great try and succeeds on many of the tracks. There are hits and misses throughout, but more positives than negatives.

If you’re a fan of old classics or just swoon occasionally, you’ll really enjoy what Stewart has to offer in his newest volume release. In the interview mentioned above, Stewart said this latest volume would be the last of the series, but confessed he could be talked into doing another if the album was successful. Either way, The Great American Songbook series wasn’t Stewart’s first time singing the classics and obviously won’t be his last. B | Jennifer Manjarez
RIYL: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett

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