2009 album from the Grammy Award winning Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famer. SoulBook is a collection of classic '60s and '70s era Soul favorites sung by one of the most interpretive voices in music. Stewart is personally passionate about this project, which … see full wiki
'Soulbook': Stewart Continues His Career as a Cover Artist
Oct 26, 2009
Rod Stewart's 'Soulbook' is very similar to his Great American Songbook collection; rather than singing classic Rat Pack era songs, or 'rock' standards as with another recent release, this time he's taking on 'soul' hits; classic R&B hits. Sigh. Don't get me wrong, Stewart's voice and style is definitely present but an issue I have with 'Soulbook' is that similar to the American Songbook series, the song line-up really don't do anything for him. They sound like cover songs (which they are), as if he's just singing them without much thought or true feeling. After 13 tracks, my main complaint is that this doesn't feel anything like Rod Stewart. It feels like Rod Stewart's leaving behind the style, attitude and personality that made him so popular and the musical icon that he is and is settling for covering other artists' songs and standards. What 'Soulbook' lacks is the soul of Stewart. Yes, he sings each song decently well but there's always a feeling that there's something missing in each track and on the album on a whole.
The Good: His voice is probably the best part of the album. It's his signature, it's raspy and it fits this genre a bit better than it did the American Songbook collection of tracks. There's a big 1970s vibe to the album and the arrangements of many of the songs, from the instruments to the production, makes 'Soulbook' sound as if it fits into his early releases. Unlike with the past songbook collections, Stewart comes off a bit more comfortable in this genre and back in his element. I felt he was best on "Tracks of My Tears" which is a very laid back and stripped-down affair where his voice and sensuality and sensibility are on display, and "If You Don't Know Me By Now" that is purely a cover song but his voice and vocals just makes it stand out.
The Bad: The weakness of the album comes from the fact that Rod Stewart seems willing to sit back and ride on the coat tails of others' hits and songs rather than break ground and take on new and original material. The entire cover-artist thing was a fun departure for one CD, it was interesting for a second, but with this being the fifth release of 'standards' and cover songs (4 counting the American Songbook collection, plus the album of rock standards) ... this act feels tired and a bit uninspired. You can distinctly tell he's not fully attached to some songs in the way he is when he's performing songs that are completely his. There's a definite attempt of sticking to the original rather than completely experimenting and mixing it up a bit on the songs because they are such big standards and well-known songs. To me, it held him back as an artist. On another note, this felt like a rather sleepy, uninspired release. There's no real spark to it and it gives off a feeling that this was just another release of covers to stay out there and make money. While his past collaborations have been really special, the Jennifer Hudson and Mary J Blige duets just did nothing for me either. Again, part of the problem is that the arrangements and treatments to the songs are straight-forward covers and (to me) are not showcasing the best of this great solo artist.
In all, 'Soulbook' is average at best. Nothing new, far too reserved and safe. I hope at some point Stewart returns to purely original material with songs that he can truly put his stamp on rather than playing things so safe and relying on others' songs and hits to keep his career going. A bit disappointing but listenable.