Personnel: Rod Stewart (vocals); John Shanks (acoustic, electric & slide guitars, electric mandolin, harmonica, background vocals); Jeff "Skunk" Baxter (acoustic & electric guitars, pedal steel guitar); Oliver Leiber (acoustic & … see full wiki
Pros: Stewart does some of his finest work of late on this album
Cons: Doesn't quite achieve what he was trying to do....but close!
The Bottom Line: A fine sampling of some very diverse music. Rod's best in a very long time!!
Rod Stewart has been kind of floating in this middle aged, over the hill rock star, kind of world for many a year now. His musical output has left much to be desired. Still there have been flashes of the rocker Rod here and there. Just not enough to support a whole album.
Then came this project. Thrown away is the over blown production. Tossed out is the cheesy music that had become the staple of the Stewart stable. Instead, we get the Rod of old. At least more so than any other recent release.
Stewart wanted to get back to the gritty music that made "Every Picture Tells a Story" the classic album it is. To do this, he went in search of the music that best exemplifies the raw, hungry rock and roller that belted out the likes of "Maggie Mae!"
To give you the idea, the album starts out with the Oasis song "Cigarettes and Alcohol." This very good rock and roll tune from the first Oasis album, is as gritty as anything that Rod did in his heyday. Here, Stewart takes the song, slows it down just a bit, adds a great bit of bluesy guitar and a horn section and turns it into a tough bit of dirty vintage Rod!! This song will bring back memories to all of us that can remember Rod with his group Faces!
While recording this album, Rod's good friend and former band mate Ronnie Lane died. As a tribute to him, Rod included this song that was originally released by their group the Faces. Rod never sang the song "Ooh La La" before this recording. Rod really puts some heart into this tribute to a good musician and friend. Taking the original and turning it into an almost Irish sounding tune with the addition of a penny whistle. What a difference. This one has such a sweet and good hearted feel, you know that he is using it to say goodbye! One of the best recordings that Rod has done in years!
For the next song, Rod borrows the tune "Rocks" from the UK band Primal Scream. Rod takes this song a step further than the original, but adding some very grungy guitars and a horn section that makes this song a REAL rocker!! Stewart's version of this song really overwhelms the Scream version. This is one song that you will listen to many, many times. Great tongue in cheek lyrics that a master like Rod knows what to do with. This one is just great fun. A fantastic cruising tune!!
The indie group Superstar provides the next song with the very apt title, "Superstar." This song is more reminiscent of his newer work. A very bland type of ballad that is at best...OK. The one interesting fact is the guitar work on it. Jeff "Skunk" Baxter of Doobie Brothers fame lends a hand on the number. This one is not as cheesy as alot of Rod's stuff, but it is approaching that level!
Elvis Costello suggested the next song. Ron Sexsmith's "Secret Heart." Rod adds some great touches to this simple ballad. Some very good slide guitar work and Rod's vocals take this song to a new level. This one reminds me a lot of side B on "Every Picture Tells a Story." Sweet, simple and all about the music. Very good stuff!
Rod always has to do a song about his love of women and his very politically incorrect thoughts about them! This time he uses the Graham Parker tune "Hotel Chambermaid" to give us a tongue in cheek trip on the Stewart love bus!! This is a good time rock and roll tune that is going to be a concert highlight without a doubt!! Once again Skunk Baxter helps out on the pedal steel here.
Nick Lowe is one of the very under appreciated talents in the music world. He has produced some very great music and Rod uses one of them here! Elvis Costello was the man who said that this one should be here also. It is the ballad "Shelly My Love." This one is just a beautiful song. Rod's vocals are dynamic in this great example of what a great love song can be!! This is one that you will put on when you are looking for that special mood music. This one fits the bill!!
The title track, "When We Were The New Boys" is the only song written by Rod on the album. This is Rod's look back. Done in a very powerful style simular to his song "Forever Young," this song is worth the price alone! The musical arrangement is splendid and gives you a feeling of being overwhelmed by the music. This is absolutely the best work by Stewart in years!!
One of the most interesting treatments on this disc is how Rod tackles the Skunk Anansie song "Weak." Rod takes this tune and turns it into a magnificent bit of high energy rock and roll. By turning up the guitars and adding some powerful vocals, this song is transformed into something that you would never thought possible from listening to the original. Bombastic and over the top, this one would rival Meatloaf in that class!! A great version of this song!
The last song on the album is a quiet little ode written by Mike Scott called "What Do You Want Me To Do?" This one sounds very much like a Bob Dylan original. Rod with the backing of an acoustic guitar and minimal piano, this one makes a fine ending to a very good album.
Well, Rod does still have it in him. That is very evident here. This is his best album in years. Still not of the quality of the album that he was trying to duplicate, but still a very good effort.