Rod the Mod Kinda Comes Back

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Rod-Stewart-Another-Country-International-PackshotRod Stewart
Another Country
In A Word: Mixed

The conventional wisdom on Rod Stewart – that he betrayed his prodigious talent in exchange for mere celebrity, reducing himself to a cultural punchline in the process – is largely accurate, but it isn’t quite complete. Although he’s spent much of the last dozen years turning out snooze-worthy covers albums that presented him with little creative challenge, the former Rod the Mod made a tentative return to the land of the living with 2013’s Time, an encouraging if not wholly inspired effort that marked his return to songwriting after a dry spell of nearly 20 years.

Another Country continues in a similar vein. Like its predecessor, it’s not the decisive creative comeback for which the artist’s fans long yearned. But it’s a sincere, fitfully compelling effort that offers some shreds of hope for patient Stewart admirers.

With Stewart co-producing and co-writing with longtime sideman Kevin Savigar, Another Country gracefully embraces some gratifyingly grown-up lyrical themes, but the polished, wishy-washy production of “Please,” “Walking in the Sunshine” and the lite-reggae “Love and Be Loved” do no favors for the material or for the artist’s distinctive rasp. He’s on more solid ground on the spare acoustic “Way Back Home,” a poignant memoir of growing up in post-World War II England that descends into unnecessary bombast. “Can We Stay Home Tonight?” and “Batman Superman Spiderman” successfully trade Rod’s old playboy persona for that of a devoted, domesticated dad. While the latter flirts with mawkish ickiness, Stewart’s sincerity wins out. Elsewhere, “Love Is” and “Hold the Line” tap successfully into a Celtic folk vein that recalls Stewart’s early solo work.

Consumers who pop for Another Country’s 15-track expanded edition also get an unexpectedly thrilling remake of “In A Broken Dream,” originally an early-’70s hit for Australian outfit Python Lee Jackson, thanks to Stewart’s guest vocal; and “Every Rock ‘n’ Roll Song To Me,” a silly novelty whose count-the-classic-song-titles gimmick is beneath Stewart’s talent.

Stewart is touring extensively, calling it “From Gasoline Alley to Another Country HITS 2016.” Dates and ticket info are here.


Scott Schinder

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