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Stewart continues safe series
of American Standards

Rod Stewart - Thanks for the Memory...
The Great American Songbook Volume IV

(J Records)
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Dec. 19, 2005
Rod Stewart

Review by Tony Bonyata

On rock legend Rod Stewart's fourth installment of standards and torch songs entitled Thanks for the Memory... the singer has one again torn over a dozen pages from America's 20th Century songbook.
Funny enough, though, the biggest winning point of this particular collection also turns out to be the album's downside. With standards culled from some of the most accomplished songwriters of the last century (George & Ira Gershwin, Rogers & Hart and Irving Berlin) the formula, along with the warm and pleasing, yet ultimately unadventurous arrangements stray little from Stewart's three preceding efforts (all produced by Clive Davis, along with various help from Steve Tyrell, Richard Perry and Phil Ramone).
Unlike Roxy Music's one-time front man Bryan Ferry's foray into the great American songbook on his 1999 effort As Time Goes By (where both the singer's seductive delivery and the inventive arrangements evoked the smoke-filled decadence of both Paris in the '20s and New York City in the '30s) Stewart's continuing set of standards are given a more polished studio sheen, leaving them more sterile than virile. Whereas Ferry only used this formula as a one-off vehicle (although the singer has dabbled with standards in the past - peppering choice covers into albums of his own material), Stewart's foray into American show tunes and standards has become his new musical modus operandi, caused, in part, by both the huge success of these collections (his latest Thanks for the Memory... having just gone platinum) and also the fact that his newer self-penned material had been taking a nosedive on the charts.
On Thanks for the Memory... Stewart has upped the ante with special guests, which include the talents of Motown diva Diana Ross ("I've Got a Crush On You"), Elton John ("Making Whoopee"), Chaka Khan ("You Send Me"), along with Dave Koz, George Benson and Roy Hargrove. The duets are as safe and pleasing as the production, and work well with Stewart's own raspy delivery (none better, though, than Ross' sultry and playful duet on the aforementioned Gershwin classic).
Stewart's ongoing Great American Songbook series may be an easy way for this rock icon to keep raking in the dough without having to trouble himself writing new material, but for my money I'll stick to his own early '70s rock standards like "Reason To Believe," "Mandolin Wind" or "Maggie May."

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