Rod Stewart - As Time Goes By...
Like Cher, who duets with Rod Stewart on this album's Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered, the star of this album has struggled to find his voice, which might appear to be a remarkable statement given that he has one of the most unique voices of any artist. Stewart's problem is that, like Cher, he struggles to know exactly what to do with what talent he's been given so it's somewhat unsurprising that he has been accused of wasting it.
Since first working alongside Long John Baldry in Steampacket, Stewart has tried blues, rock, boozy r'n'b, disco, stadium rock, barroom folk, urban R'N'B and, following last year's It Had to Be You...:The Great American Songbook, pre-war songs complete with big band. The success of that album meant that a sequel was practically a given - Stewart being one of those artists who'll flog an idea some time past the point when the public becomes tired of it - and so, almost to the day, comes As Time Goes By...: The Great American Songbook, Vol. 2.
Whilst the selection of songs isn't at all bad, there is the impression that As Time Goes By... was decided upon by committee and that Stewart had precious little say in the matter. More than likely, it was the album's producers, Clive Davis and Phil Ramone, who were responsible for the selection of songs included here but amongst those songs that are entirely predictable by their presence, which includes the title track, Someone to Watch Over Me and I Only Have Eyes For You, there are a couple of surprising additions such as Until The Real Thing Comes Along and Where Or When.
As regards the arrangements, they're largely of the kind that Harry Connick Jr made popular a decade or so ago and were you in the need for some light cocktail jazz that would burble happily under conversations at a dinner party As Time Goes By... should be first amongst those albums you pile up next to the hi-fi. However, while pleasant inoffensiveness might be just the sort of thing that would work in that situation, it's also the thing that's liable to prevent you having any strong feelings towards As Time Goes By... In as much as it would be difficult to find someone who hates it, it would be similarly difficult to find someone who loves it. Yet...that's likely to have been the point all along.
Throughout the album, the arrangements are clean and Stewart brings a certain loose charm on each and every track. Despite there being the odd vocal sounding slightly out of place, the fact that they remained on the final pressing, when a correction by ProTools would have been but a mouse-click away, is testament to there being a little of Stewart's personality coming through. On some tracks, such as Time After Time, Where Or When and Someone To Watch Over Me, which sees Stewart performing a duet with Queen Latifah, the songs are not only memorable but Stewart's performance lingers in the memory long after the album is over. The duet with Cher, however, on Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered is the album's low point for, despite an occasional laziness, Stewart at least sounds interested. Cher, on the other hand, has not sounded as though she's even aware that she's appearing on the song being recorded for a good two decades or so.
As Time Goes By...: The Great American Songbook, Vol. 2 will appeal if you're looking for a collection of these songs performed in a sympathetic and competent manner. Fans of Rod Stewart will no doubt be thrilled at their hero's continuing effort to introduce them to more types of music than they ever thought possible but, for the rest of us, this isn't a bad album but a little more risk wouldn't have been entirely unacceptable.