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Album Review

Rod Stewart, 'Soulbook'

October 26, 2009

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Soul
Rod Stewart Soulbook
J Records
ESSENTIAL “You Make Me Feel Brand New’’

Hey, isn’t it time to revisit classic soul? Rod Stewart thinks so, and who would argue with him? He has found the formula for eternal life in the music business. He recycled the jazz-pop hits of his parents’ generation in his “Great American Songbook’’ series, which sold a mind-boggling 19 million copies. And now he offers an album of soul hits from his own youth. The results are mixed and too dependent on slick ballads, with only a couple of uptempo tunes in Jackie Wilson’s “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher’’ and the O’Jays’ “Love Train.’’ Rod slows too many other songs down, from the Temptations’ “Just My Imagination’’ to Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World.’’ But he sings them from the heart and the respect is genuine. The guest cameos are very strong - Jennifer Hudson enlivens “Let It Be Me,’’ Stevie Wonder adds tasty harmonica fills to “My Cherie Amour,’’ and Mary J. Blige is spectacular on the Stylistics’ “You Make Me Feel Brand New,’’ as her passion overshadows Rod’s more tight-lipped effort. Rod could have stepped out more energetically on this album, but his gentlemanly approach still has its merits. Plus, it’s great to hear these songs again. (Out tomorrow)

STEVE MORSE