Picks and Pans Review: Out of Order

updated 07/11/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/11/1988 01:00AM

Rod Stewart

What's this—Rod Stewart, the feminist, singing Try a Little Tenderness? Is that Rod Stewart, the great student of history and man of humility, singing Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out? Could it be Rod Stewart, the old softy, singing When I Was Your Man? Of course, the reports of his mellowing have been greatly exaggerated any number of times, and this album does include such typically raspy Stewart rockers as The Wild Horse and Dynamite. The general mix is another step in the direction of more cosmopolitan pop music, though, and it leads to a satisfying combination of energy and contemplation. Stewart's Nobody Knows You—the old blues song that was one of the trademarks of Bessie Smith—is a raving atrocity, an attempt to turn that gut-bucket blues into a hard-rock thumper, complete with Bernard Edwards' heavy-handed electric-bass line. Better to do When the Moon Comes over the Mountain as a disco track. Still, Stewart (along with co-producers Edwards and Duran Duran alumnus Andy Taylor) at least showed enough sense to know who Bessie Smith was. Try a Little Tenderness is a much more successful revival and sounds a lot less like a parody than the old Otis Redding version. Taylor adds some lively guitar work to what is a bit more of a there's-life-in-the-old-boy-yet pace than was evident on Stewart's previous album in 1985. Fair enough. That was a most enjoyable, sensibly produced (by Bob Ezrin) album, and so is this one. (Warner Bros.)

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