Picks and Pans Review: When We Were the New Boys

updated 06/08/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/08/1998 01:00AM

Rod Stewart (Warner Bros.)

Album of the week

It took mod Rod the better part of two decades to live down "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" the 1978 disco ditty that at once marked the pinnacle of his commercial success and the nadir of his critical standing. It was as a more mellow, almost folkie balladeer that Stewart finally redeemed himself with Unplugged...and Seated, the 5 million-selling 1993 live album that showcased his scratchy, Scot-soul vocals as well as his long-underrated songwriting skills. Still, fans who watched the concert on TV were dismayed to find the strutting rooster of yore and his former bandmate, Ron Wood, sitting still onstage like a pair of old folks at an MTV retirement home. Now, with When We Were the New Boys, the resurgent 53-year-old lets the rocker within come out to play. Just as he did in his early '70s prime, Stewart alternates chunky, bass-thumping songs (including Oasis's "Cigarettes and Alcohol," Primal Scream's "Rocks" and Graham Parker's "Hotel Chambermaid") with wistful love ballads (Nick Lowe's "Shelly My Love") and weep-in-your-pint story songs about lost mates and long gone good times (Rod's own "When We Were the New Boys"). Instead of ersatz classic rock, Stewart offers freshly minted versions of 10 winning tunes that he will no doubt perform alongside "Maggie May" and the rest of his crowd pleasers during an upcoming summer tour. Clearly, the old rooster is back on his feet again.

Bottom Line: Vintage Rod

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