Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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ROD STEWART
As Time Goes By . . . The Great American Songbook Volume II
J Records

Middle-aged rake finds new life by selling middle-aged fogeys songs older than they are

Don't be cynical about Rod Stewart's latest career ploy. Sure, it cossets middle-aged fogeys who never mastered downloading. But don't you wish all has-beens would stop writing songs about their highly atypical lives, or, worse still, handing the job to hacks like Carole Bayer Sager or Desmond Child? If the old loverboy's gonna mouth words he doesn't mean, let Ira Gershwin and Lorenz Hart provide them. Stewart's no Willie Nelson, but on the inevitable successor to the 2 million-selling Great American Songbook Volume I, his insouciantly craggy tenor disrespects pop classics like "Time After Time," "Where or When" and "I Only Have Eyes for You" just enough to let them breathe again. And while these classics aren't as empyreal as anti-rock philistines claim, they're definitely worth getting to know.

Blender, Jan. 2004