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Pop - Released November 17, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop - Released March 5, 2013 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Rock - Released May 1, 1971 | Mercury Records

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Pop - Released November 22, 2019 | Rhino

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Rod Stewart first embraced his appeal to the middle of the road way back in 2002 when he recorded It Had to Be You, the first in a series of explorations of the Great American Songbook. Given those albums, it's no great surprise to hear Stewart sing with an orchestra on You're in My Heart: Rod Stewart with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. What is a surprise is that he's hopped upon the orchestral overdub bandwagon, letting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra glop on strings and horns over original vocal tracks for such hits as "Maggie May." Clever guy that he is, Stewart contributes a couple of ringers -- including a duet with Robbie Williams on "It Takes It Two" -- but those only wind up illustrating how stilted and stiff the overdubs are. On those hybrids, Stewart doesn't seem to be riding the waves of the music, which is a gift he's had since the beginning. Instead, the vocal tracks are tweaked to suit the needs of the orchestra, which gives You're in My Heart an odd stuffiness. Even on his Great American Songbook albums, Stewart hasn't sounded stuffy, so the fault isn't his, unless he should be blamed for consenting to this project in the first place. The reason why the record doesn't work is the concept itself: it's wrapping warm, empathetic recordings in a lounge robe that winds up as suffocating as a straightjacket. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released March 6, 2009 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 2014 | Mercury Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 2014 | Mercury Records

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Pop - Released August 13, 2013 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop - Released February 1, 2011 | J Records

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Ambient/New Age - Released January 1, 2012 | Verve

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Pop - Released March 22, 2011 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop - Released November 17, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop/Rock - Released October 8, 2002 | J Records

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It's the kind of concept that seems brilliant on paper: revive the career of one of the great vocalists of the rock era by having him sing the great American pop songs of the pre-rock era. It was done before with Linda Ronstadt, and it worked well, so why not Rod Stewart, whose career was in shambles in 2002 following the disastrous modern R&B record Human? Clive Davis, the man behind Santana's comeback, masterminded the whole thing, and It Had to Be You was born. Again, the whole thing sounds good on paper, but in practice, it's a bit of a mixed bag. Certainly, following a throat operation, Stewart is singing better than he has in years, and he feels much more comfortable here than he did on Human, but the whole project has an artificial undercurrent that's hard to shake, especially since the song selection, the arrangements, and the performances play it so safe they're largely undistinguished. It's not necessarily bad, but it doesn't have much character outside of Rod's voice, and his soulful rasp isn't really suited for these songs. Nevertheless, this is exactly what it's billed as -- Rod sings the Great American Songbook -- and it's done with professionalism and ease, so it's a pleasant listen. But it won't replace Sinatra, of course, or even Ronstadt's similar work with Nelson Riddle. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released November 17, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Rock - Released September 22, 1971 | Mercury Records

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Pop - Released November 12, 1996 | Warner Records

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Pop - Released October 30, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Rock - Released July 9, 2013 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Ambient/New Age - Released January 1, 2012 | Verve

Hard as it may be to believe, but Rod Stewart has gotten through five decades without succumbing to a holiday album. That streak ends in 2012 with the release of Merry Christmas, Baby, an easygoing and chipper collection of secular seasonal standards. A couple of carols are thrown in for good measure but these songs -- "Silent Night," "We Three Kings" presented as a duet with Mary J. Blige -- along with a mildly incongruous "When You Wish Upon a Star," slide by easily on the mellow big-band swing of the rest of the record. Song for song, Merry Christmas, Baby is very much of a piece with Rod's ongoing Great American Songbook series, with Stewart not straying from the familiar form of these songs and producer David Foster laying on all manner of soft, soothing sounds, whether it's acoustic guitars, synthesizers, strings, or a children's choir on "Silent Night." Very rarely does this hint at the Rod of the '70s -- and when it does on the closing "Auld Lang Syne," its intro given a spare folky treatment reminiscent of his Mercury work, it's a bracing, effective reminder of Stewart's skill as a singer -- and instead relies on a gladhanding charm that suits the season, not to mention Stewart in his crooning dotage. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released February 12, 2021 | Rhino - Warner Records