If this album were to be released by a winner of one of television’s many television talent show winners, it would easily be written off and soon enough find itself a new home at the bottom of a bargain basement bin. Soulbook is not the bog standard, sub-standard talent show winner release, it is in fact the latest release from blue-eyed soul singer Rod Stewart. Having worn out the Great American Songbook, his latest collection of covers territory far closer to his heart. Having recently declared his passion for soul singers Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, it is little surprise that the man James Brown described as ‘the best white soul singer’ has had a go at remaking some of the classics.
With over 250 million record sales under his belt, Stewart had little problem enlisting some of music’s biggest and freshest talents to join him in his nostalgic overview. Stevie Wonder turns up on Stewarts’s version of his hit “My Cherie Amour”, which Stewart breathes effortlessly, whilst Smokey Robinson partners up for a remake of the tantalising “Tracks Of My Tears”. Mary J. Blige offers a contrasting compliment to Stewart’s rasp on “You Make Me Feel Brand New” whilst America’s latest sensation Jennifer Hudson almost eclipses Stewart on “Let It Be Me”.
An enjoyable accompaniment to the winter cuddles.
Stewart leans heavily on the soul ballad, with Soulbook sticking to shoulder swaying territory. The Christmas build-up is the perfect time to release Soulbook, with its mistletoe smooch factor. Soulbook is far from overblown or over-produced. Stewart remains a credible crooner, who instead of churning out Greatest its compilations or reworking classic tracks he has enjoyed. Stewart hasn’t tried to alter the originals, simply re-recorded them. Knowingly unable to improve on near perfection, Stewart hasn’t attempted. Soulbook proves to be a tribute to his inspirations.
Soulbook provides an enjoyable accompaniment to the winter cuddles. Stewart is on fine form, occasionally up-tempo but mostly chilled out, Soulbook comes from Stewart’s heart. He performs with passion and it is clear the songs mean as much to him as many of his own back catalogue.