The Tears of Hercules
The Kid is Back on Form With By Far His Best Album for Decades!!
In the last few weeks I’ve received ‘review albums’ for release as far away as March 2022; but when Superstars like Sir Rod Stewart release an album the best we can hope for is usually a ‘stream’ 24 hours in advance; so receiving an actual CD on the day of release is looked on as a ‘result.’
So, I’m actually going to review this in the modern ‘hipster’ style …. i.e writing as I listen the very first time I hear the songs.
I’ve criticised Rod’s last few albums for being ‘over produced’, but that’s certainly not the case with opening track One More Time which opens with Rod and a banjo, before building into a classic tale of lust, love and leaving, which reminds me of Rod circa Atlantic Crossing; which has to be a good thing; doesn’t it?
This is followed by Gabriella; a bouncy and eminently danceable guitar rocking and Caribbean flavoured love song; the type of which Rodders historically has done better than absolutely everyone else over the years.
Two songs in and I’m tempted to agree with the singers’ liner notes when he says that this is ‘by far his best album for years‘ ….. but can he keep up the tempo and quality?
Basically …… yes and yes; as a funky Mexicali song; All My Days follows which is certainly one of the songs that will be included in the forthcoming Tour, as it will have everyone on their feet and allows the band to ‘go off on one’ as the singer dances around the stage with a variety of backing singers.
Without having the CD next to me, I still instantly recognised the opening salvo on Track #4; the majestic Some Kind of Wonderful; originally a US hit for Grand Funk Railroad and a host of others over the years; but to Mods like Rod and me ….. it was always the theme tune for Q Tips (with a young Paul Young on vocals); here Rod plays around with the melody and even drops in a few lines from Can I Get a Witness when nobody’s looking; which bodes well for said UK Tour, as Rod has a huge back-catalogue of similar songs he can add in a verse or two from.
Speaking of intros; my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I heard Born to Boogie ( A Tribute to Marc Bolan) as it is 100% T Rex; and the song goes on to be a love song to Bolan himself in the style of T Rex; referencing Bolan’s clothes and songs and whole lot more ……. who knew Rod was a fanboy like me?
While far from being a bad song; the rather risque Kookooaramabama gets a little bit lost in the Big Band R&B arrangement; but it’s fair to say he’s recorded a lot worse in the last twenty years!
But; he’s back on form with I Can’t Imagine which is a bit of an oddity as the previous song was all about being a Lothario and this beautiful ballad is all about contentment in a monogamous relationship (and parts of the melody might be nicked from The Killing of Georgie btw).
The pace drops dramatically on The Tears of Hercules, with Rod crooning over a gentle piano and occasional violin interludes; as he revisits the style of American Songbook that made him an absolute fortune, and you can hear why as this style really does suit his voice; the song itself was written recently alongside Kevin Sagar and Emmerson Swinford who also play on every track and had a hand in most of the other songs on the album too.
Pretty much keeping to that gentle tempo Hold On is another song that could easily have come from the Atlantic Crossing sessions as Rod sings about the turmoil that surrounds many of us in a way I’d have thought he’d totally forgot about; but her certainly hasn’t and as I play it for the third time in succession, making it an obvious contender for Favourite Track status; not least for the deeper than usual lyrics …..
” A change is gonna come
Sam Cooke once sung,
Oh lay down that burden of hate
The homeless crying
Equality for all ….. so late
Keep your loved ones safe
Keep your family close
Keep your children by your side
Hold on, hold on, hold on to what you got.”
Seriously I’m a huge fan; and I haven’t heard Rod sing a song as sharply observed as this in thirty or forty years!
As you wipe the tears from your eyes, Rod goes for your heartstrings again with Precious Memories; another brand new song; but in the style of Sam Cooke or maybe Otis Redding …… but always Rod Stewart.
Now, if you have bought any or all of Rod’s last dozen or so albums you will know that he always sneeks in a Celtic/Scots themed song and here it’s These Are My People; which is pretty much Rod Stewart By Numbers; not necessarily a bad song at all, but he has covered this ground a lot over the years.
Then it all comes to close with a Tearjerker Deluxe; Touchline …….. where Rod sings about his Dad’s love of football; but particularly him watching his sons play schoolboy football and offering advice mid-game.
If there’s a dry eye in the house as the story drifts into his last days and passing ….. you shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near an album like this…. you don’t deserve it!!
I’m genuinely stumped for what to choose as my Favourite Track; Touchline is certainly up there as is Hold On …… but I’ve just gone and made a cup of coffee; and the song still buzzing in my head was Born to Boogie ( A Tribute to Marc Bolan); and as I’m playing it again it’s actually far deeper than you’d expect from the Pop-Rock song that you think it is ……. so it’s my Favourite.
What more can I say?
I’m absolutely staggered ….. and not a little bit surprised; as after 30 previous albums; the kid is back on form with, easily his best album this century by a country mile (and a bit).
So, when you buy this for your Mum or Dad’s Xmas present; sneakily have a listen yourself ….. you won’t regret it!
Released November 12th 2021
BUY DON’T SPOTIFY