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Stewart's 'Heart' Beats Without Conviction : ** ROD STEWART : "Vagabond Heart" : Warner Bros.

April 07, 1991|CHRIS WILLMAN

Resting a little less on his laurels, Stewart has come up with his best album in many years--feisty vocals, respectable selections from the songbooks of Robbie Robertson, Van Morrison and Thom Bell, a slightly meatier production sound, no exceptionally embarrassing ballads, even a sprightly, Stones-y rocker to recall the Faces.

Which still doesn't mean there's a compelling reason for anyone to buy it.

Stewart is a man with an undeniably great R&B-trained rock 'n' roll voice, but his lack of investment in his material nowadays is almost equally hard to deny, to the point where he's completely convincing only on the most blustery rockers--which he pulls out sparingly. And taste in material only goes so far in the absence of conviction. I'm not entirely sure I know what Robbie Robertson means when he sings the lines "Who else is gonna bring you a broken arrow / Who else is gonna bring you a bottle of rain / There he goes, moving across the water," but when Stewart sings them, I'm certain he doesn't know what he means.

"It Takes Two," the revved-up duet with Tina Turner, is a surprisingly impotent match, while Stewart's take on "Have I Told You Lately" turns the latent schmaltz of Morrison's version blatant. Meanwhile, the lyrics of those tunes co-written by Stewart read like excerpts from Bartlett's Book of Cliches. Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to five (a classic).

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