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RECORD RACK

In Brief

June 11, 1995|Jean Rosenbluth

*** ROD STEWART, "A Spanner in the Works"; Warner Bros.

Not only is Stewart's first studio album in four years significantly more interesting than the pallid fare he churned out during the '80s, but it beats out much of the current competition too.

At the same time, "A Spanner in the Works" ( spanner is British for wrench ) drives home how second-tier Stewart ultimately is. For example, a song Tom Petty wrote for his own album and then rejected--the quirky "Leave Virginia Alone"--is the most compelling cut here. It considerably outclasses Stewart's own naughty but flimsy "Delicious" and trite "Muddy, Sam and Otis," a tribute to the greats of soul. He extends the homage by covering Sam Cooke's "Soothe Me."

Stewart has a knack for cherry-picking intrinsically pretty songs originally performed by artists with negligible singing skills and making them livelier and more accessible. It's not for nothing that he continues to record songs by Bob Dylan ("Sweetheart Like You") and Tom Waits ("Hang On St. Christopher").

Not all of us think that Rod is sexy, but there's no denying that he's savvy.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (e x cellent).

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