Sound — 6
Rod Stewart hasn't refrained from the opportunity to venture into a variety of musical territories over the course of his extensive career, which has allowed the five decades in which Stewart has been standing at the microphone to have quite a diverse compilation of highlights. From his earlier efforts with Faces and the Jeff Beck Group to his collaborations with then-future Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood and the roller coaster ride of a solo career that soon followed, Stewart has explored such sounds as folk rock, blue-eyed soul, new wave and pop music; oftentimes, unifying all of these personas onto a single record, as we find on the frontman's 29th studio album "Another Country." Although the title may suggest a full-fledged departure into Nashville style country and southern rock, the end result proves to be an even more surprising installment.
The opening track "Love Is" feeds into those previously noted expectations through an array of banjo picking and violin arrangements, which manage to stay rooted in familiar terrain through a backbone of acoustic guitar and the raspy vocals of Stewart. Case in point, the following number "Please" sounds like a 1980s upbeat rocker that one might have anticipated from the likes of The Rolling Stones or Tom Petty, driven by crunching electric guitar, crashing percussion and smoky piano accompaniment. An entire album in this sound would have been readily welcomed by this listener, however the vibe of the record once again shifts dramatically with the similarly nostalgic pop rocker "Walking in the Sunshine." The massive drum beats and female vocal harmonies are in full swing here, conjuring up references to 1981's "Tonight I'm Yours" which was largely inspired by new wave and AOR. "Another Country" already resembles that of a retrospective compilation album, in that it contains tracks that sound as though they were released over the course of several decades. That is the eccentric behavior of Stewart at display here, as the album soon channels reggae attitudes on "Love and Be Loved" and a pair of light hearted acoustic ballads on "Way Back Home" and "Can We Stay Home Tonight?"
Although the obvious delves into often cheesily nostalgic territory have more palatable moments than not, Stewart pushes the envelope with a song literally titled "Batman Superman Spiderman." This a branded children's lullaby with even a kid hoping in on the refrain, with little justification as to why it's on the finished product here. Perhaps it's a notion of carelessness, however it's surely a track that dedicated rock listeners would have preferred on a deluxe album or a collection of studio outtakes. "Every Rock'n'Roll Song to Me" shows Stewart drawing references to classic albums and songs in a more upbeat number, proving to be one of the album's clear highlights. That being said, the deluxe version of the album ironically features songs which appear more worthy of making the original album cut than just an added bonus, namely the blissfully melodic "In a Broken Dream."
Lyrics — 6
That distinctive rasp which Rod Stewart has displayed on each of his 29 studio albums remains in admirable form on "Another Country," which is quite the accomplishment for a seasoned rock vocalist. That being said, the idea has been proposed that Stewart should allow himself to focus more so on performing and recording than writing; there's far less of a passion found throughout "Another Country" and more of a relaxed attitude, which led to a number of forgettable and questionable tracks finding their way onto the finished product. The moments where Stewart is focused on composing a standout number, such as the aforementioned "Please" and "Love Is," wind up on the winning side, however such moments are few and far between.
Overall Impression — 6
Rod Stewart has delivered an occasionally bizarre compilation of material on his 29th studio album "Another Country." Although this installment shows the 70 year old vocalist in prime form from a singing standpoint, "Another Country" falls flat from a songwriting perspective, often times taking the more-than-occasional dive into purposefully nostalgic areas which results in a combative listen from start to finish.