It’s very clear that writing his autobiography finally got Rod Stewart back on track in terms of having a go at least; here he’s back writing – or co-writing – songs for the first time in over 20 years. His Grating American Songbook is how a whole generation of Idol followers know him – and that’s a shame given the white-hot Rod that killed it in the early 1970s.
Sure, that’s a huge improvement from a man content to make millions singing castrated rock-classics and doing the dinner-suit croon – but is it really anything you need to hear?
Long-term/long-time fans, those that have convinced themselves the last two decades (or three decades, really) haven’t been a total fucking waste of time will see Time as pay-dirt; the a-ha/told-ya moment they thought they’d never get again.
Anyone else will hear lyrics that run the gamut of platitudinous to banal – “Time waits for no one/that’s why I can’t wait for you”.
The song Brighton Beach has a hint of past greatness and also feels like Rod’s been reading some Ian McEwan. But it’s followed by Beautiful Morning, the type of cruelness you wouldn’t even hear on a recent Meat Loaf album.
Most of Time – and it really does take its time, it’s far too long – feels a bit like the “comeback” albums from Glenn Campbell and Neil Diamond but Rod’s always too eager with this court-jester shtick at the ready to ever earn, or act like he has, the type of gravitas those records afforded to those artists.
And when he cuts the arms, legs and balls off yet another Tom Waits song (Picture In A Frame) you want to release the fucking hounds.
So somewhere you’ll read that Rod is more engaged with music than he’s been in two decades – hardly a stretch. Elsewhere you’ll read that this is a giant waste of, er, time.
And the truth – as is so often the way – is somewhere in the middle; this record offers bits and bobs that could rest under either of those responses.
The woozy fiddles and slack-strummed mandolins and acoustic guitars are a sad, desperate cry for a return to that signature seventies sound, rather than any sort of actual recapturing. That’s, ultimately, when you notice the very true cruelty of time/Time.