There’s an AM radio station here in L.A. (KLAC – 570) that has returned to its previous format of playing standards, performed – when the station is at its best – by Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, Billie Holiday and a number of other people who knew/know how to interpret a song. But interspersed with those heroes of popular song are the forays the station makes into the dark side.
I’m referring to those sorry attempts by artists who have never before ventured into the realm of American popular song (a/k/a ‘The Great American Songbook,’ standards, Tin Pan Alley songs, etc.) but who somehow believe that they can succeed in this milieu with neither the understanding or the inherent ‘chops’ to do so.
The most grievous of these offenders is Rod Stewart. I’m sorry. His voice might be alright for waking up Maggie or letting us know what night tonight is but it could otherwise strip the finish off a Buick. This poor soul sounds like he’s been gargling with paint thinner for the last couple of decades. Clearly, that life-ravaged voice has no business attempting such a nuanced song as ‘The Way You Look Tonight.’
And to add insult to injury, Stewart has only a passing acquaintance with the lyrics, his arrangements quite often strip out the harmonic nuance, and he changes melodies the way most people change their minds.
I can guarantee that if Rod Stewart didn’t already have a recording career, if he mailed a demo of this dreck to a record company, they’d throw it out with the leftover sushi.
Now, I’ve got nothing against people crossing over. Some have done it successfully. But they’ve done it by exhibiting respect for the genre they’re crossing over to. (And, let’s face it. Placido Domingo, whose operatic tenor voice can send chills up the spine of even the most shut down audience member, has no business singing John Denver songs, either. But I’ll save that rant for another time.)
What the hell. You can’t blame a guy for trying. But you can blame ClearChannel for jamming this dreck down our ear canals every chance it gets.