The Talented Rod Stewart Part Five
1995–2001: New ventures and record labels
By the early 1990s, Stewart had mostly abandoned creating his own material, saying that he was not a natural songwriter and that the tepid response to his recent efforts was not rewarding. In 1995, Stewart released A Spanner in the Works containing a single written by Tom Petty, “Leave Virginia Alone”, which reached the Top 10 of the adult contemporary charts. The latter half of the 1990s was not as commercially successful though the 1996 album If We Fall in Love Tonight went gold and hit No. 19 on the Billboard album chart.
When We Were the New Boys, his final album on the Warner Bros. label released in 1998, contained versions of songs by Britpop acts such as Oasis and Primal Scream, and reached number two on the UK album charts. That same year, he recorded the song “Faith of the Heart”, written by Diane Warren, for the film Patch Adams. In 2000, Stewart left Warner Bros. and moved to Atlantic Records, another division of Warner Music Group. In 2001, he released Human. The single “I Can’t Deny It” went Top 40 in the UK and Top 20 in the adult contemporary. Stewart then signed to Clive Davis’ new J Records label. The Story So Far: The Very Best of Rod Stewart, a greatest hits album compiled from his time at Warner Bros., went to the Top 10 in the UK and reached number one in 2001 in, among other places, Belgium and France.
2002–10: The Great American Songbook series and Soulbook
Performing in Zaragoza, Spain, November 2006
In June 2002, Stewart performed “Handbags and Gladrags” at the Party at the Palace held at Buckingham Palace Garden, a concert which celebrated the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II and featured stars from five decades of music.
By 2002, Stewart had sold over 100 million records during his career. He concentrated on singing 1930s and 1940s pop standards from the Great American Songbook, written by songwriters such as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and George and Ira Gershwin, with great popular success. These albums have been released on Clive Davis’s J Records label and have seen Stewart enjoy album sales equal to the 1970s.
The first album from the songbook series, It Had to Be You: the Great American Songbook, reached number four on the US album chart, number eight in the UK and number ten in Canada when released in late 2002. The track “These Foolish Things” (which is actually a British, not American, song) reached number 13 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart, and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” went Top 20.
The second series album, As Time Goes By: the Great American Songbook 2, reached number two in the US, number four in the UK and number one in Canada. “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”, a duet with Cher, went Top 20 on the US adult contemporary charts. “Time After Time” was another Top 30 track on the US adult contemporary charts. A musical called Tonight’s The Night, featuring many of Stewart’s songs, opened 7 November 2003 at London’s Victoria Palace Theatre. It is written and directed by Ben Elton, who previously created a similar production, We Will Rock You, with music by Queen.
In 2004, Stewart reunited with Ronnie Wood for concerts of Faces material. A Rod Stewart and the Faces best of album, Changing Faces, reached the Top 20 of the UK album charts. Five Guys Walk into a Bar…, a Faces box set compilation, was released. In late 2004, Stardust: the Great American Songbook 3, the third album in Stewart’s songbook series, was released. It was his first US number one album in 25 years, selling over 200,000 albums in its first week. It also debuted at number one in Canada, number three in the UK and Top 10 in Australia. His version of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”, featuring Stevie Wonder, made the Top 20 of the world adult charts. He also recorded a duet with Dolly Parton for the album – “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. Stewart won his first ever Grammy Award for this album.
2005 saw the release of the fourth songbook album, Thanks for the Memory: The Great American Songbook 4; it included duets with Diana Ross and Elton John. Within weeks of its release, the CD made it to number two on the Top 200 list. In late 2006, Stewart made his return to rock music and his new approach to country music with the release of Still the Same… Great Rock Classics of Our Time, a new album featuring rock and southern rock milestones from the last four decades, including a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”, which was released as the first single. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard charts with 184,000 copies in its first week. The number one début was helped by a concert in New York City that was on MSN Music and an appearance on Dancing with the Stars. He performed tracks from his new album live from the Nokia Theater on 9 October. Control Room broadcast the event Live on MSN and in 117 cinemas across the country via National CineMedia. In November 2006, Stewart was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame.
On 1 July 2007, Stewart performed at the Concert for Diana held at Wembley Stadium, London, an event which celebrated the life of Princess Diana almost 10 years after her death. He performed “Sailing”, “Baby Jane” and “Maggie May”. On 12 December, he performed for the first time at the Royal Variety Performance at the London Coliseum in front of HRH Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, singing another Cat Stevens number, “Father and Son”, and Bonnie Tyler’s song “It’s a Heartache”. On 22 December 2006, Stewart hosted the 8th Annual A Home for the Holidays special on CBS at 8:00 pm (PST).
On 20 May 2009, Stewart performed “Maggie May” on the grand finale of American Idol season 8. On 2, July 2009 Stewart performed his only UK date that year at Home Park, Plymouth. On 29 September 2009 a 4-CD, 65-track compilation entitled Rod Stewart Sessions 1971–1998 was released; it is composed of previously-unreleased tracks and outtakes from the bulk of his career. Stewart has also mentioned plans for a compilation of covers of soul classics, the possible release of another edition of the Great American Songbook album and a country covers album.
On 17 October 2009, Stewart released the studio album Soulbook which was composed of covers of soul and Motown songs. On 14 November 2009, Stewart recorded a TV program in the UK for ITV that was screened on 5 December 2009. The music in the programme featured tracks from his new album and some old favourites. On 14 January 2010, Rhino records released Stewart’s Once in a Blue Moon, a “lost album” originally recorded in 1992, featuring ten cover songs including the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday”, Bob Dylan’s “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar” and Stevie Nicks’ “Stand Back”, as well as Tom Waits’ “Tom Traubert’s Blues”. On 19 October 2010, Stewart released another edition of his Great American Songbook series titled Fly Me to the Moon…The Great American Songbook Volume V on J Records.
2011–2012: Christmas album and autobiography
Performing in Hamburg in September 2013
In 2011, Stewart performed with Stevie Nicks on their Heart & Soul Tour. Starting on 20 March in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the tour visited arena concerts in North America – with performances in New York, Toronto, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Tampa and Montreal, among others.
Stewart headlined the Sunday show at the 2011 Hard Rock Calling Festival on 26 June in London’s Hyde Park. Stewart signed on to a two-year residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, commencing on 24 August. Performing his greatest hits, the residency also saw him perform selected tracks from his upcoming, untitled blues album.
On 7 June 2012, it was announced that Stewart had signed a recording agreement with Universal Music Group. On 4 September 2012, it was announced that Stewart would be releasing his first Christmas album, titled Merry Christmas, Baby, on the Verve Music Group label (a division of Universal Music Group) on 30 October 2012. The album was produced by David Foster and features several duets, as well as an original song written by Stewart, Foster and Amy Foster called “Red-Suited Super Man”. According to IFPI, Merry Christmas, Baby was the seventh best-selling album worldwide in 2012.
In October 2012, Stewart’s autobiography titled Rod: The Autobiography was released (exact dates vary worldwide).
In November 2012, Stewart performed “Auld Lang Syne” from his Christmas album and his hit “Sailing” at the Royal Albert Hall for the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, which was attended by Queen Elizabeth II. Later that month, Stewart again performed at the Royal Albert Hall in front of the Queen during the 100th Royal Variety Performance, singing “When You Wish upon a Star”.
On 26 November 2012, Stewart’s recording of “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” reached the top of the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart. Stewart has had the number one song on this chart three times previously, the last being in 1993 with “Have I Told You Lately”, giving him the second-largest hiatus between number ones in the history of the chart. The song remained in the No. 1 spot for a total of five weeks, tying it for the longest-leading holiday title in the chart’s 51-year history.
On 10 December 2012, Stewart was a guest singer on Michael Bublé’s television Home for the Holidays Christmas special.
Stewart was the tenth best-selling artist in Canada in the year 2012 according to year-end sales data from Nielsen Soundscan Canada. In February 2013, Stewart was nominated for a Canadian Juno Award in the International Album of the Year category for his album Merry Christmas, Baby.