Swing Fever

Rod Stewart With Jools Holland

Warner Brothers, 2024


REVIEW BY: Peter Piatkowski


Rock legend Rod Stewart found an unwarranted second career in the new millennium as a crooner of the Great American Songbook. It’s not that the singer couldn’t sing Cole Porter or George and Ira Gershwin. It’s just that he didn’t add anything to songs that have been recorded hundreds of times. But his sojourn to pre-rock pop music was a massive success for the singer, and he found a new audience who bought his standards albums in the millions.

His post-2010 circle-back to pop and rock met with diminishing returns, so his revisitation of mid-century pop isn’t all that surprising. Hooking up with Jools Holland, the famous bandleader and television personality, is a smart move. Holland has been a champion of swing music, joining a variety of unexpected collaborators to record some out-of-leftfield records.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But Swing Fever doesn’t feel surprising or fresh. Instead, it feels like a safe way for Stewart to capture some of that commercial sheen he enjoyed in the early 2000s. That doesn’t mean that Swing Fever isn’t enjoyable in brief bursts; Stewart’s weathered, raspy instrument does reasonably well with the tunes. It may remind some of Jimmy Durante, Louis Armstrong, or Joe Prima. No, Stewart isn’t the peer of those greats, but maybe working with Holland has given him a jolt of energy that was perhaps lacking in his earlier standards albums. 

None of the interpretations on this record is definitive, but Stewart acquits himself fine on most of the songs, and in several, he charms. “Pennies From Heaven” is an especially successful performance on Swing Fever. Stewart’s affection and joy for the song is palpable. His rendition of the Fats Waller classic “Ain’t Misbehavin’” is fun, if unambitious. And the album’s version of “Them There Eyes” is also quite good. Though Stewart does solid, personable work on these tunes, it has to be said that the biggest reason that the songs work is Holland’s exciting work. 

While Swing Fever improves some of the later Songbook albums, it’s still not a particularly memorable work. Stewart’s a legend for a reason. That sandpapery voice is so distinctive and unique—but another album of pop standards seems pointless. Stewart coasts through these numbers at this point and comes off as a bit of a lounge lizard. (Fellow rock god David Johansen did this in the ‘80s with his Buster Poindexter persona, but that was a funny goof.) Frankly, for an artist of Rod Stewart’s particular talents and genius, Swing Fever comes off as filler. 

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2024 Peter Piatkowski and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers, and is used for informational purposes only.