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Atlantic Crossing

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Album Review

Rod Stewart's sixth album was called Atlantic Crossing because the singer was literally crossing the Atlantic, making America his new home for reasons of the heart (he was fully enamored with actress Britt Ekland at the time) and the wallet (he was eager to escape Britain's restrictive tax rates). As it happens, 1975 was a perfect time for a new beginning for Stewart: the Faces were falling apart, his last LP, Smiler, wasn't roundly loved, and he had wrapped up his contract with Mercury and signed with Warner, so he completely rebooted, hiring legendary producer Tom Dowd to steer him through a slick, streamlined revamping of his signature sound. The first thing to be ditched were any traces of the ragged folkie who had popped up on all his first five solo albums, including on his career-making hit "Maggie May," a move that may partially have been due to Stewart's longtime writing partner Martin Quittenton deciding to sever ties with him. Without those ringing acoustic guitars, Dowd and Stewart ratcheted up the rock & roll, soul, and whiskey-soaked ballads, first taking a stab at recording the album with the MG's (outtakes of which popped up on Warner's 2009 double-disc Collector's Edition of the album), then expanding this core group with other studio pros who could easily settle into a smooth, polished groove. The results were splashy without being glitzy, soulful without being gritty, an impressive big-budget revamp of Stewart that benefited enormously from a clutch of great songs, both originals and covers. Tellingly, all the great originals arrive on the first side dubbed "The Fast Half," with Rod writing blistering, funny rockers about being laid up three times with VD ("Three Time Loser") and suffering through an unwanted sobriety ("Stone Cold Sober"), then easing back for a quick romance on the Jesse Ed Davis co-written "Alright for an Hour" — all good indications that his heart was still at a party. But the "Slow Half" did reveal that Stewart had lost none of his fine, nuanced interpretive skills, as he tore into Danny Whitten's "I Don't Want to Talk About It," took his first stab at "This Old Heart of Mine," and kept "Sailing" from drifting away into sentimentality. When taken together, the two halves might have showcased a somewhat slicker Stewart, but he was still the same old Rod with a big, oversized heart and an irresistible bad boy smirk. He may have crossed the Atlantic, but he was none worse for the wear for his journey, at least not yet.

Biography

Born: 10 January 1945 in London, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Over the course of his career, Rod Stewart has had it all. He's been lauded as the finest singer of his generation, he's written several songs that turned into modern standards, he sang with the Faces, who rivaled the Rolling Stones in their prime, he had massive commercial success. Stewart also saw his critical respect slip away during the '80s, when he recorded lightweight pop and although he did record some terrible albums — and he would admit that freely — Stewart will always be remembered...
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