Like nearly all of Rod Stewart’s albums, Vagabond Heart drifts from brilliant pop-blues singing to hokey efforts to rock out, from utterly misguided attempts to recast soul classics to sensitive interpretations that reawaken dead songs. This time, Stewart brings life to ”Broken Arrow” (from the 1988 solo album by former Band member Robbie Robertson), replacing the original’s pomposity with gentle emotional insight, though he and Tina Turner fight a losing battle with ”It Takes Two,” a duet Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston sailed through effortlessly in 1967. Stewart deals smoothly with the Stylistics’ 1971 ”You Are Everything,” but leaves Van Morrison’s ”Have I Told You Lately” limp and lifeless. Stewart’s original songs present a bigger problem, because it’s impossible to hear them without thinking of his many romances splattered over the pages of the National Enquirer. ”Moment of Glory” is a convincing bit of philanderer’s remorse, but ”If Only” is perhaps the most wretched sort of pop-star self-pity, a preposterous-sounding claim (from someone who seems destined to accumulate as many spouses as platinum albums) that she done him wrong. Stewart might argue that his songs have nothing to do with his life; if so, that’s just one more reason to regard them as hollow. B-
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