Back in 1971, when he first recorded ”Maggie May,” Rod Stewart sounded like a man with an open wound. Singing it now, on this document of his May 5 appearance on MTV Unplugged, he sounds like a superstar basking in a classic he knows we all love. Which is pretty much how he approaches all of his big hits on the first half of the record, and really, it isn’t as shallow as the description might imply. Rod still sings with plenty of feeling, his voice is stronger than ever, and the accompaniments (helped out by Stewart’s old buddy from the Faces, Ron Wood) rock much harder, believe it or not, than the originals. (Luckily he leaves out ”Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” which at his age would sound insufferably smug.)
And then comes the second half of Unplugged and Seated, where—exploring ”Mandolin Wind” and other less worn songs from his catalog—Stewart drops all attitude and sounds positively touching. He may be a pampered rock star pushing 50, but he still has a big heart.