Rod Stewart’s 10 Worst Cover Versions
When we started our Terrible Classic Rock Covers series, we knew that, at some point, we would have to tackle Rod Stewart. After all, he’s recorded more than his share of other people’s songs throughout his career that have been marred by lazy singing, uninspired arrangements or both. That’s a shame because he’s done plenty of definitive interpretations over the years, including some of his biggest hits. And most of the original versions of the songs on this list are very good, which means that, even when Stewart is at his worst, at least his taste didn’t desert him. But when we hear his take on the songs on this list of Rod Stewart's 10 Worst Cover Versions, we have to wonder if that was always the case.
Original Artist: Various Artists
We didn’t want to listen to all five volumes of Stewart’s inconceivably chart-topping takes on standards to determine which was the lowest point. Instead, we’re symbolically placing the entire catalog here at the beginning of our list of Rod Stewart's 10 Worst Cover Versions, with a suggestion to anybody interested in these songs to check out the definitive recordings made by the acknowledged masters, like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett.
Stewart’s take on the Oasis song isn’t that bad, actually. But his attempt to recreate the Faces’ sound comes across more like a remake of ‘Hot Legs’ than anything else. It’s a little too precise and could use more rawness, but his vocal lacks the snarl of the original. When listening to ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol,’ you realize how good it could have been had the song been written 20 years earlier, when Stewart would have done greater justice to it.
The first single of Stewart's solo career finds him replacing the Stones’ slash-and-burn attack with an easygoing mid-tempo groove. Midway through, Stewart's band tries to recreate the original’s arrangement, albeit with an instrumental breakdown in the middle, but by then it’s too late.
Original Artist: The Impressions
Stewart helped out his former boss Jeff Beck by lending his voice to a cover of the Impressions’ gospel-soul classic on the guitar great’s 1985 album ‘Flash.’ But the mid-’80s production -- including Beck’s over-processed guitar, lifeless drums and an unnecessary key change -- strip the song of all its soul. Nonetheless, the song became a minor hit, reaching No. 48 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Original Artist: The Isley Brothers
Not even having some of the greatest musicians in southern soul music at his disposal could stop Stewart from turning the Isley Brothers’ 1966 Motown hit into a plodding snoozefest. But to his credit, he must have known it was subpar. He recorded it again in 1989, this time as a duet with original singer Ronald Isley and had greater artistic and commercial success with it.
Original Artist: Dan Hill
Needing a few new tracks for a compilation featuring some of his most successful ballads, Stewart decided to give Dan Hill’s sappy 1977 hit -- a song nobody was asking to be re-recorded -- a shot. The result was predictably awful. By the way, another new song recorded for this album was Leo Sayer’s similarly egregious ‘When I Need You,’ which just missed our countdown of Rod Stewart's 10 Worst Cover Versions.
Stewart's early Bob Dylan covers -- 'Only A Hobo,' 'Mama, You Been on My Mind' and ' Tomorrow Is a Long Time' -- are outstanding. But from the cluttered arrangement -- which isn't sure if it's jangly pop, soul or country-rock (the pedal steel guitar is courtesy of Jeff "Skunk" Baxter) -- to Stewart's constant shouting, especially in the chorus, there's not a single decision that works in this one.
Original Artist: Aretha Franklin
Rule No. 1 of Recording Covers: Don't do the song if changing the gender makes the song worse. Rule No. 2 of Recording Covers: Don't do the song if Aretha Franklin got there first. Stewart violates both rules here.
This must have been the thought process leading up to Stewart's cover of 'All Right Now': Free's classic already sounds like it could have been recorded by the Faces, so how can we distinguish Stewart's version? The solution: drum machines, synthesizers and Michael Omartian's smoothed-out production. As Rick 'Super Freak' James said, cocaine's a helluva drug.
Original Artist: Bob Dylan
'Forever Young' was a pleasant enough MOR hit, so why does it top our list of Rod Stewart's 10 Worst Cover Versions? Because he took many of the lyrics from Bob Dylan's 1974 song of the same name and tried to claim it as an original. Stewart eventually agreed to give Dylan a co-writing credit.