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Rod Stewart

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At heart, Rod Stewart has always been a balladeer, a vocal artist who can convey a story of deep emotion through song. So it shouldn't be that surprising that this intrepid talent has turned to the Great American Songbook for current inspiration. (Fans of classic rock will note that on the very first recording that brought Stewart to fame -- Jeff Beck's Truth -- he sang a very credible version of "Ol' Man River" from Show Boat.) On It Had to Be You Stewart takes on the cream of the cream: magnificent standards from the likes of Porter, Gershwin, Kern, and other masters of classic popular song. Wisely, no one involved tries to overtly contemporize the songs. A brisk swing rhythm is amended to many of the performances, though, turning what might usually be a slow ballad reading into a brisker jaunt. The transformation fits Stewart's characteristically optimistic delivery. With skillful assistance from producers Richard Perry, Phil Ramone, and Clive Davis, Stewart finds his way into gems like "The Nearness of You," "I'll Be Seeing You," and "That Old Feeling," making each sound tailor-made for him. William Pearl

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