This is a terrible terrible album.
Rod Stewart’s 1981 effort, titled Tonight I’m Yours, is an album that has been certified as platinum in the U.S., sounds like a bastardized collection of the state of the industry, which makes sense in a way. The tracklist’s sound jumps around dramatically, with Stewart drawing from personnel versed in various styles and genres and no less than three covers — British blue-eyed soul number “How Long?”, Dylan staple “Just Like A Woman”, and rockabilly stomper “Tear It Up”. The whole album is a crossover carpet bomb, aiming to appease as wide of an audience as possible, and the strategy works to some extent (over 1 million sold), though its tragic flaw is that the production is over-the-top in a way that Rod Stewart’s signature rasp only makes worse.
The only saving grace here, aside from the bouncy single “Young Turks,” is the artwork, which is just as moody and serious as you would expect from the early 80s, without sacrificing the tongue-not-quite-in-cheek stylization that defines the era. Judging by the tint of the sunlight, I’d guess they were going for an LA look, gazing out at the coast just before the sun hits the sea. Looking also at the palm tree shadow that Rod and his moussed up mullet are casting, he might as well be LA in 1981.
That aforementioned highlight, “Young Turks”, does well to reinforce the imagery on the cover, though it does it in a more carefree way. The shoulder pads, the southern California sun, the random dancing on cars — it’s all here. I have to wonder if people actually believed this was how Angelenos spent their summers, defying our parents and giving birth to ten pound baby boys, because I didn’t grow up thinking every Chicago neighborhood had a resident nerd or that there were about a dozen black people in New York City from 1994 to 2004.
Musically speaking, “Young Turks” is one of my favorites from Stewart, despite missing the rich folky sunshine of “Maggie May” or the wind-tousled chest hair of the trashy disco single “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” To his credit, “Young Turks” survives independent of the gimmicky new wave synths, standing strong on an inspired melody and a killer chorus with spine-tingling chord changes.
Which is confusing, because…
… this exists. That one gem is buried beneath polished turds like this attempt at a Dylan cover. It looks like a Rolling Stones video without the energy and it sounds like the Gin Blossoms on a very, very bad day. And for those who wondered what it sounds like when Rod Stewart appropriates Dylan’s atonal whine with two vocal tracks of gravelly rasp, here you go. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair…
So yes, this album is awful. Soft rock has rarely seen lower lows. Perhaps I’ve got the benefit of hindsight, examining how the songwriting is shallow; how the production hurts the record’s value; how the album art is campy without the irony, wit or outlandishness.
You know what, scratch that — it’s just terrible across all spans and scopes.
Artist: Rod Stewart
Album: Tonight I’m Yours
Tracklist & Review (Allmusic)