Before making The Captain & Me
, Elton John told an interviewer recently that his record label wanted him to do a Christmas album or an album of covers. John refused and got his way with the release of the former. But John's musings are a reflection of what happens to older singers. They don't sell as much as they used to, and record exec's aren't happy with a gold or below sales number in this age of quick sell soundscan numbers.
Take the case of Rod Stewart. Before hooking up with Clive Davis for his Songbook
CD's, his records weren't selling. This month he drops another collection of covers, but they're pop/rock ones. The music is pure generic, but I still believe in Rod's voice and find his cover of Cat Stevens' best song, "Father and Son" a winner. But I expect the reviews will be as harsh as any in his career.
This year Aaron Neville, Solomon Burke, Jerry Lee Lewis and Gladys Knight put out covers albums. Barry Manilow's 50's set was his biggest selling album since the early 80's. And he's got a 60's one coming this month. Jazz artists do this all the time. Recently Herbie Hancock had his biggest seller with a duets album. Ah, the duets album. Jerry Lee Lewis' Last Man Standing
, is his first album in a decade, and it's good. But there's nothing new on it, and it's all duets. As is Tony Bennett's Duets
. Much younger, but it seems as old, Diana Krall has one too. I would put Bruck Springsteen in there also. His best reviewed album in years consists of folk covers. Familiarity sells and the suits know it. Mind you, I have never had a problem with this concept. Rod Stewart says radio doesn't play his age group anymore, so why do new songs. But unlike most critics, I'd like to hear some new stuff from him.