Review: Rod Stewart nostalgic on varied ‘Blood Red Roses’

This cover image released by Republic Records shows "Blood Red Roses," a release by Rod Stewart. (Republic Records via AP)

Rod Stewart, “Blood Red Roses” (Republic Records)

Nostalgia has been a focal feature of Rod Stewart’s songwriting even as far back as 1971’s “Maggie May,” and some of the best tunes on “Blood Red Roses,” his 30th studio album, explore that same vein.

“Farewell” pays tribute to a friend through a poignant melody and reminisces about their shared London youth. “Honey Gold” features sweeping strings, an electric guitar echoing the one on “Tonight’s the Night” and one of his clearest vocals on the record as Stewart honors an unidentified “woman of the world” who’s been around apparently since his time in The Faces.

Most of the tracks were written by Sir Roderick himself and long-time associate Kevin Savigar, but Stewart also gives a touching performance on “Grace,” a song by Frank and Sean O’Meara and a tragic, true-life story about the briefest of marriages during the 1916 Irish insurrection against British rule.

“Didn’t I,” about parents struggling to cope with their daughter’s addiction; the soulish disco of “Give Me Love;” the lively, Motown-inspired “Rest of My Life;” and “Look in Her Eyes,” with sweet backing vocals from Bridget Cady, also hit the spot, but the tender “Julia,” another nostalgic chapter, is marred by distracting white-noise-like guitar and blues classic “Rollin’ & Tumblin'” struggles to turn on square wheels. A foray into EDM and the Stones-like “Vegas Shuffle” grate.

Stewart’s classic rasp is slightly silkier and still effective but “Blood Red Roses,” actually a whaling term, is a bit all over the flower shop.

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