Tuesday, May 9, 2023

"Downtown Train" by Rod Stewart

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  4120
Date:  11/25/1989
Debut:  54
Peak:  3
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Following the double platinum success of his '88 album Out of Order, Stewart and his label decided to wrap up the decade with a career-spanning compilation album. Storyteller - The Complete Anthology 1964-1990 would be assembled and would highlight Stewart's hits and key tracks. In addition, Stewart would re-record a couple of cover tunes he had done previously along with this brand new recording, which would be issued out as a single to help promote the 4-disc box set. The song would do very well reaching #1 at both Rock and AC while spending three weeks at #3 on the Pop chart. A second single, a newly recorded version of the Isley Brothers' 1966 #12 Pop/#5 R&B hit "This Old Heart of Mine" done as a duet with Ronald Isley, would also do well getting to #10 Pop/#1 AC. (Stewart originally covered the song himself in 1975 and release it as a single, but it only got to #83 Pop.) The Storyteller box set would peak at #54, but over time would become a double platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  Stewart's cinematic Springsteen-esqe take on this song worked so well for him. It was quite different from Tom Wait's original, which had a more lo-fi, gritty arrangement. Stewart was able to transition the tune from an art rock gem into a mainstream hit. That is not an easy feat so when it gets done right on an already brilliant tune the results can only elevate the song and I think that was accomplished here. As a big Waits fan, I tend to prefer his lived in original, but I certainly like and admire Stewart's update, which gave Waits as a songwriter his lone Pop chart hit.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally written and recorded by singer/songwriter Tom Waits. It was included on his 1985 album Rain Dogs. It was released as a single, but did not chart. Several artists would record the tune including Mary Chapin Carpenter and Bob Seger, but only one other artist besides Stewart has made the Pop chart with the song. Patty Smyth's 1987 cover would be a blip on the chart at #95.  2) Stewart would continue his hit streak into the next decade. His 1990 album Vagabond Heart would spawn two Pop Top 10 hits. The first would be "Rhythm of My Heart," which would get to #5 Pop/#2 AC/#13 Rock. Written by Marc T. Jordan and John Capek, the tune was based on the Scottish traditional "Loch Lomond." The song was first recorded by Dutch singer RenĂ© Shuman for his 1986 self-titled debut album. After that, Stewart would release "The Motown Song," a track he recorded with The Temptations. It would get to #10 Pop/#3 AC. That tune was also a cover. It was originally written and recorded by Larry John McNally for the soundtrack to the 1986 film Quicksilver. Stewart would earn two more major hits in 1993. First was a live version of Van Morrison's "Have I Told You Lately" from Stewart's Unplugged...And Seated album that got to #5 Pop/#1 AC and went gold. Then a song co-written by Bryan Adams and performed by him, Stewart, and Sting for the film The Three Musketeers, "All for Love," would become a #1 Pop/#4 AC platinum seller. It was Stewart's first #1 Pop hit since 1978's "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" Stewart would continue to record, but the hits would dwindle and albums would not sell well. Then he experienced an unexpected comeback in 2002 when he recorded an album of pop standards. It Had to Be You: The Great American Songbook struck a chord with folks and it became a #4 triple platinum hit. Over the next decade, Stewart would record four more standards albums all of which made the Top 5 with 2004's third volume getting to #1. That third set would earn Stewart his one and only Grammy (Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album). A Motown covers album and a Christmas effort would also reach the Top 5. In 2013, Stewart would release his first album of original material since 2001 with Time. It would get to #7. Stewart would be a double inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Once for his solo career in 1994 and then in 2012 as a member of Faces.


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