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Nothing Tells a Story : CHECK LIST: ****Great Balls of Fire***Good Vibrations**Maybe Baby*Running on Empty

**ROD STEWART. “Out of Order.” Warner Bros. Way, way back, when he was great, Rod Stewart didn’t just coast along on the strength of a distinctively throaty voice. He used that unmistakably lived-in husk to sing about life as it really is lived. Stewart’s romances, like “Maggie May” and “You Wear It Well,” were set against memorably drawn backdrops of everyday life. The picaresque adventure tale “Every Picture Tells a Story” sounded like something your most fascinating, long-lost buddy would spin at a bar over numerous bourbons. “The Killing of Georgie” was a courageous song in which Stewart threw off his macho persona and devoted his considerable warmth to the sad story of a homosexual friend.

There is nothing diminished about Stewart’s voice on “Out of Order,” his 15th solo album. The problem--no different from most of his music over the past 10 years--is that he has little of interest to say with it. Too many of the songs here deal in trite, overblown mythologizing of the rock ‘n’ roll life or in the hormonal moonings of love-struck men.

“Lethal Dose of Love” tries to clone “Addicted to Love” but fails to achieve the Robert Palmer hit’s humor and swaggering playfulness. It’s hard to tell what purpose Stewart had in mind in turning Otis Redding’s supremely kinetic ballad, “Try a Little Tenderness,” into a wooden, slow-dance slog.

What clicks best for Stewart is simple, direct warmth. It’s there on “When I Was Your Man,” where Stewart sings a stock lost-love-remembered scenario for all it’s worth, and on “Forever Young,” a schmaltzy but feeling-filled parental benediction done as a Celtic march, complete with U2-ish chiming guitars. Overall, “Out of Order” is too classy to fall to the obnoxious depths of “Hot Legs” or “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy.” But it is too uninspired to offer much hope of Stewart ever recapturing his lost greatness.

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