Limited deluxe edition celebrates the music of Scottish singer Al Stewart

For many the name Al Stewart means only Year Of The Cat from 1976.

Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 7:30 am

While this was an introduction to his music, he always will be much more than this.

Born in Glasgow he made his name on the folk scene of the early 1960’s in parallel to the domination the Beatles were making for themselves.

In Scotland, while Rab Noakes, Barbara Dickson and John Watt were touring acoustically and their dates included the famous Elbow Room in Rosslyn Street, in Soho in the folk clubs were Paul Simon, Ralph McTell, Roy Harper, Bert Jansch and Al Stewart.

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Early successes remained with only those who knew before it all took off with the Alan Parsons produced Year Of The Cat album and discovering the addition of saxophone to his lyrically poetic songs.

The single became a top 40 hit in the UK and a radio favourite but went meteoric in the US reaching number eight with the album going platinum.

Al, now became resident in Los Angeles, and the follow up album Time Passages in 1978 would also go platinum helped by another US Top 10 hit with the title track.

This week an expanded remastered edition was released as a four-disc deluxe limited edition with a great reminder of that era.

Al was keen on more of the same and asked sax player Phil Kenzie to be an integral part of the new sessions.

So, with Alan Parsons producing and writing the title track with his piano player Peter White, sessions were recorded in Hollywood in August 1977.

Some from of these sessions are on this issue. Tonton Macoute was an up-tempo well produced finished article yet failed to make it to the album.

As did The Hollywood Sign (On St Stephens Day) which sounds very complete to me, but I read in the notes from a 68-page booklet (included) that this would surface with different lyrics. Apparently, the prolific Al would write several sets of lyrics for each song and even his Year Of The Cat was originally ‘Foot Off The Stage’ and written about the British comic Tony Hancock.

The CD also includes a radio recording from WKDX Chicago in 1978 to promote the album and on here we get stories between songs from Al plus the live versions of the new songs and all unreleased until now.

The standout tracks are Time Passages and the underrated Song On The Radio while The Palace Of Versailles became a firm fans request but these are bonus to the 5.1 Surround Sound of the remastered album.

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