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Al Stewart

British folk rock

Bedsitter Images (1967)

Love Chronicles (1969)

Zero She Flies (1970)

Orange (1972)

Past. Present and Future (1973)

Modern Times (1975)

Year of the Cat (1976)

Time Passages (1978)

24 Carrots (1980)

Live/Indian Summer (1981)

Russians and Americans (1984)

Last Days of the Century (1988)

Rhymes in Rooms (1992) (live)

Famous Last Words (1993)

Between the Wars (1995)

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (1996)

Best of Centenary Collection (1996)

An Acoustic Evening With (1998)

On the Border (1999)

Down in the Cellar (2000)

Time Passages Live (2002)

The Essential (2003)

A Beach Full of Shells (2005)

A Piece of Yesterday - The Anthology (2006)

Sparks of Ancient Light (2008)

 

Titles in red have been reviewed. Those in black are to be reviewed

 

 

 

 

Al Stewart

Bedsitter Images - 6

Bed-Sitter Images/ Swiss Cottage Manoeuvres/ The Carmichaels/ Scandinavian Girl/ Pretty Golden Hair/ Denise at 16/ Samuel, Oh How You've Changed/ Cleave to Me/ A Long Way Down From Stephanie/ Ivich/ Beleeka Doodle Day

If there was one man who stood up for the vagaries of Bedsitter Land it was Al Stewart and on his first album he ran through scenarios that were so recognisable. For a first album there was plenty of variety. The opener at times has a Spanish feel to it and Swiss Cottage  Manoeuvres even incorporates a brass section and Scandanavian Girl has an altogether unusual feel about it. Likewise Pretty Golden Hair has a background of swirling strings. This was a considerable variation in styles for 1967 and perhaps overall the album suffers a little through a lack of direction which doesn't mean it's a bad album by any stretch of the imagination even if the melody of Samuel Oh How You've Changed is very reminiscent of Streets of London, although the Stewart song appeared a good two years before McTell released Streets. "Cleave to Me" has a definite classical feel about it. In many ways this is a difficult first album to listen to as it takes considerable concentration.

 

Love Chronicles - 7

In Brooklyn/ Old Compton Street Blues/ The Ballad of Mary Foster/ Life and Life Only/ You Should Have Listened to Al/ Love Chronicles.

There is something about this album. After Bedsitter Images Stewart was making a career of writing love songs that weren't really love songs. They were far too gritty, far too down to earth. Almost story songs rather with Stewart looking inwards. But could an album from 1969 really justify an 18 minute song in the shape of Love Chronicles. Maybe Stewart was ahead of his times - looking lovingly towards the folk/prog that was to evolve and develop in the early seventies. He does it with some success and the title track is never dull, going through enough twists and turns to keep it interesting and it is always the lyrics that will carry this song - lyrics of deep intensity and of a highly personal nature. And really it is the title track that makes this album such an enjoyable one. Of course we are no longer shocked by the use of the f word, although it is claimed that this was the first album to use the expletive. in the anything goes present time that doesn't seem of any interest apart from the historical perspective. In Brooklyn is another excellent Stewart song that has stood the test of time. Some of the other material has more of a filler feel about it. Nevertheless in its genre this is an important and lasting album.

 

Zero She Flies - 7.5

My Enemies Have Sweet Voices/ A Small Fruit Song/ Gethsemane Again/ Burbling/ Electric Los Angeles Sunset/ Manuscript/ Black Hill/ Anna/ Room of Roots/ Zero She Flies

This was the first Al Stewart album I can remember and it still has an impact on me over 30 years later. Stewart became an undeniable artist of the seventies and here he was on the cusp of the new decade - a decade that would have a massive impact on music. Zero She Flies sees him trying to do something a little different. The album opens with My Enemies Have Sweet Voices - a harmonica based blues number with some interesting lyrical twists "I was jumping to conclusions, when one of them jumped back." This gives way to the largely instrumental "A Small Fruit Song" that somehow has a similar feeling to much of Nick Drake's material and proves what a fine guitarist the man is. Electric Los Angeles Sunset is one of my favourite Stewart tracks and seems a long way from the introversion of  the first two albums. It opens with the almost incomparable words "A shot split the night, the bullet lodged in his brain, he must have died instantly, he felt no pain" how dramatic is that? It is a mark of Stewart's ability that the catchy tune takes nothing away from the power of the lyrics. Electric Los Angeles Sunset gives way to one of Al's first historic songs - an area that would prove so important to him as he continued to mature as a songwriter and in particular as a lyricist.

 

Orange - 5

You Don't Even Know Me/ Amsterdam/ Songs Out of Clay/ The News from Spain/ I Don't Believe You/ Once an Orange, Always an Orange/ I'm Falling/ Night of the 4th of May

A pretty straightforward and anodyne selection of songs, which is really not what you would be looking for from a songwriter of Stewart's ability. There is a feeling of this album marking time before moving on to a more successful phase - a kind of rights of passage between the personal nature of Bedsitter Images and Love Chronicles to the more historical nature of the material that was to follow and to be so successful. There are pretty enough songs here but a distinct lack of inspiration and direction.

 

Past, Present and Future
Modern Times
Year of the Cat
Time Passages
24 Carrots
Live/Indian Summer
Russians and Americans
Last Days of the Century
Rhymes in Rooms
Famous Last Words
Between the Wars
Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
Best of Centenary Collection
An Acoustic Evening With
On the Border
Down in the Cellar
Time Passages Live
The Essential
A Beach Full of Shells
A Piece of Yesterday - The Anthology
Sparks of Ancient Light