ARTIST: Al Stewart
YEAR RELEASED: Compilation
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: Charting: Year of the Cat (#8 US, #31 UK), On the Border (#42 US), Time Passages (#7 US), Song on the Radio (#29 US), Midnight Rocks (#24 US)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No, unless you’re a super fan and loved his wordy-as-hell historical songs.
LINEUP: Al Stewart. He was produced by Alan Parsons in his chart years, and always had good guests like Jimmy Page, Richard Thompson, or Simon Nicol on his early records.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A Scottish spinner of tales and legends got some hits in the mid-70s after 10 years of recording.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This compilation is chronological, and it takes eight tracks to get to “Year of the Cat”. Al Stewart was a cult artist before that was really a thing, and he made his name by having the first mainstream-ish song with “fucking” in the lyrics (not here since that was in an 18 minute song), and wrote and recorded historical epics (“Road to Moscow” is 8 minutes of watching the Germans invade the USSR in World War II).
In 1975, he had a top 30 US album thanks to his FM radio play, and in 1976 “Year of the Cat” came on everyone’s radio, and he had a couple of years of fame. But he didn’t really change his motif. And when the hooks didn’t grab the listeners, he lost steam and got dropped by 1982.
This collection grabs a song from every album from his debut to his last Arista album in 1980. While hardly anything is in the wheelhouse of his hits, and sometimes he should just SHUT UP, the songs are tuneful and engaging enough for them not to be exiled. Most of his historical excesses are left on the albums, and that’s probably best.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: He played at the first Glastonbury in 1970.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Nah
GRADE B: Oh, he’s wordy. So wordy. But has a knack for minor-key hooks too