Friday, March 02, 2012

Rediscovering Al Stewart

With musical artists as with authors, there are some that one follows and buys their every work, others who one likes for a while before moving on to other things.

So while I loved Al Stewart's Year of the Cat album, its successor Time Passages wasn't nearly as good, and I didn't bother with any of his other releases. And while it seems rather shallow of me, back in the 80s, I was aware that it was a bit uncool to like an artist who mainly wrote and performed songs on historical themes. It had overtones of the then much derided Prog Rock.

But recently I found Stewart's most recent studio album Sparks of ancient light on eMusic and downloaded it out of curiosity, half expecting it to be an even paler imitation of Year of the Cat than Time Passages had been. In fact it is a little gem, reminding me of what made Stewart an interesting songwriter in the first place

Although his songs do often deal with historical subjects rather than the familiar confessional themes of singer-songwriters, he avoids the twin evils of Spinal Tap Stonehenge bombasm or Steeleye Span morris-dancing twee-ness. Instead he milks historical topics for their human angle. So Like William McKinley is not an ode to an American president but rather a meditation on lost love with a historical analogy somewhere in there. Anyway the link is to a live performance of my favourite song on the album 'Hanno the Navigator' - and the album title is also taken from the lyric of this track.

I may now even explore the rest of Stewart's oeuvre.

1 comment:

Alisdair Gibbs-Barton said...

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