We’re going back in time, folks.
Al Stewart has been one of my favorite artists for a very long time and it’s a little sad he isn’t better known. For those who are familiar with music from the 70’s, he’s the guy who wrote the song/album “Year of the Cat” and “Time Passages.” Both of which are really good albums, but he’s made more. A lot more.
What appeals to me about Al Stewart is, of course, highly personal. As a soon-to-be history major, I rejoice at any historical reference made in songs, books, movies, etc. Al Stewart is a history buff and many of his songs are about just that – history. It’s extremely refreshing to listen to songs that are about things that actually happened, and not just vague love ballads. I mean, I love vague love ballads as much as the next person, but we have plenty of them. Plenty. What we need are more songs about the French Revolution, the Winter of 1708-1709 in Western Europe, female pilot Amy Johnson, the League of Nations, English Naval Commander Lord Grenville, immigration to the United States in the late 19th – early 20th centuries, and 29th US president Warren G. Harding. And yes, Al Stewart has written songs about all of those things.
My inner history geek persona is salivating right now.
Did I mention he’s British?
And Al is short for Alistair?
And Jimmy Page played on one of Al’s earliest albums, pre-Led Zeppelin?
And that he’s a wine collector?
And that even though he hasn’t enjoyed as much fame as many other artists he still continues to make music, simply because he enjoys it?
Al Stewart is probably the most consistently good lyricist I’ve heard, especially for the amount of work he’s done. You could literally take 90% of his songs and read them as poems, and they’d be absolutely lovely. They’re very word-heavy and vocabulary-rich, but not in an overwhelming or convoluted way.
For first-time listeners, I would recommend starting with the albums Year of the Cat and Time Passages, since that’s classic Al Stewart and they’re both just fantastic albums. But I also really love 24 Carrots, which is probably his best album in terms of how it works as a whole, and Modern Times.
Have a listen! He really is one of my favorites.