The big names in the lyrics set the tone
Photo: Bloomberg news
Free wheelin Al Stewart (right) was deeply influenced by Bob Dylan
Al Stewart was born September 5, 1945, in Glasgow, England. He, with his widowed mother, moved to Bournemouth when he was three and played in rock bands, in the same area, beginning at age 16.
He bought his first guitar from future Police member Andy Summers and got his initial guitar lessons from Robert Fripp. After hearing the legendary Bob Dylan, he decided to change his style to much softer compositions and performed in small London folk clubs in the mid sixties. Of his first four albums only one was released in the U.S. Love Chronicles. It featured Jimmy Page on guitar and was voted Folk Album of the Year. It included a lengthy, explicit, confessional song about women Stewart had known.
In 1974 he released Past, Present and Future. Unlike his previous LPs this record traded first-person love songs for historical sagas. Modern Times improved the style with catchier melodies and harder- rocking music, thus helping it reach the U.S. Top 30. His chance of a lifetime came in late 1976 with the Alan Parsons produced The Year of the Cat. The title track became a Top 10 hit and the LP went platinum. With Parsons again in the studio, Time Passages went Top 10 and platinum too. His commercial success peaked in the late seventies with a sound influenced by mid-period Dylan and some distinctive name dropping lyrics that focused on historical themes from Napoleonic invasions to the soothsayer Nostradamus.
The turn of the aforementioned decade noticed a slump in record sales. Despite two more Top 30 singles, Song on the Radio and Midnight Rocks subsequent LPs were commercial disappointments. Through the eighties, Stewart released only two more albums, though he toured intermittently and apparently devoted a great deal of time for his other passion that of collecting wine bottles for which he received numerous awards. Rhymes in Rooms released in 1992 was a live recording from 1988. Famous Last Words brought forth in 1993 made use of traditional folk and classical styles, while Between the Wars draws inspiration from the twenties and thirties.
A. GEORGE ANTONY
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