Al Stewart - A Piece Of Yesterday (The Anthology)

Al Stewart, the Scottish singer songwriter and guitarist whose beginnings were in the London folk music scene of the mid Sixties has not fared as well as some of his contemporaries in the 'hipness' stakes. He hasn't as yet been rediscovered by a younger generation that way Bert Jansch has been championed by the likes of Johnny Marr and Bernard Butler. His music would not appeal to the electronica generation who can take to the experiments in jazz improvisation and dub reggae effects of John Martyn. And neither has he had the type of adulation bestowed on him that only comes with an early death like Nick Drake. He probably isn't too bothered by the last option.

Stewart is about to embark on a British tour to coincide with these two reissues. The 2 CD collection being an anthology of his work from 1967 to 2005 and "Famous Last Words" an album from 1993. His forte is that of storyteller and he is also something of an history buff which gives a lot of subject material. As well as the big hit, the radio friendly "Year Of The
Cat" and lesser hit "Time Passages" tracks like "Helen And Cassandra" and "Merlins Time" deal with mythical themes, whilst a live version of one of his best songs "Roads To Moscow" is concerned with the Second World War on the foreign battlefields of Russia. Also sat in the same period is "Laughing Into 1939" which tells the tale of a young girl getting ready for New Years
Eve celebrations unaware of what 1939 will bring. "Night Train To Munich" deals with espionage set to a jaunty piece of ragtime music with gypsy violin accompanying Stewarts guitar picking skills. His acoustic guitar playing is displayed to great effect on one of his earliest recordings, the whimsical mostly instrumental "A Small Fruit Song". That contrasts with an alternate version of "Soho Needless To Say" from the same period, but treated to a synthesizer and beat box backing.

I doubt if these releases will raise the profile of Al Stewart but fans of the current crop of singer songwriters might care to investigate one of the UK's original crop who had his own unique take on the form.

Derek McCann

Click here to leave your Al Stewart reviews / comments on the Message Board
(NB: The message board opens in a new window so please disable your pop-up blocker to view)