Al Stewart

Al Stewart

Infobox musical artist
Name = Al Stewart

Img_capt =
Img_size =
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Background = solo_singer
Birth_name = Alastair Ian Stewart
Alias =
Born = birth date and age|1945|09|5|df=y
Glasgow, Scotland
Died =
Origin = Bournemouth, England
Instrument = Vocals, guitar
Genre = Rock
Folk rock
Occupation = Musician, Singer-songwriter
Years_active = 1966 - Present
Associated_acts =
URL = []
Notable_instruments =

Al Stewart (born Alastair Ian Stewart, 5 September 1945 in Glasgow) is a British singer-songwriter and folk rock musician. He is best known for his 1976 single "Year of the Cat" and its 1978 follow-up "Time Passages" (both of which were produced by Alan Parsons).

Stewart grew up in the coastal resort town of Bournemouth, Dorset, England. He moved to the United States in 1977 and recorded/produced most of his work in Los Angeles, California during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s.

While studio albums are now few and far between, he still tours extensively throughout the United States and Europe. Recordings of concerts are often made available through his fan clubs. Stewart's career in music has spanned over 40 years.

As a young man, Stewart studied guitar with a teacher named Don Strike, described by fellow student Robert Fripp as "a very good player in the thirties style."

Recording career

Stewart's first record was the single "The Elf" (backed with a version of the Yardbirds' "Turn into Earth"), which was released in 1966 on Decca Records, and included guitar work from Jimmy Page (later of the Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin), (the first of many leading guitarists Stewart worked with, including Richard Thompson, Tim Renwick and Peter White). Stewart then signed to Columbia Records (CBS in the UK), for whom he released six albums. The first four of these attracted relatively little commercial interest, although they contain some of Stewart's most incisive and introspective songwriting, and he became popular on the university circuit. Stewart's debut album "Bed-Sitter Images" was released on LP in 1967; a revised version appeared in 1970 as "The First Album (Bed-Sitter Images)" with a few tracks changed. Its dramatic string orchestrations by Alexander Faris arguably stifled the songs somewhat (Stewart premiered the album with a full orchestra at a concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London). The album was reissued on CD in 2007 by Collectors' Choice Music with all the songs from both versions.

"Love Chronicles" (1969) was notable for the 18-minute title track, an anguished autobiographical tale of sexual encounters that was the first mainstream record release ever to include the word "fucking".fact|date=August 2008 It was voted "Folk Album of the Year" by the UK music magazine, "Melody Maker". It also features Jimmy Page on guitar.

His third album, "Zero She Flies" followed in 1970 and included a number of shorter songs which ranged from acoustic ballads and instrumentals to songs that featured electric lead guitar.

A crucial song in Stewart's career was the acoustic ballad "Manuscript". Here we see Stewart's muse flirting with European History, which would soon blossom to become his signature genre which persists to this day.

These first three albums (including "The Elf") were released as the two CD set "To Whom it May Concern: 1966-70".

"Orange" (1972) was very much a transitional album, combining songs in Stewart's confessional style with more intimations of the historical themes that he would increasingly adopt (e.g. "The News from Spain", with its prog-rock overtones, including dramatic piano by Rick Wakeman). Perhaps the most prophetic song is the ballad "Songs Out of Clay", which combines his powerful melodic instinct, emotional flair, and subtle prog-rock nuances.fact|date=August 2008

The fifth release, "Past, Present and Future" (1973), was Stewart's first album to receive a proper release in the United States, via Janus Records. It echoed a traditional historical storytelling style and contained the song "Nostradamus," a long (9:43) track in which Stewart tied into the re-discovery of the claimed seer's writings by referring to selected possible predictions about twentieth century people and events. While too long for mainstream radio airplay at that time, the song became a hit on many U.S. college/university radio stations, which were flexible about running times. Nevertheless, "Past, Present and Future" is the album where Stewart's 'history genre' intimations reached full bloom, with songs about American President Warren Harding, World War II, Ernst Röhm, and mention of Christine Keeler, Louis Mountbatten, and Stalin's purges.fact|date=August 2008

Stewart followed "Past, Present and Future" with "Modern Times" (1975), in which the songs were lighter on historical references and more of a return to the theme of short stories set to music. Significantly though, it was the first of his albums to be produced by Alan Parsons, and Allmusic regard it as his best.

Stewart's contract with CBS Records expired at this point and he signed to RCA Records for the world outside North America. His first two albums for RCA, "Year of the Cat" (released on Janus in the U.S., then reissued by Arista Records after Janus folded in 1977) and "Time Passages" (released in the U.S. on Arista), set the style for his later work, which many feel is less incisive than his early 1970s releases on CBS, although "Cat" and "Passages" are generally agreed upon to be his best work.

The overwhelming success of the songs "Year of the Cat" and "Time Passages", both of which still receive substantial radio airplay on classic-rock/pop format radio stations, has overshadowed the depth and range of Stewart's body of songwriting.fact|date=August 2008 Stewart managed to adopt the traditional folk idiom of documenting real events to produce contemporary songs.

Stewart then released "24 Carrots" (1980) and his first live album "Live/Indian Summer" (1981), with both featuring backing by Peter White's band Shot in the Dark (who released their own unsuccessful album in 1981). They both reached the Billboard 200 chart, but failed to match the success of "Year of the Cat" and "Time Passages", arguably because of the advent of the new wave and pop movements in the early 1980s.

After those releases, Stewart was dropped by Arista and his popularity declined. Yet, despite his lower profile and waning commercial success, he would continue to make solid albums and develop as a songwriter. There was a four year gap between his next two albums "Russians and Americans" (1984) (which was highly political) and the upbeat pop-orientated "Last Days of the Century" (1988), which appeared on smaller labels and had lower sales. Stewart followed up with his second live album, the acoustic "Rhymes in Rooms" (1992), which featured only himself and Peter White, and "Famous Last Words" (1993), which was dedicated to the memory of the late Peter Wood (famous for co-writing "Year of the Cat"), who died the year of that release. Stewart followed these up with concept albums, with "Between the Wars" (1995), covering major historical and cultural events from 1918 to 1939, such as the Versailles Treaty, Prohibition, the Spanish Civil War, and the Great Depression and "Down in the Cellar" (2000), covering the aspects of wine, one of Stewart's areas of enthusiasm and expertise. In 2005, he released "A Beach Full of Shells", followed in 2008 by "Sparks of Ancient Light". He continues to tour the United States and Europe, along with guitarists such as Laurence Juber and Dave Nachmanoff, whilst also finding time to pursue his hobby of collecting fine wines.

Stewart's historical work includes songs such as:
*"Fields of France", from the album "Last Days of the Century", about World War I pilots
*"Old Admirals", from "Past, Present, and Future", inspired by Admiral Sir John Fisher of the World War I Royal Navy
*"Roads To Moscow", from "Past, Present, and Future", about the Wehrmacht's invasion of the Soviet Union in World War II, with references to both Nazi General Heinz Guderian and also to the German Tiger tank.
*"In Red Square", from "Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time", about the Soviet Union
*"Sirens of Titan", from "Modern Times", a musical precis of Kurt Vonnegut's novel of the same title
*"Lord Grenville", from "Year of the Cat", about Sir Richard Grenville
*"The Palace of Versailles", from "Time Passages", about the French Revolution
*"Charlotte Corday", from "Famous Last Words", about the assassin of Jean-Paul Marat.
*"Running Man", from "24 Carrots", about Nazi war criminals hiding in South America.
*Warren Gamaliel Harding", from "Past, Present and Future", about the scandals of the foreshortened Harding administration.On occasions Stewart has set poems to music, such as "My Enemies Have Sweet Voices" (lyrics by the poet Pete Morgan) on the 1970 album "Zero She Flies". During his 1999 UK tour, Stewart invited Morgan to read the lyrics as he performed this song in the Leeds City Varieties Theatre show of 7 November 1999.


* "Bed-Sitter Images" (1967)
* "Love Chronicles" (1969)
* "Zero She Flies" (1970)
* "Orange" (1972)
* "Past, Present and Future" (1973) #133 U.S.
* "Modern Times" (1975) #30 U.S.
* "Year of the Cat" (1976) #5 U.S.
* "Time Passages" (1978) #10 U.S.
* "24 Carrots" (1980) (with Shot In The Dark) #37 U.S.
* "Live/Indian Summer" (1981) (with Shot In The Dark) #110 U.S.
* "Russians and Americans" (1984)
* "Last Days of the Century" (1988)
* "Rhymes in Rooms" (1992)
* "Famous Last Words" (1993)
* "Between the Wars" (1995) (with Laurence Juber)
* "Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time" (1996) (limited distribution) [ [] ]
* "Down in the Cellar" (2000)
* "A Beach Full of Shells" (2005)
* "Sparks of Ancient Light" (2008)

Stewart has also released many compilations, which mainly feature his radio hits and some of his more unknown songs.


External links

* [ Official Page]
* [ Dutch Fan Page]
* [ German Fan Page]
* [ German Fan Page (alternative link)]
* [ Comprehensive discography]
* [ page]
* [ Al Stewart Friends]
* [ The Al Stewart Mailing List]
* [ Al Stewart Collection: Interviews, Discography, more]
* [ Al Stewart Merchandise website]
* [ Al Stewart and Awaken evenings]
* [ Al Stewart at the Woodstock Opera House and the Stage Left Cafe]

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