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23.5.09

Al Stewart




Al Stewart - Bed-Sitter Images - 1967 - CBS

Al's later songs were to become eclectic and diverse in the extreme, dealing with political, historical, and sociological issues, as well as normal standard rock radio favourites. Listen to his song, “Trains", from his "Famous Last Words" album, a song of sheer brilliance, which on the surface seems to be about the history of rail travel, but is, in fact a long narrative about the trains that carried refugees to concentration camps during the Holocaust. His great song, “Post World War Two Blues,” tells about the attitudes of people after WW 2, and refers to Louis Mountbatten and Jimi Hendrix. Definitely not your average song theme. Absolutely amazing lyrics, and typical of Al Stewart's eclectic songwriting. His song, “Flying Sorcery,” is the story of Amy Johnson, the brave English aviatrix who died in 1941 during WW2. Not all his songs are about war, though. Listen to his classic "Year of the Cat", Night Train To Munich", "Song On The Radio", or "If It Doesn't Come Naturally, Leave It". His songs can be humorous, melodic, rock orientated, and contain many more diverse themes and qualities too numerous to mention here. This first album from the great Scottish Folk rock, singer/songwriter, is not remembered much nowadays. However, it heralded great things to come from this magnificent musician. Listen to his classic "Year Of The Cat", and "Modern Times" albums, and check out his "Live Indian Summer" album @ALSTWT/LIS N.B: The 1970 CBS Vinyl release was entitled "The First Album (Bedsitter Images)", and contains the extra tracks, "Lover Man" (Mike Heron), and "Clifton in the Rain" (Al Stewart). It excludes the Al Stewart tracks, "Scandinavian Girl", "Pretty Golden Hair", and "Cleave to Me" on the 1967 album. There is also a 2007 Collectors Choice CD issue of this album available which contains all the tracks from the 1967, and 1970 issues, plus two extra tracks, "Go Your Way", and "My Contemporaries"

TRACKS / COMPOSERS

Bedsitter Images (Al Stewart)
Swiss Cottage Manoeuvres (Al Stewart)
The Carmichaels (Al Stewart)
Scandinavian Girl (Al Stewart)
Pretty Golden Hair (Al Stewart)
Denise at 16 (Al Stewart)
Samuel, Oh How You've Changed (Al Stewart)
Cleave to Me (Al Stewart)
A Long Way Down From Stephanie (Al Stewart)
Ivich (Al Stewart)
Beleeka Doodle Day (Al Stewart)

MUSICIANS

Al Stewart: vocal, guitar
Alexander Faris: orchestral arrangements

REVIEW

Bedsitter Images unveiled a promising but tentative folk-rock singer/songwriter. Al Stewart's songs already displayed his talent for observational storytelling, though at this point he was detailing ordinary lives of British people and autobiographical romance, rather than epic historical incidents. Most of the cuts used a full orchestra, and although the folk-baroque approach worked for some folk-rock artists of the era like Judy Collins, here it seemed ill-conceived. The orchestration was twee, which made the already precious songs seem yet twee-er; Stewart has subsequently expressed regret over the decision to use such production. His work would have sounded better with straightforward folk-rock arrangements, or even as solo acoustic tunes. Despite its faults, it's fairly engaging, highlighted by the lengthy "Beleeka Doodle Day." Not only does that track eliminate the orchestration, it's also the best song on the album, with a characteristically haunting melody and more forceful, melancholy lyrics than those heard on most of the rest of the tracks. © Richie Unterberger, allmusic.com

BIO (Wikipedia)

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), although albums such as Past, Present and Future [1973] and Modern Times [1975] are seen as more representative of Stewart's talent as a historical wordsmith and lyrical balladeer. His current sidemen are Dave Nachmanoff (U.S., Germany) and occasionally Laurence Juber (primarily U.K. tours). Stewart was an integral part of the folk revival in Britain in the sixties and seventies. He appears throughout the musical folklore of the age - he played at the first ever Glastonbury Festival in 1970, knew Yoko Ono pre-Lennon, bought his first guitar from future Police guitarist Andy Summers and compered at the legendary Les Cousins folk club in London in the 1960s. Stewart grew up in the town of Wimborne, Dorset, England after moving from Scotland with his mother. After that, as he sings in the song Post World War II Blues (off Past, Present and Future): "I came up to London when I was 19 with a corduroy jacket and a head full of dreams." After breaking through into the London folk scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he moved to the United States in 1977 and recorded/produced most of his best-known work in Los Angeles, California during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. The 1990s were quieter for Stewart, as he released a series of live and concept albums, although the last decade has seen Stewart revive his interest in the historical ballads that brought him to fame in the 1960s and 70s, and he has produced three studio albums since 2000. His extensive back-catalogue has been released on CD and in a number of retrospective compilations, and Stewart continues to tour extensively throughout the United States and Europe. Recordings of live concerts are often made available through his fan clubs, chronicling his 43-year career. As of February 2009[update], he has resided in Los Angeles. 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, and 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". It was voted "Folk Album of the Year" by the UK music magazine, Melody Maker, and 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. These first three albums (including The Elf) were later 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). 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. Such airplay helped the album to reach #133 on the Billboard album chart in the US. Other songs on Past, Present and Future characterized by Stewart's 'history genre' mentioned American President Warren Harding, World War II, Ernst Röhm, Christine Keeler, Louis Mountbatten, and Stalin's purges. 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. While it failed to produce any hit singles, it received substantial airplay on album oriented stations and reached #30 in the US. 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) and Time Passages (released in the U.S. on Arista), set the style for his later work, and have certainly been his biggest-selling recordings.[7] Both albums reached the top ten in the US, with "Year of the Cat" peaking at #5 and "Time Passages" at #10, and both title songs became top ten singles in the US ("Year of the Cat" #8, and "Time Passages" #7). Meanwhile "Year of the Cat" became Stewart's first chart single in England, where it peaked at #31. The overwhelming success of these songs, both of which still receive substantial radio airplay on classic-rock/pop format radio stations, has later overshadowed the depth and range of Stewart's body of songwriting. Stewart himself has frequently expressed disappointment with the quality of his recordings during this era, commercial success notwithstanding. Stewart then released 24 Carrots (#37 US 1980) and his first live album Live/Indian Summer (#110 US 1981), with both featuring backing by Peter White's band Shot in the Dark (who released their own unsuccessful album in 1981). While "24 Carrots" did produce a #24 single with "Midnight Rocks," the album sold less well than its two immediate predecessors. After those releases, Stewart was dropped by Arista and his popularity declined. Still, despite his lower profile and waning commercial success, he would continue to tour and record albums. 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 its 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, "In Red Square", from Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time, about the Soviet Union , "The Palace of Versailles", from Time Passages, about the French Revolution, and "Sirens of Titan", from Modern Times, a musical precis of Kurt Vonnegut's novel of the same title.

5 comments:

A.O.O.F.C said...

LINKp/w aoofc

gkapageridis said...

He is one of my all time favourite singer-songwriters. And this is an album i was longing to hear. Thanks very much indeed.

A.O.O.F.C said...

Hi,gkapageridis. Thanks for comment. I'm so glad you like Al Stewart's work. If you are interested in more Al Stewart, please contact me

ERICDARKO said...

I have enjoyed him since I was a young Kid ... simply one of the best singers and songwriters ... just glad I'm not alone ... Thanks

A.O.O.F.C said...

Cheers, ERICDARKO. Thanks for comment. I have all Al's recordings. Like yourself, I'm a lifelong fan. I see you like The Wicker Man...terrific movie. Keep in touch. All the best