Stewart, Al - Year Of The Cat

Year of Release: 2001
Label: EMI
Catalog Number: 35456
Format: CD
Total Time: 56:05:00

"Remastered" in most cases seems the be the golden word in order to shift another truckload of the same material years after the initial release. In the case of modern troubadour Al Stewart, Year Of The Cat was the album that rightfully introduced him to a larger audience after having delivered illustrious albums like his 1967 debut Bedsitter Images; Love Chronicles, featuring a young Jimmy Page and voted "folk album of the year '69" by Melody Maker; Zero She Flies, Orange; and Past, Present and Future, both featuring Rick(i) Wakeman and introducing Tim Renwick, who would be a close and stable friend from then on. An important move happens in 1975 when Alan Parsons steps in to produce Modern Times, followed a year later by the album that would change Stewart's life forever and that would also hold the nucleus of what would later become the Alan Parsons Project, Year Of The Cat (1976, Arista). Stewart would also prove to have a nose for upcoming talent when he introduced none other than Tori Amos as backing vocalist on his 1988 album Last Days Of The Century, followed by using Neal Morse as backing vocalist on his Famous Last Words album in 1993 (also sporting the track "Charlotte Corday" which Al co-wrote with Tori Amos). Surely not the Neal Morse? I'm afraid so!

25 years later and all of the material on Year Of The Cat still sounds as fresh as if it were composed and recorded yesterday. Digitally remastered at Abbey Road, the acoustic nature of Stewart's music was simply destined for release on CD because finally one can hear the music as it was always intended to be from the moment it was captured in the studio. I have to be honest in saying that I hear the harpsichord and mandolin in "Broadway Hotel" for the very first time here. And how many people haven't played their vinyl copy over and over again until scratches prevented them from really enjoying this milestone? Now these days are truly over as this package really holds the best quality of the classic Year Of The Cat album ever. It even contains three bonus tracks in the form of a live rendition of "On The Border," "Belsize Blues" and, most interesting of all, the "Story Of The Songs," told by Al Stewart himself -- a very interesting 9:43 it is (which, due to the speed of talking, might well contain 30-minutes of non-stop info)! Needless to say, the title track ?Year Of The Cat? not only has been a million-seller in its own right, it also sports one of the most famous saxophone solos ever! Phil Kenzie remembers: "I arrived with my tenor sax and Alan Parsons was there in the darkened studio. There was this beautiful track with violins, but no vocal yet. Al was behind his newspaper in the corner, kind of hiding? I said 'hi,' the newspaper came down and he said 'Oh, how do you do?' I looked around the newspaper and said 'fine.' I put the tenor down and Alan said, 'You know something, this would sound really good on alto.' I replied, 'You're really lucky, because I just happen to have one with me.' That's how it happened. I did that solo in two passes!? After Phil's recording the track would remain an instrumental for the next nine months! [taken from the liner notes of the remastered edition - JB]

With members from Sutherland Brothers and Quiver and Cockney Rebel enlisted as musicians, Year Of The Cat really sounds like a mixture of those styles with Stewart's superb lyrics as a welcome bonus. The result was probably the best promotion folk rock ever had.

Al Stewart recently released a brand new album called Down In The Cellar (EMI) and continues to deliver wonderful music as well as performing. You never know, he might read this review. So if he does: thanks a million for giving us hours of drifting on a dreamy cloud!

Lord Grenville (5:00) / On The Border (3:22) / Midas Shadow (3:08) / Sand In Your Shoes (3:02) / If It Doesn't Come Naturally, Leave It (4:28) / Flying Sorcery (4:20) / Broadway Hotel (3:55) / One Stage Before (4:39) / Year Of The Cat (6:40) / Bonus tracks: On The Border (Live) (3:48) / Belsize Blues (3:30) / Story Of The Songs (9:42)

Al Stewart - vocals, guitar, keyboards
Tim Renwick - guitar
George Ford - bass
Peter White - guitar
Stuart Elliot - drums, percussion
Peter Wood - keyboards
Phil Kenzie - sax
Bobby Bruce - violin

Bedsitter Images (1967)
Love Chronicles (1969)
Zero She Flies (1970)
Orange (1972)
Past, Present & Future (1973)
Modern Times (1975)
Year Of The Cat (1976/2001)
Time Passages (1978)
24 Carrots (1980)
The Live Radio Concert (1980)
Live Indian Summer (1981)
Russians & Americans (1984)
The Best Of Al Stewart (1988)
Last Days Of The Century (1988)
Rhymes In Rooms (1992)
Famous Last Words (1993)
Between The Wars (1995)
Acoustic Evening With Al Stewart (1998)
Down In The Cellar (2000)
Time Passages Live (2002)
A Beach Full Of Shell (2005)
Sparks Of Ancient Light (2008)

Genre: Rock

Origin UK

Added: November 25th 2001
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 692
Language: english


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