Caros audiophiles, there are many artists who, whatever other great works they have sung or written or painted, are forever associated with one particular masterpiece. Al Stewart is one such artist. Perhaps his name may not immediately be familiar to everyone, but almost everyone will recognise the timeless classic song, and album, for which he will always be remembered, Year Of The Cat.
For me, the song's evocative descriptive lyrical imagery, recalling the film Casablanca, and the seductive saxophone in its musical soundscape transports me to summer days in some unspecified exotic place.
The first thing I ever knew about Al Stewart, even before I heard his songs, was that he was expelled from a boarding school near mine, filling me with the horror and curiosity of a conformist teenager. Listening to his cultured voice he does not sound much like a rebel but he was caught soming 'pot' I think, and later according to his biography he was the first songwriter to include 'f**k' in a lyric.
The first album I heard was Modern Times, and I particularly liked the title song about meeting an old schoolfriend in a bar and reminiscing about the old days but the schoolfriend seems neither to want to remember the past nor to engage with the present.
Al Stewart wrote many story songs of historical people and events, in particular on his album Past Present Future. My favourite here, for the poignant lyric and spanish guitar, is Roads to Moscow about the terrible fate under Stalin's tyranny of so many Red Army soldiers after they returned from five years fighting for Mother Russia against Hitler; Stalin did not trust the power of the military and many were executed or sent to Siberia labour camps.