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Articles Home » 1976 Articles » Stewart, Al - 1976 Year Of The Cat
Stewart, Al - 1976 Year Of The Cat

ARTIST: Stewart, Al
ALBUM: Year Of The Cat
YEAR: 1976
CD REISSUE: 1988, RCA, RCD-11749 * 2004, Mobile Fidelity, MFCD 803 (limited edition)


LINEUP: Al Stewart - vocals, guitar, keyboards

Peter White - guitar, keyboards * Tim Renwick - guitar * Andrew Powell - string arrangements * Bobby Bruce - violin * Marion Driscoll - percussion * Stuart Elliott - drums, percussion * George Ford - bass * Phil Kenzie - alto saxophone * Don Lobster, Peter Wood - keyboards * Graham Smith - harmonica * John G. Perry, David Pack, Tony Rivers - background vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Lord Grenville * 02 On The Border * 03 Mida's Shadow * 04 Sand In Your Shoes * 05 If It Doesn't Come Naturally, Leave It * 06 Flying Sorcery * 07 Broadway Hotel * 08 One Stage Before * 09 Year Of The Cat


If you conjure up the words 'Scottish' and 'folk music' and join them together, what's the first thing that comes into your mind? Billy Connolly perhaps? If not, how about Al Stewart? You know the guy, and the handful of songs that made him a bucketload of money during the 1976-1978 era. Though born in Scotland Alastair Stewart was bought up on the south coast of England in Dorset, during his formative years. Moving to London aged 19 with nothing more than the clothes on his back, Stewart set about his plan of playing folk rock to the masses, and was well immersed in the scene during the 60's along with many other famous names too numerous to mention here. His output was significant through the mid-late 60's and into the early 70's, with many albums being released. However, it was during the period where Al worked alongside noted engineer/producer Alan Parsons that his career took off. Well known for blending in historical references into his previous material, he mostly put that on the backburner for his classic 70's LP 'Year Of The Cat', where the material is light, fluffy and harmless, a formula which caught on with the masses, the album selling like hotcakes.

The Songs
Of course the two most popular tracks here are the title track 'Year Of The Cat', which was put well down the track order listing (the last track in fact) and the beautiful airy Spanish flamenco flavour of 'On The Border'. Both song went high into the Billboard charts and did well right around the globe. It wasn't just a two horse race with those songs. Other gems appear throughout. The opening track 'Lord Grenville' is a nautical tale of Sir Richard Grenville, who was a captain/sailor during Elizabethan times. The light exotic sound of 'Midas Shadow' with its west coast Rhodes keyboard wash and nifty solo is appealing, so too is the light pub-rock flight of fancy tune that is 'Sand In Your Shoes'.. 'so it's goodbye to my lady of the islands..' 'Flying Sorcery' is another fantastic track, mixing up an acoustic delivery with a backdrop of organ and harmonica, but it's the neat chorus 'are you there, in your jacket with the grease stain and the tear, caught up in the slipstream of the dare..' 'Broadway Hotel' is a swaying and swinging style of folk/pop with a violin solo added for effect. Let's not forget the atmosphere built up on 'On Stage Before', full of ambience and melody.

In Summary
The two main tracks on the album still receive substantial airplay to this day, but in retrospect, Stewart bemoans the fact that people pigeon-hole his work down to a handful of tracks, without giving due consideration to a vast catalogue of work pre and post 1975-1977. Like many who found fame and success in the 70's, the 80's was less kind to Stewart who found waning audiences and departing record labels. However, time and longevity has worked in his favour, as much of his later work has been well received, and he continues to tour strongly throughout North America. Stewart has been a resident in California now for many years. Perhaps it's time for you to rediscover a classic 70's pop album all over again..

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#1 | Eric on November 09 2010 12:25:21
Huge fan, from his 1975 album 'Modern Times' forward. 'Broadway Hotel' got a lot of air play back then too. Classic stuff...Thumbs Up
#2 | Nick C on November 13 2010 13:42:37
Nice album, my missus almost ruined it for me as she thought parts of it sounded like The Pet Shop Boys... Shock But still love it.
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