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Three iffy and two great albums, cherry-picked for the series, some milestone works missing
on 30 January 2014
A great way to fill in some mssing slots in my Al Stewart collection, but those new to this colourful character, beware - these titles have obviously been cherry-picked for the Original Album Series, and are not consecutive releases, as is the case with most other artists in this amazing value set series.
The three early albums here demonstrate precisely why Al Stewart failed to hit the big time with his early career. Yes, he was an excellent songwriter, yes he had a unique, delicate, very honest and radio-friendly voice, yes he could play his own instruments, and yes he could spin a good lyric or two....but unfortunately he could just not bring all these things together with his studio work. So the first three albums here don't hold anything more than demo-like scratchings. If you have a producer's ear, and I've been told by some that I have one of those, you'll be able to see how the tracks could have been greatly improved, but as they stand they are just a little too dead-pan and fall into that category of "shouldn't be let out alone".
Year of the Cat and Time Passages brought him deservedly huge success particularly in the USA, but strangely not in the UK, and they alone make this set worth buying.
Sadly missing is the milestone album Past, Present and Future, which first brought him to the attention of the serious music audience, notably with the electracoustic guitar epic Eyes of Nastradamus, and a prog-themed ballad Roads to Moscow --- it seems ridiculous that this album wasn't included here, and if you want to hear his real five-star-rated work, hunt that one out right away.
Two more great Stewart albums that could have replaced the iffy selections here are Russians and Americans and Between the Wars.
So my rating of three stars for this set derives from an assessment of all five albums here, not just the two big ones that other reviewers and commentators seem to focus on, ignoring the rest,