Time passages – tribute to Al Stewart

If you do not know the soothing voice and beautiful guitar playing of Alastair Ian Stewart, please check him out by his shorter name – Al Stewart. Hailing from Britain, Stewart’s most popular songs were overshadowed by more dance oriented songs of the mid-1970s.

Yet, three of his songs did get ample recognition, yet even now people may hear them and say who sang that? “Time passages” is my favorite, but his biggest hit was “Year of the cat.” He also got notoriety for “On the border.” Here are sample lyrics from these three songs:

Time passages

“Well I’m not the kind to live in the past
The years run too short and the days too fast
The things you lean on are the things that don’t last
Well it’s just now and then my line gets cast into these
Time passages
There’s something back here that you left behind
Oh time passages
Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight”

Year of the cat

“On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time
You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime
She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolor in the rain
Don’t bother asking for explanations
She’ll just tell you that she came
In the year of the cat”

On the border

“The fishing boats go out across the evening water,
Smuggling guns and arms across the Spanish border.
The wind whips up the waves so loud,
The ghost moon sails among the clouds,
And turns the rifles into silver,
On the border.”

But, his great songs go much deeper than these three – “Carol,” “Songs on the radio,” and “In Brooklyn,” to name a few.  I have CD of his greatest hits and it offers a terrific soundtrack for a long drive. Per Wikipedia, “Stewart is a key figure in British music and he appears throughout the musical folklore of the revivalist era. He played at the first-ever Glastonbury Festival in 1970, knew Yoko Ono before she met John Lennon, shared a London flat with a young Paul Simon, and hosted at the Les Cousins folk club in London in the 1960s.”

To me, his music is a combination of well crafted lyrics, sung beautifully and accented by great accoustic guitar playing of Stewart and his mate Dave Nachmanoff. The latter is the one adding the terrific color to the songs. One of the more vivid lines Stewart penned is the reference to Peter Lorre strolling suspiciously through the crowds, as it evokes memories of “Casablanca.” Since that is my favorite movie, it is another reason to like Stewart

If you don’t know Al Stewart’s work, give him a listen. If you do, revisit an old friend.

1 thought on “Time passages – tribute to Al Stewart

  1. Note to Readers: As I was contemplating this post, I was thinking of contrasting Stewart to Gerry Rafferty, a Scottish singer known for three key songs as well – “Stuck in the middle with you,” “Baker Street,” and “Right down the line.” I think I will save Rafferty for a future post.

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