Al Stewart Biography

5 September 1945, Greencock, near Glasgow, Scotland. Stewart first came to prominence during the folk boom of the mid-60s. His musical career began in Bournemouth, England where he played guitar, backing Tony Blackburn in the Sabres. In 1965, he moved to London, played at various folk clubs and shared lodgings with Jackson C. Frank, Sandy Denny and Paul Simon. Stewart was signed to Decca Records in 1966 and released one unsuccessful single, ‘The Elf’, featuring Jimmy Pag e on lead guitar. The following year, he joined CBS Records and released the acoustic, string-accompanied, introspective Bedsitter Images. The succeeding Love Chronicles, a diary of Stewart’s romantic life, was most notable for the lengthy title track and the fact that it used a contentious word (‘fucking’) in an allegedly artistic context. The singer’s interest in acoustic folk continued on Zero She Flies, which featured the historical narrative ‘Manuscript’. Stewart’s interest in the confessional love song reached its conclusion on Orange, with the impressive ‘Night Of The 4th Of May’. This was followed by his most ambitious work, Past, Present And Future. Pursuing his interest in historical themes, Stewart presented some of his best acoustic workouts in the impressive ‘Roads To Moscow’ and epic ‘Nostradamus’. A considerable gap ensued before the release of Modern Times, which saw Stewart making inroads into the American market for the first time.

After leaving CBS and signing to RCA Records, he relocated to California, teamed up with producer Alan Parsons, and surprised many with the commercial power of his celebrated Year Of The Cat, which reached the US Top 10. The title track also gave Stewart a US Top 10 hit. A switch of label in America to Arista Records preceded Time Passages, which suffered by comparison with its predecessor. The title track became his biggest hit single when it reached number 7 in the US. The underrated 24 Carrots was succeeded by a one side studio/three sides live album, which merely consolidated his position. With 1984’s Russians & Americans Stewart embraced a more noticeable political stance, but the sales were disappointing.

Legal and contractual problems effectively deterred him from recording for four years until the welcome, if portentous, Last Days Of The Century. During that time he set about expanding his impressive cellar of vintage French wines, a subject on which he has become something of an authority. He also toured extensively as a solo artist or with pianist/guitarist Peter White, a partnership captured on the 1992 live set Rhymes In Rooms. Stewart also records with ex-Wings guitarist Laurence Juber, although releases are few and far between. Despite his commercial breakthrough in the 70s, he remains an underrated performer.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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