Deep Dive: Al Stewart in the ‘80s

Tuesday, September 5, 2017
Deep Dive: Al Stewart in the ‘80s

The 1970s was a very good decade to be Al Stewart: thanks to such major hits as “Year of the Cat,” “On the Border,” and “Time Passages,” the Glasgow-born, Dorset-raised singer/songwriter became a big name on both sides of the pond and remains familiar to radio listeners even now. When the ‘80s beckoned, however, Stewart’s profile began to shrink somewhat, and as his music fell out of favor with radio programmers, it’s easy to understand how many of his more casual fans might well have believed that he simply wasn’t releasing music anymore.

As it happens, Stewart was very much still releasing music, and the three albums he recorded during the course of the 1980s are all well worth hearing, should you be of a mind to give them a spin.

24 CARROTS (1980): To be fair, it’s not entirely impossible that you could have heard one of the three singles released from this album, which featured Stewart playing with the backing band Shot in the Dark. There are some truly amazing harmonies on the song “Midnight Rocks,” which is likely why the track did manage to climb to #24 on the Billboard Hot 100, but neither of the follow-up singles – “Mondo Sinistro” and “Paint by Numbers” – made a dent in the US or in the UK. If you watch the “Mondo Sinistro” video carefully, you may recognize Stewart’s waitress, especially if you imagine her with long black hair and introducing low-budget horror movies. (Is that enough of a clue?)

RUSSIANS & AMERICANS (1984): If you came of age in the ‘80s, then you know just how topical Stewart was being with this album. Indeed, one could argue that it’s topical all over again, but let’s steer clear of politics and stick to talking about the music, which is as strong as ever. It’s a shame it didn’t do better.

LAST DAYS OF THE CENTURY (1988): Although it’s arguably best known these days for featuring backing vocal assistance from a soon-to-be star – stand up, please, Tori Amos – and definitely has several tracks which couldn’t possibly sound more like they were recorded in the ‘80s, there are still some great moments here, most notably “Red Toupee” and, provided you can get past the electronic drum sound, the album’s single, “King of Portugal.”

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