Deep Dive: Al Stewart, PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE
Today we celebrate the birthday of British singer-songwriter Al Stewart, the man who provided us with such ‘70s standards as “Year of the Cat,” “On the Border,” and “Time Passages.” To commemorate the occasion, however, we’re bypassing the albums that contain those classics in favor of highlighting an earlier album, one which is generally seen as Stewart’s breakthrough LP.
And why is PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE viewed as a breakthrough for Stewart? It’s a fair question, and we’ll happily provide you with the answer: it’s because it was the first time he’d managed to trouble the Billboard 200 with his presence.
Recorded at Trident Studios in London and produced by John Anthony, PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE found Stewart stepping away from the more overtly folk-oriented material of his previous work, instead opting to adopt a historical theme for the album. Virtually every song represents a different decade of the 20th century up to that point, with the exception being the final song, “Nostradamus,” the subject of which is just as obvious as you’d think. As it happens, it was that song which Stewart’s US label selected as the first single, with his UK label instead opting for “Terminal Eyes.” In the end, neither of them charted.
Fortunately, however, PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE itself did chart, climbing to #133 on the Billboard 200, and the album has remained a favorite of Stewart’s fans, with many of them showing a particular fondness for “Roads to Moscow,” the eight-minute song that kicks off side two.
“That’s probably my most requested song,” Stewart told the website The Strange Brew. “I can’t seem to do a gig without people asking for it. If I had known that when I wrote it, I’d have made it a lot shorter!”
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