Al Stewart,
The First Album
(1967; Collectors Choice, 2007)

The subtitle "Bed Sitter Images" gives us a good inkling of what to expect on Al Stewart's aptly titled The First Album, as does the subtitle of his biography: The True Life Adventures of a Folk Rock Troubadour.

The album is retro in the best possible way. His influences from the folk scene of the 1960s like Donovan and Sandy Denny are clear, as is the influence of the pop music of the period. There are distinctly Beatles moments, too, as you listen to some of the 15 tracks on offer.

Stewart's story songs are sometimes starkly autobiographical-sounding, with titles like "The Carmichaels" and " Denise at 16." Perhaps the singer-songwriter he reminds me of most is Ralph McTell. He has that same clear sound and the uncanny knack of telling a simple story that if we listen has layers of meaning. Nowhere is this more obvious than on "Cleave to Me" and "Pretty Golden Hair."

It is actually like a breath of fresh air to be able to time shift back to 1967 in song and realize the power of some of the material that was being written and recorded four decades ago. Even if you never experienced the '60s you will enjoy this album. If you did live through it -- and remember it -- this release will have added value.

review by
Nicky Rossiter

1 September 2007

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