Sunday, September 22, 2013

Al Stewart - Time Passages

This month marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of Time Passages, the eighth studio release from Scottish singer-songwriter Al Stewart. This 1978 album, which went to number 39 in the UK and number 10 on the US Billboard Album chart, was produced by Alan Parsons.

Side one begins with the title track. “Time Passages” was released as the first single; it went to number 7 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 1 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart (where it spent ten weeks at that spot). The six-and-a-half minute album version features an extended saxophone solo by Phil Kenzie. I remember this song playing a lot on the radio back in the late 1970’s; it has the feeling of a comforting blanket on a cold winter’s day.

The rocking “Valentina Way” is about getting back on the dating horse after experiencing a bad relationship.

“Life in Dark Water” is a tale of a lonely man in a submarine, deep beneath the ocean. It also makes reference to the Marie Celeste, a British-American merchant ship from the late 1800’s. I like how it ends with just the eerie sound of sonar picking up a single object within range.

The B-side to the second single was “A Man for All Seasons”, a piece about a man reflecting upon his life. Stewart again pulls in a historical reference, this time with Sir Thomas More who served under King Henry VIII in the early 1500’s.

Side two starts with “Almost Lucy”, the B-side to the first single. This tale of a dim woman who suddenly finds enlightenment has a folk-country rhythm to it.

The days of the French Revolution in the late 1700’s is the subject of “The Palace of Versailles”.

I like the gentle tumbling of the guitars on “Timeless Skies”. Its relaxing flow reminds me of being a kid and lying in the grass, eyes skyward to watch the summer clouds gently float by high above me.

“Song on the Radio”, the second single, peaked at number 29 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 10 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. It captures that moment when a song triggers a memory from your past. Again, Kenzie’s sax is prominent.

“End of the Day” closes out the album and includes Peter White on acoustic guitar.

Al Stewart writes songs that you really have to listen to a number of times for the lyrical themes to really sink in. Luckily, the nine on Time Passages have solid and often soothing musical arrangements that make that task more of a pleasure than a chore. I was very familiar with the hit single from this one thanks to many years of pop radio listening as a teenager. However, I did find a number of deep tracks upon this first full listen through that I would definitely like to revisit again.

No comments: