Thursday, 10 January 2019
Al Stewart - Love Chronicles (1969)
Released September 1969
This was Al Stewart's second album and he wisely ditched the string orchestration of his 1967 debut album and went for a more full on folk/rock backing, employing members of Fairport Convention and also Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page on the epic eighteen-minute title track. The result is a far more folky, narrative song-style album. It is far more an early seventies album than the previous one, which was very much of its 1967 time. The front and back cover are decidedly late sixties however.
1. In Brooklyn
2. Old Compton Street Blues
3. The Ballad Of Mary Foster
4. Life And Life Only
5. You Should Have Listened To Al
6. Love Chronicles
"In Brooklyn" is so Dylanesque it almost is Dylan, lyrically and in the electric guitar backing at times. At other times, though, Stewart has his own stamp on it. "Old Compton Street Blues" references the now gay area of London. This is a tale of Stewart and a girlfriend however. It is not really bluesy, more melodic soft rock, with a lovely drum, bass and both acoustic and electric guitars. The vocal is very David Bowie in style. You can hear Bowie's 1971 "Hunky Dory" album in this, surely Bowie would have listened to this. This is the influencer in many ways.
"The Ballad Of Mary Foster" is an extended Dylan-influenced folk narrative, full of beguiling, interesting, story-telling lyrics. It was a hard-hitting song that showed considerable development from the first album's material. This was a singer-songwriter really learning his craft. "Life And Life Only" is a solid, muscularly-backed Beatles-esque piece of folk rock. This is really good stuff. There is some excellent guitar on it, particularly at the end. I have always had a problem with Stewart's slightly effeminate bleat of a voice on 1976's iconic "Year Of The Cat" album, but on here, while still high in pitch, it is stronger and more pointed in its diction and delivery.
"You Should Have Listened To Al" has a lively, solid rock intro and although the voice doesn't quite match the backing, it is a riffy, pleasant, upbeat number. The backing reminds me of the era's folk rock group - obviously Fairport Convention, but also Pentangle and Fotheringay. Then comes the title track, with Jimmy Page supplying guitar backing as Stewart tells us all about his girlfriends, from first kissing Christine at ten years old. It is an autobiographical that tells not only of his love interests but also of his school days. It was quite a controversial song for 1969, graphically telling of his physical encounters. It is a delight to listen to, almost like reading a book. Musically, there are some effective changes of pace which keep the track from getting too one-paced.
Never mind "Year Of The Cat", this is an excellent album. If you like late sixtes/early seventies folk rock, you will love this. It is well worth tracking it down as I did, you won't regret it. Fifty years on now, this still sounds so vibrant and fresh. Highly recommended.
- January 10, 2019