Friday, 18 January 2019

Al Stewart - Modern Times (1975)


Released January 1975

This album was the one which saw Al Stewart make the transition from narrative, folk rock singer to being a well-produced, slick, polished, AOR, mainstream radio-friendly artist. Alan Parsons is the producer and he came up with a lush, layered, high quality sound production. The previous album had been full of historical narrative folk tales. Here the songs are more relationship ones and far more commercial in their feel. So begins Al Stewart's classic pop rock classic period, typified by songs that have both a comforting, laid-back feel but also a beguiling lyrical nature. The sound quality on the latest remaster is superb too.


1. Carol
2. Sirens Of Titan
3. What's Going On?
4. Not The One
5. Next Time
6. Apple Cider Re-Constitution
7. The Dark And Rolling Sea
8. Modern Times

"Carol" is a melodic polished opener with airs of John Lennon about it, in the vocal delivery and hints of Paul McCartney and Steve Harley in the backing. There are both electric and acoustic guitars interplaying most convincingly. "Sirens of Titan" is short, but catchy in its poppy, laid-back feel. "What's Going On?" is so Beatles-esque and could well have been on "Help!" or "Rubber Soul". Stewart makes it his own, however, with a sumptuous acoustic guitar solo in the middle and some excellent harmonica near the end. "Not The One" is a gentle, soft rock ballad. All very melodic and sensitive, thoughtful lyrics.

"Next Time" has an an acoustic guitar riff straight off "Led Zeppelin III" and a haunting feel to its quiet vocals. The title of "Apple Cider Re-Constitution" sounds like something off George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass", by its title,  but it is a vibrant, rocking Dylanesque "Blonde On Blonde" era number. It is a most appealing, captivating track. The bass and lead guitar and drum sound are all pretty infectious. "The Dark And Rolling Sea" is a seafaring, folky tale that has its melody based on the old Irish folk song "The Maid Of County Down". The title track is an extended melodious soft rock/folky number with more of those enigmatic lyrics. There hints of Dylan here and there on this one too. There is a grandeur to this track, and indeed to the whole album. It is always worth a listen.


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