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Past, Present & Future

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Album Review

As good as portions of it were, Orange was essentially a transitional effort, the necessary bridge to Past, Present & Future, the record where Al Stewart truly begins to discover his voice. This is largely through his decision to indulge his fascination with history and construct a concept album that begins with "Old Admirals" and ends with "Nostradamus" and his predictions for the future. A concept like this undoubtedly will strike prog warning bells in the minds of most listeners but, ironically, he has stripped back most of the prog trappings from Orange, settling into a haunting folk bed for these long, winding tales. If anything, this results in an album that is a bit too subdued, but even so, it's apparent that Stewart has finally found his muse, focusing his songwriting and intent to a greater extent than ever before. Now, the key was to find the same sense of purpose in record-making — he didn't quite get it here, but he would the next time around.

Customer Reviews

his best non pop

an album with historical meaning, and a sense of purpose, I bought it when it came out as an album 30 yrs ago and rebought it on itunes. brings back fond memories. hope to see his show tonight 9/30/06 in phoenixville pa, but it's been sold out a while.

A truly missed gem

Like a really good actor who becomes known for one role, or a writer who pens one great novel for which they are identified forever, Al Stewart is blessed/ cursed to be known forwever for "Year of the Cat". While YOTC is certainly good music, and I'm certain Al isn't bemoaning the handsome royalities he gets every time the song plays in a hotel elevator, it is not the best of what he has produced. PPF is a beautiful, complex and haunting album. With songs like The last day of June, 1934 and Road to Moscow, Stewart transports us to dark places and dark times, and yet makes us feel as though we are experiencing them as the very real people who lived through them. This is a monumental talent. "Soho needless to say" is a profane, poetic elegy to urban London- akin to Simon and Garfunkel's "A Simple Desultory Phillipic" The showpiece of the album ( some would argue "Roads" is the showpiece) is Nostradamus. A mesmerizing look at time. Aside frm the occult aspects of the subject, which is secondary, the song neatly encapuslates five hundred years if history and offers the pointed observation "man, man your time is sand, your ways are leaves upon the sea". If you like Fairport Covention, Nick Drake you should defeintely get this album.

Post-war baby in a small Scots town

Astounding poetic verse, alluringly obscure historical references, beautifully complex guitar rhythms. This is surely one of Al's best; certainly it is the album where he clearly defines his style and "voice" that he was testing out in Modern Times and Orange. I find it somewhat disturbing that you can get ringtones of Roads to Moscow, a ballad about the horrors of war. It just seems inappropriate to me.


Born: September 5, 1945 in Greenock, Scotland

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Scottish singer/songwriter Al Stewart has been an amazingly prolific and successful musician across 50 years, working in a dizzying array of stylistic modes and musical genres -- in other words, he's had a real career, and has done it without concerning himself too much about trends and the public taste. He's been influenced by several notables, to be sure, including his fellow Scot (and slightly younger contemporary) Donovan, as well as Ralph McTell, Bob Dylan, and John Lennon -- but apart from...
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