Al Stewart – Time Passages reissue review

2 09 2021

Cherry Red Records are releasing a deluxe 4 disc boxed set of Al Stewart’s 1978 album, Time Passages. A 2-CD version (without the extra live disc / 5.1 DVD) is also available.

The album has been newly remastered from the original first generation master tapes by Alan Parsons, and features bonus tracks, including single versions, demos and live tracks.

Disc four is a high resolution 96 Khz / 24-Bit 5.1 Alan Parsons surround sound mix, from the original multi-track tapes and the comprehensive booklet includes an exclusive interview with Al Stewart.

I (slightly) prefer Time Passages to it’s predecessor, the still wonderful Year Of The Cat. It captures that late 70s pop / rock feel so well.

The title track features some fine guitar work from Tim Renwick and the drums on the album are provided by Stuart Elliott (Kate Bush / Paul McCartney), with an appearance from the legendary Jeff Porcaro on the second track, Valentina Way.

Time Passages was recorded in Los Angeles, and the sound of the city seeps through on many of the tracks. The Palace of Versailles is an exception to this – with a European feel befitting the subject matter. Almost Lucy is driven by a fabulous percussion arrangement and contains one of the album’s most affecting vocal performances.

The acoustic flavoured Timeless Skies could have sat comfortably on one of America’s earlier albums. The second single from the album, Song on the Radio, has a delicious chorus, accompanied by a very much of it’s time sax solo. End of the Day is a gentle, jazzy end to the album. Disc one is complete with the up-tempo bonus track, Tonton Macoute, one of those songs where once you’ve heard it, it sticks in you brain for hours.

Disc two collects together single mixes, demos and live tracks. The demos are decent quality. Life In A Bottle reminds me a little of John Lennon in it’s arrangement. It’s a shame that a studio version of this song was not included on the main album. The Palace of Versailles demo is largely intact, but obviously lacking the final technicolour magic that would be applied by Alan Parsons.

The Hollywood Sign (on St. Stephen’s Day) aka TimeLess Skies finishes off the demo cuts (that also include an early demo of Tonton Macoute)

The remainder of disc two and the whole of disc 3 is made up of a good quality recording of Stewart’s show in Chicago from late October 1978. Al Stewart being a storyteller pays dividends in a live setting, with lots of gentle between song chat and background info for some of the tracks. Time Passages, The Palace of Versailles, a 10 minute Year of the Cat and The Pink Panther Theme (as a way of introducing the band) are my favourite live cuts in this collection.

Disc 4 (not supplied for review) contains the new high resolution 96 Khz / 24-Bit 5.1 surround sound mix & original re-mastered stereo mix By Alan Parsons. This is the definitive version of a classic late seventies album, that still hits the spot if you love music from this era.

Buy Al Stewart Time Passages (3CD/1DVD Limited Edition Box Set)
Buy Al Stewart Time Passages (2CD Expanded Edition) – remastered album + single mixes, 4 demos & 6 live tracks


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