History man Al Stewart digs deep for musical 'time passages'

Mon Aug 11, 2014 11:59am EDT
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By Nigel Stephenson

CROPREDY England (Reuters) - As Al Stewart tells it, every singer starts off writing love songs - but a "disastrous" affair made his efforts so downbeat one reviewer suggested he give it a miss.

So Scottish born Stewart, who later had global hits in the mid-1970s with his "Year of the Cat" and "Time Passages" albums, decided to look elsewhere for inspiration.

He is folk-music's history man.

"The only thing I'd done, religiously since I was at school, was to read history. I used to just devour the stuff," Stewart told Reuters backstage at Fairport's Cropredy Convention festival in rural Oxfordshire over the past weekend.

What followed, in 1974, was "Past, Present and Future", an album largely of songs telling stories from history. It outsold his previous four albums combined, he said.

"I thought there's probably room in the world for one historical folk rock singer and no one else wanted the job," he said. Since then, he says, he has written about 100 such songs.

"One of the great things about it is that you never run out of material."

The penultimate song of Stewart's set in front of some 20,000 fans at Cropredy was from "Past, Present and Future".   Continued...