Al Stewart / Shot in the Dark

24 Carrots

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The pun of the title of 24 Carrots -- the first overt signal of humor Al Stewart has displayed in years, possibly ever -- illustrates that a lot has changed since 1978's Time Passages. The loosening of his wit is perhaps the most evident, but the most significant is the departure of producer Alan Parsons, who collaborated with Stewart on his mid-'70s triptych of masterpieces. In truth, 24 Carrots isn't far removed from those high points, because he is indeed still writing at a remarkably consistent pace. No, this record isn't quite at the high standard of the previous three albums, but it does have a number of brilliant moments, from the opening "Running Man" through the silly but effective "Mondo Sinistro" and the gorgeous "Midnight Rocks." Though there are some songs that don't quite click (something that did not happen on the aforementioned trio), overall the record coheres nicely, thanks not just to the uniform classiness of Stewart's songs, but to his production with Chris Desmond. Although the production does hint at the antiseptic cleanliness that sank many of his latter-day recordings, here, it is just a perfect balance of audio precision and elegant studiocraft. Despite its occasional missteps, it still is a fine record, a fitting, wistful coda to Stewart's classic period. [The 2007 Collectors' Choice Music reissue included three different bonus tracks than those found on the 1980 Razor & Tie edition.]

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