Al Stewart

Orange/Past, Present & Future/Modern Times

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This nicely priced box rounds up the three albums that immediately preceded Al Stewart's Year of the Cat-shaped breakthrough -- that is, his fourth, fifth, and sixth albums from 1972 (Orange), 1973 (Past, Present and Future), and 1975 (Modern Times). They are not necessarily comfortable bedmates. Orange, in particular, finds Stewart still very much in the arms of his early precocious folkiness but, even at the time, paled in comparison with the three albums that preceded it. Past, Present and Future, on the other hand, represents a considerable vault into new territory, as Stewart's storywriting skills join forces with his punchiest band sound yet to begin scheming the cat's ascendancy. By the time listeners reach Modern Times, then, the future is already in sight and, if that album has one major flaw, it's that Stewart would do the whole thing a lot better next time around. Still, each of these albums packs its share of Stewart classics, from the semi-frenzied "Carol" to the moody "Soho (Needless to Say)" and on to the epic "Nostradamus," all of which remind listeners just how desperately the world needs an all-encompassing Al Stewart box set.

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