31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2004
"Year of the Cat" has nine songs, and I think seven of them rate five stars, and the other two a mere four stars. I won't tell you which ones, because every listener will have a different preference. This is a stronger disc overall than "Time Passages" although the title song on that one is even better than "Year of the Cat". Al has many great songs scattered through his other releases, especially the historical sagas, so in his case, I do recommend "Greatest Hits" or "Song on the Radio" as the starter kits, with "Year of the Cat" a third choice as one's introduction to Al. If you like your initial dose of Mr. Stewart, then you are ready for songs such as "Road to Moscow" and "Nostradmus" and "Ryiad." Look them up and give them a chance. Al was filling a need in the '70's and '80's, combining a folk feel, with rock underpinnings, but writing lengthy sagas about obscure historical moments which had intellectual appeal. It's probably a love him or hate him kind of encounter, but a friend introduced me to his work around 1985 and it was love at first listen.
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2003
"Year Of The Cat" was Al Stewart's breakthrough hit in America. The album was produced by Alan Parsons, who also produced Pink Floyd's "Dark Side Of The Moon" to much acclaim. The remastering job done on this import CD is outstanding. Peter White's acoustic guitar playing, featured in the song "On The Border," especially sounds vibrant. The first bonus track is a live version of that song. The second bonus song, "Belsize Blues," was never officially released and alone is worth the price of this CD. More of a rocker than a blues number, it features a bluesy harmonica not heard elsewhere on the album. The lyrics flow along in a style very reminiscent of early Bob Dylan. The third bonus track is not a song at all. Al discusses the musicians who played on the album and briefly explains the meaning of each song. I highly recommend this import CD to all fans of Al Stewart.
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2000
Kireviewer - please stick to your Brittney Spears cds. Don't enter into the historical realm of a real musician and brilliant writer. (See review below) What is Lord Grenville? Get serious. It's an historical recreation of a real ship, in war time, which was facing many enemy vessels and instead of retreating - fought bravely to the death. "We won't be back again... won't be back again." Year Of The Cat is like a beautiful painting, each song a wonderful real-life historical story. Just the title song alone is such a masterpiece of modern music and poetry. "She goes strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre contemplating a crime... She comes out of the sun in a silk dress, running like a water colour in the rain." That's my favorite, but the smuggling ship in "On The Border" is a close second. "The ghost moon sails among the clouds... turns the riffles into silver, on the border." I wish there were more caring musicians like Al Stewart and his under-rated guitar playing. Don't forget to listen to the great Peter White's beautiful guitar. And the lyrics are absolutley unheard of today. Quality unprescidented.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2004
Years ago, Arista & Mobile Fidelity released Al Stewart's "Year Of The Cat" on CD & I purchased the MF version. Over the years I've played the two hits from this album ("On The Border" & the title track) but due to what I was doing at the time, the other tracks were passed over in favor of playing another CD or to do something else. When I learned that Rhino was releasing "Year Of The Cat" (with a sonic upgrade!), My interest in this album peaked once again so I purchased it while visiting New Jersey. One night I decided to play it as I went off to sleep. I couldn't get to sleep that night until I heard this masterpiece four times! This CD is loaded with artistic wit & creativity & I am shocked that I managed to go all this time without listening to these treasures. Rhino did a beautiful job remastering this album too. I have never heard such detail in this album as I did with this Rhino CD. When I play this CD now, I have to play the entire CD. The only way I can play the two individual tracks is if I happen to be playing a "Various Artists" CD or listening to the radio. If anyone I know tells me they have any of the original "Year Of The Cat" CD's, I will strongly insist that they upgrade to the Rhino version. Thanks to this CD (& Rhino), I am going back through all of my CD's to revisit them one track at a time. My only hope is that if I discover another overlooked treasure like this one, I hope Rhino is involved with the latest issue. "Year Of The Cat" is a stunning album! The Rhino CD sounds spectacular! I highly recommend this CD!---William F. Greco
44 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2001
It's increasingly fashionable to 'remaster' CDs; with some justification, as the technology has advanced in the years since albums like YOTC were first released digitally.
Personally, my ears aren't finely tuned enough to feel major benefit from this re-release, and my ancient sound system made no comment, so I have had to concentrate on the 'bonus tracks'
On the Border (live) is taken from the Chicago Radio sessions; it's a fine version, but technically hardly an advertisement for digital remastering. More seriously, those sessions included a ten-minute Year of the Cat, with a four minute keyboard intro, and marvellous sax solo - why isn't that one here?
Belsize Blues owes its presence here to its absence from other 'official' releases, though this version was first released on the unofficial Coldest Winter in Memory collection. The date suggests it could have been a rejected track from the original YOTC - though the flavour is five years earlier. The sleeve notes leave us none the wiser.
Story of the Songs is a commentary on the YOTC album by Al stewart; interesting, but hardly the sort of thing you'd listen to daily on your in-car stereo. Many of the concert albums include highly original and amusing intros, especially to YOTC itself; wouldn't the fictional explanations have been a better addition than a recorded sleeve note?
This remastered album will have nothing to say to new listeners, so it is clearly intended to persuade existing fans to part with their money. The die-hards will - as I did - and I don't regret it. But, by gum, I'd have been much, much happier spending a few dollars more on a proper job.
Picture it - a twin-cd set with the remastered YOTC on one disc, and the other featuring these bonus tracks, plus a selection of other live versions, complete with intro, guest artists - one YOTC even featured a guest singer - and a sleeve note that truly informed us about the collection, not just looked back to 1976.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2004
I've recently rediscovered this gem from the 70's. What a treat!
Happy, often joyous, alternately somber, tense or exciting melodies, and stories, yes, stories! Far too richly-produced and fully instrumented (with the able assistance of Alan Parsons, experienced from his work on classics like Abbey Road and Dark Side Of The Moon) to be called folk music, Al Stewart spins historical and personal tales with the best of the folk singers.
One warning - these are songs that may inspire you to fill your own life with adventure!
Though many regard Al Stewart as a folk/rock singer, no folk music fires me up like this! Highly recommended.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2003
I first heard Al Stewart when I was about 10 years old (as of this review, I am 24). My father owned a ragged cassette tape of songs copied from the Year of the Cat vinyl LP, which we played in the car and at home quite extensively. Even at such a tender age, I could feel the genuine emotions conveyed through his songs: the sympathetic lamentations of "Lord Grenville," the cinematic seclusion of "Broadway Hotel," and the haunting remembrance of the title song. As I grew older into my teens, I went through a phase of musical exploration one might expect of someone at that stage of adolescence, seeking much more aggressive and noise-oriented forms of musical expression to placate the confusion of discomforts stirring within me, and thus I ignored the auditory pleasantries of childhood. But when I entered college and came to know myself more maturely, I started feeling a yearning for certain nostalgic facets of my past, and this album was one of them. How wonderful it was to find the CD here on Amazon.com!
Even as I listen to it now, I still find previously unnoticed nuances. Aside from the brilliant music contained on this album, I have also come to recognize how incredible the production was for its time (1976), as well as the usage of rather advanced synthesizers for subtle melodic support. The music itself is compelling in its atmosphere and timelessness, compared to what was then more popular. The guitar solos still ring true with clarity (not to mention the stylistic drum work and bass lines), never meandering away from their purpose, and Al's to-the-point style of singing is comforting like an honest friend.
There are so many exceptional songs on this album, spanning a wide range of places, moods, and even time periods. As a child, "Lord Grenville" was always my favorite, but now that I am a singer myself, I have grown partial to "One Stage Before." Its candid lyrics and dream-like vocal effects speak clearly to a musician's heart. He is truly a modern troubador, exploring love and sadness in equal measure.
Year of the Cat is a classic on so many levels, and while my college peers are content to surrender themselves to more contemporary sounds (as am I when the mood strikes me), it is unfortunate that many of my generation will miss out on this treasure of songs simply because of its "antiquity."
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2000
Sometimes an album can be summed up prefectly in one song...more often than not, by the single. (Think Fleetwood Mac Tusk or U2's With and Without You from the Joshua Tree) So it is with Year of The Cat. The world of course is filled with great singles...but every now and then one comes along that passes a little thing I call the Blue Moon test. Imagine it's 1956 and you are a young teen in America...and suddenly Blue Moon as sung by Elvis on Sun records drifts out of that tiny radio on your bedside table. It sounds like it is from another world...another time...and unlike many great radio singles...it always sounds like that. Years later when it comes on, it doesn't sound like a song that moved you in 1956, it still sounds like it did then...out of place with everything else on the radio. Very few bands have singles like this...Born To Run by Bruce, Don't Fear The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult, When Doves Cry and Kiss by Prince, Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone, I am The Walrus by the Beatles, Creep by Radiohead, She's Gone by Hall and Oats, Dreams by Fleetwood Mac, Billie Jean by Michael Jackson, these are just a few...Year of the Cat is another. The song sets the tone for the entire album...the mood. Smart lyrics, a touching voice that floats above the precision band and stunning guitar work by Peter White and Al Stewart. The arrangements are delicate, yet hook you in, and the production is clean...not overly slick, but polished the way you would expect from Alan Parson, man at the board on his work, Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon and Let It Be. The other songs on the album lead you to Year of the Cat like a road map. They mark the way, build up a sense of drama that something is coming...and yet, they all still manage to hold their own. In fact, the best songs on the album work becuase of this drama...they don't just tell a story, they set up the conflict, lyrically and musically. Broadway Hotel, Sand in Your Shoes, Flying Sorcery, the rocker (for Al anyway) If It Doesn't Come Naturally Leave it, and the other hit, On the border all pull you and leave you wanting more...expecting more...and then, Year Of The Cat delivers the pay-off. If all you have ever heard from this album are the two singles, you owe it to yourself to hear them in context.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 1999
Al Stewart is the best writer in music (period). Year Of The Cat matches his often historical lyrics with wonderful tunes as good an anything ever recorded. A rare match. One of the best albums/cds ever. A learning, moving, picturesque trip through the world of Al Stewart. His best work. Writing from the song "On The Border" reads - The fishing boats go out across the evening water/Smuggling guns and arms across the Spanish border/The wind whips up the waves so loud/The ghost moon sails among the clouds/Turns the rifles into silver on the border. - If you can appreciate lyrics like that you'll get a good fill in Year Of The Cat. Intellectual words, mixed with the amazing guitar playing of both Al and the great Peter White.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Besides singing about weighty topics such as Lord Grenville and smuggling, Al Stewart also shows that he can be both romantic and whimsical. The images of the women he conjures up in song are of women who are happy, independent, and confident. "If It Doesn't Come Naturally, Leave It" is a perfect example. On the more pensive side, there is "Broadway Hotel". "One Stage Before" is a mystical song with a theosophical bent as are many of his songs to this day. The title track, although overplayed on the radio the year it was released, remains a pleasure to hear. For those unfamiliar with Al Stewart, YOTC is a perfect way to begin enjoying him as it remains one of his most intellectually accessible albums.