Published on April 21st, 2015 | by Kim Kurtenbach


Al Stewart – Year of the Cat


Kim unearths a Brittish/Scottish 70s record that contains the hearty musical DNA of artists like David Bowie, Nick Drake, Donavan, George Harrison, and Paul Simon.

This mid-70s lush gem of British pop/rock is not to be missed. While Stewart is actually Scottish, the sound and vibe of the album fit somewhere in the ‘Space Oddity’ or ‘Hunky Dory’ sounds of Bowie, with a voice not far off that of the Thin White Duke himself, or perhaps Donovan. How I discovered this record lends to my fondness of it, for sure.

Contributing members of The Feedback Society reminded me before tackling this assignment that the purpose of writing these articles was not just writing them, but also having an excuse to discuss music with friends. So, I made it a specific point to make a couple of hours for beer and records with a co-worker who had recently purchased a turntable and speakers. He finally set something up to breath life into a few milk cartons of records he had begun collecting as a teenager. Since most of the records in his collection are from the mid-70s to the early-80s, I figure he spent 10 years playing the shit out of them, followed my thirty more years of inertia. As he played some of his favourites for me and opened cold beer as needed, he grinned when he put this on. He coaxed me to “name that album,” but I couldn’t because I had never heard of it before. He thought this to be strange, but this isn’t really the kind of thing that’s still shaking the world of rock.

‘Year of the Cat’ remains an excellent album of well-crafted songs with competent musicians and above average production, but it hasn’t transcended generations in the way more recognized (James Taylor, T.Rex, Bryan Ferry) artists have. This is possibly due to the fact that the stretch of ‘Year of the Cat’ is in the way it pushes into the territory of Spanish guitar, some world music influence, and unique — if not outright startling — rhythms. When the opening track, ‘Lord Granville,’ begins, the Bowie sound is pretty obvious, but the album doesn’t escalate into the unleashed electric guitar experiments or the sonic blowouts (‘Memory of a Free Festival,’ ‘Queen Bitch’) that Bowie seemed to always weave into the crescendo of his albums.

‘Year of the Cat’ is a fine feline indeed, but it really is more of a Sunday morning record, or something that is in the background when you’re chilling out or working on a project. Maybe it’s a dinner record. In today’s world of multi-artist collaboration, ‘Year of the Cat’ sounds a little like Bowie, George Harrison, Donovan, Paul Simon, and Nick Drake all playing hot potato with an album project, and those ingredients sound like the makings of a pretty delicious meal. Notable tracks: ‘Lord Granville’; ‘On the Border’; ‘Sand in Your Shoes’; ‘Flying Sorcery.’

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is a Beatlemaniac who is constantly bemoaning the state of rock music. He is rueful of low ceilings, and helpful to strangers in supermarkets where the shelves are too high.

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