Album Review

Al Stewart – 24 Carrots 40th Anniversary edition: Album Review

Esoteric Records celebrate the anniversary of  24 Carrots by Al Stewart, which complemented a set of brilliant albums recorded with  Shot In The Dark in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Release date: 27th November 2020

Label: Esoteric Records

Format:   3 CD / download  + book

Just as I was awaiting  Mozart 230th Anniversary  remastered Magic Flute, with home and concert hall demo  cd and highlights of live DVD versions ( tongue definitely in cheek!) what should appear but another 40th Anniversary remaster CD,  demo and live versions of another  musical master albeit of more modern times (see what I did there?)

Al Stewart’s 24 Carrots, his follow up to  Time Passages and the popular Year Of The Cat have been reissued. In fact tracks off both these are honoured on the live CD, the title tracks On The Border and Broadway Hotel in particular given a lovely reggae feel.

Many would say this is his best period, both commercially and for more widespread renown particularly in the USA and it would be hard to disagree. For those of us who came in earlier around Love Chronicles when backed by Mr. Page and Fairport Convention may beg to differ.

Al, who can still fill theatres and attract festival gigs, had honed his songwriting craft on historically-based stories set in the rock medium and 24 Carrots gets its fair share of tales of yore and not so yore! Stories of Medieval wizardry to Ellis Island immigration are amongst them.

The initial recording wasn’t without its problems; inappropriate studios, musical differences, band commitments, producing issues and rewrites that all added up to a prolonged delay in completion.

Although  Peter White from Shot In The Dark, the band which backed Al Stewart throughout this successful period,  has co-writing status, this is essentially an Al Stewart album.  More strongly guitar-based album, Midnight Rocks, in particular, was given the Stewart approval after Peter White created the guitar riff and rebuilt the song when Arista wasn’t too enamoured with the original when released as a single.

The absence of the leadership and production powers of Alan Parsons was also bemoaned yet 24 Carrots is still given ‘Classic’ status and it is classic Al Stewart. It was given a harder edge with the likes of Mondo Sinistro aiming to combat the Punk era, fearing the Al Stewart sound would be outplayed by its brashness. 24 Carrots withstood the bashing and the test of time as Al and his music, from all his musical eras, is still going strong.

The album needed a tour to become commercially successful and Al was sent out to promote the album and tour as well as add to his growing knowledge of wine. (You would hardly expect John Lydon to do that…

The package is a real treat, with the album expanded by single versions of Running Man and Paint By Numbers; a demo CD from Davlen Studio, Los Angeles 1979 and a third disc covering a concert recorded at Hammersmith Odeon Theatre in 1980. The musical package is also accompanied by writings and an interview with Al Stewart. Anybody who has listened to Al’s raconteur skills will know this will be a fascinating read.

The demo CD also includes material that didn’t make the album, including the melodic Jackdaws and Running Of Bells, which probably didn’t meet the rockier stance they were trying to make.

Considering the live recording was 40 years ago it retains its freshness and gusto. Shot In The Dark were extremely able musicians with their own recording credentials and in fact  Constantinople on the album was intended as a track for the SITD album being simultaneously recorded. Comprising  Al’s co-writer  Peter White, Adam Yerman, Robin Lamble, Krysia Kristianne,  Brian Savage and Robin Marlene, the band may have hoped this collaboration with Stewart would have precipitated their own shot at world fame but sadly their esteemed accomplishment displayed in this project didn’t. 

As much as I enjoy Al Stewarts’ acoustic sets with the brilliant Dave  Nachmanov, his tours with a band always show Al at his best, accompanied by elaborate guitar work,  intricate keyboard and sax solos to die for. And he can still do it,  as evident by his last tour with Empty Pockets and Mark Maccisso.

2023 will herald will the 50th Anniversary of Past, Present And Future so I predict another classic release. I bet Nostradamus didn’t see that one coming!!

Listen to Midnight Rocks here:

Al Stewart online: Website / Facebook / Twitter

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1 reply »

  1. As a massive Australian fan, one has to seek far and wide to hear of news regarding Al. In 2019 I was fortunate to see and briefly meet him at a London concert which remains a very rich experience ( I found myself singing along with every word of Roads to Moscow) Thanks to the efforts of Neville Judd I have been able to buy the autobiography and a multitude of previously unreleased material. I feel that Al`s music and lyrics are possibly too sophisticated for many to appreciate and like a lot of good things in life it takes a while for one to realize how good something actually is. While not at the top of my AS favourite albums I will be buying the 24 carrots anniversary cd very soon.
    I don`t usually respond online but I enjoyed your article Howard and it`s a rarity for me to hear of others. regards Michael

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