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What a terrific double CD set this is. 3 fine Al Stewart albums from his CBS period plus one bonus B-side track. A lavish booklet with lyrics to all the album tracks, original sleevenotes, an essay, timing, songwriting, musician and production details. In short everything missing from the EMI double of "Year Of The Cat" / "On The Border" reviewed earlier here. This release is on the independent Edsel label. It costs a bit more than the EMI set but it's worth every penny.
CD1 comprises the "Orange" and "Past, Present & Future" albums in full. "Orange" is a little dated and finds Al still in bedsit 1960s free love mode. Hugely enjoyable, and boasting an instrumental very reminiscent of Bach on the lute. "Amsterdam" is of its time but also timeless in its beauty.
"Past, Present & Future" is a more mature work with more adventurous arrangements. Lyrically ambitious - a concept of some sorts epitomised by the track "Nostradamus" which is quite a contrast to the Judas Priest opus of the same name. At just under 10 minutes Al's "Nostradamus" is the very model of brevity! "Soho" and references to Christine Keeler and tarot cards date the album just as "Amsterdam" did "Orange".
CD2 kicks off with "Swallow Wind", the bonus track, and then moves on to the "Modern Times" album. If you're of a certain age, you probably remember lead track "Carol" which was on heavy rotation on Radio Caroline. "Apple Cider Re-Constitution" is a fantastic song - one of Al's best. A special mention must go to Quiver guitarist Tim Renwick for his outstanding work on all three albums.
If you like the singer-songwriter genre, this set is an essential purchase.