All too easily lost in the long shadow of "Year of the Cat"
Parrish A. Highley | Somewhere I've Never Travelled | 08/19/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There can be a sort of nervous caution, even trepidation, on the part of one who has encountered an album of the caliber of "Year of the Cat" which makes him or her hesitant to even listen to an artist's subsequent work for fear of ruining the opinion he or she formed of the artist. For anyone who might suffer from that sort of nervous caution, I would simply play Life In Dark Water once or twice. An ode to the Mary Celeste, the archetypal ghost ship whose crew disappeared without a trace in 1867, has such a unique underwater sound throughout that heightens the sonar-like tones of Tim Renwick's lead guitar work. While both Time Passages and Song On The Radio have had plenty of casual exposure on both radio and compilation releases, there are so many good songs here that one would never hear on the radio or find in a compilation. Life In Dark Water, Timeless Skies, Valentina Way, and End Of The Day are all imminently enjoyable upon the first or second listening, especially the latter. In addition to the Mary Celeste, the two other historical journeys unfolding before the listener are A Man For All Seasons, regarding imprisonment and execution of Sir Thomas More when Henry VIII declared himself supreme head of the Church of England, and The Palace Of Versailles based on "The Earle of Salisbury" by William Byrd.
Hearing "Time Passages" again does make me wish there could have been some way for Alan Parsons to produce just one more Al Stewart release. By 1978, Parsons was having even greater success with his partner, songwriter Eric Woolfson with I ROBOT and Pyramid which made it more difficult to give other artists the time they needed for their musical endeavors. And on that subject, good things must also be said of Andrew Powell's lush string arrangements on Time Passages as he was, according to Parsons himself, the third member of The Project. Regardless of the demands The Project placed on Parsons and Woolfson, Stewart soldiered on admirably with his songwriting partner Peter White. Their studio recorded material to come as well as presenting very satisfying live performances like Rhymes in Rooms are nothing at which to scoff. While Stewart's commercial pinnacle would come to an all too early end, his artistry not only lives on, it thrives!"