Sparks Of Ancient Light
Though it was released in 2008, Sparks of Ancient Light sounds very much like a '70s Al Stewart record that happens to be lacking the more elaborate features of '70s rock music production. And that's a good thing, allowing what have always been Stewart's principal strengths -- pleasant haunting melodies, mellifluous vocals, accomplished folk guitar work, and literate, historical-minded lyrics -- to stand at the forefront, undiminished by extraneous arrangements. With the passing of years, Stewart's songwriting became increasingly history-focused, and that's quite evident from the songs on this record, which address topics and eras rarely dealt with in pop music. As just a partial sampling, there are looks at the innocence of the Eisenhower years, the fall of the Shah of Iran, and Elvis Presley's vision of Stalin in the clouds (a real-life incident, not a songwriter's fantasy). There's even an ode to early 20th-century U.S. president William McKinley. Several of the songs not sparked by specific historical incidents are imbued with images of wandering, seafaring, and nostalgia (though from a third-person character sketch perspective), though the opening line of "Silver Kettle" ("and in the last days of the world of plastic records") indicates it's actually set in recent times. The production and arrangements by Laurence Juber (who also plays guitar on the album) are straightforward, clear, and tasteful on this quite respectable recording by a veteran singer/songwriter. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
Track samples provided courtesy of iTunes
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