Al Stewart's Year of the Cat catapulted this English prog-rock legend into gold and platinum territory upon its hit release in 1976. Recorded and produced at Abbey Road Studios by rock icon Alan Parsons with album art designed by Colin Edge at Hipgnosis (Pink Floyd).
Al Stewart had found his voice on Past, Present & Future and found
his sound on Modern Times. He then perfected it all on 1976's Year of the Cat,
arguably his masterpiece. There is no overarching theme here, as there was on
its two immediate predecessors, but the impossible lushness of Alan Parsons'
production and Stewart's evocative Continental narratives give the record a
welcome feeling of cohesion that keeps the record enchanting as it moves from
“Lord Grenville” to “Midas Shadow” to “Broadway Hotel,” before it
ends with the haunting title track. Along the way, Stewart doesn't dwell too
deeply in any area, preferring to trace out mysteries with his evocative lyrical
imagery and a spinning array of self-consciously sophisticated music, songs that
evoke American and European folk and pop with a deliberate grace. This could be
unbearably precious if it didn't work so well. Stewart is detached from his
music, but only in the sense that he gives this album a stylish elegance, and
Parsons is his perfect foil, giving the music a rich, panoramic sweep that
mimics Stewart's globe-trotting songs. The result is a tremendous example of
how good self-conscious progressive pop can be, given the right producer and
songwriter – and if you're a fan of either prog or pop and haven't given Al
Stewart much thought, prepare to be enchanted.
All Music Guide – Stephen Thomas Erlewine