Top Artists – Al Stewart

Al Stewart – Time Passages

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  • A Time Passages like you’ve never heard, with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound throughout this early Arista pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The better sides have the kind of analog richness, warmth, and smoothness that make listening to records so involving
  • The best import pressings win our shootouts, but good domestic pressings such as this one can sound very good indeed
  • Standout tracks include “Song on the Radio” and “Time Passages” (an edited version of which made it all the way to #7 on the Pop charts)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…this is exceptionally well-crafted, from Stewart’s songs, where even three-minute songs seem like epics, to Alan Parsons’ cinematic arrangements and productions. [O]ne of Al Stewart’s very best albums.”

Our Hot Stampers of Year Of The Cat are always a big hit, and this, the 1978 follow-up, shares many of the same qualities. Alan Parsons is a pretty good producer and engineer it turns out.

This copy is richer and sweeter than most, with a big, bold, three-dimensional sound that perfectly suits the kind of Big Productions that are his stock in trade. The bigger the better we say!

Standout tracks include “Song on the Radio” and “Time Passages” (an edited version of which made it all the way to #7 on the Pop charts.) Both of these songs are more than six minutes long on the album.


Al Stewart – Year Of The Cat

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More British Folk Rock

  • You’ll find seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound throughout this vintage Janus pressing of Stewart’s 1976 Masterpiece
  • With engineering by Alan Parsons, the top pressings are every bit the Audiophile Demo Discs you remember
  • The best sides have Tubey Magical acoustic guitars, sweet vocals, huge amounts of space, breathtaking transparency, and so much more
  • The sound may be too heavily processed and glossy for some, but we find that on the best copies that sound really works for this music
  • 4 1/2 stars: “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.”


Al Stewart – Past, Present & Future

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More British Folk Rock

  • With INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades throughout, this UK import pressing cannot be beat – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • We shot out a number of other imports and the presence, bass, and dynamics on this outstanding copy placed it well ahead of the competition
  • Don’t waste your money on the sub-generation domestic pressings, they are clearly made from dubbed tapes
  • “…the record where Al Stewart truly begins to discover his voice [and] finally found his muse, focusing his songwriting and intent to a greater extent than ever before.”

One of the few good copies of this album we’ve ever heard! The vocals sound just right and the overall sound is wonderfully clean and clear.

It took us ages to track down copies of this album that didn’t sound flat, boring, and stuck in the speakers. We played a large number of Brit and domestic copies, and while both versions can sound lovely on the best pressings, there are certainly plenty of bad sounding versions out there from both countries.

This is the album that comes before Modern Times, Year Of The Cat and Time Passages in the Al Stewart discography, so if you’re a fan of any of those albums we imagine you’ll find a lot to like here.


Al Stewart – Love Chronicles

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Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

  • Stewart’s second album makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • At the right levels on the right system, this early import pressing will present you with a living, breathing Al Stewart standing right between your speakers
  • This is the more folky side of Al Stewart – the 18 minute title track also features none other than a Mr. Jimmy Page on guitar!


Letter of the Week – “Just Enough Midrange To Give The Impression There Was A Good Recording Back In There Somewhere”

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Reviews and Commentaries for Year of the Cat

One of our good customers had this to say about a record he played recently:

Hey Tom, 

I know you’ve got this on my Want List, but I also know it is a hard one to find. So thought I would try a cheap used MoFi from Discogs. Cover was shot so didn’t cost much, what the heck, right? Wow, what a lesson! Clean and quiet is the best I can say. Forget about it being almost too warped to play, that was not described, but almost beside the point. What we care about is sound quality, and this MoFi is abysmal!

I mean never mind Hot Stamper, it does not compare even to my old original random played-a-million times copy! The sound is pallid, sapped of all life, rolled off on the top, missing entirely on the bottom, and with just enough midrange to give the impression there was a good recording back in there somewhere, once upon a time. Before MoFi stepped all over it.

That’s not even the worst! Track 2, On the Border, begins with two piano notes alternating back and forth setting the tempo. Where are they??? There is no piano! None! Strings come suddenly out of nowhere! I thought MoFi was supposed to use Original Master Tape??

Easily the worst MoFi ever. Although quite honestly none of them can hold a candle to one of your Hot Stampers. Genuine diamonds in the rough.

Anyway, thought I would let you know. Good luck finding my YOTC. Truly would love to hear what it’s supposed to sound like. (more…)

Al Stewart – Zero She Flies

This is an AMAZINGLY RARE CBS Import LP.  We were pleasantly surprised when we flipped to side two and heard lots of tubey magic. The sound was rich and full with Al’s voice both present and natural.

It’s very unlikely that I will find another copy anytime soon and who knows if it would sound as good as this one does anyway. It’s certainly not likely to be in this kind of IMMACULATE condition either. Side two is where the real Hot Stamper action is on this record. If it were part of a Hot Stamper shootout we guess that side two would rate about A++. (more…)

Al Stewart – Orange

  • Stewart’s fourth studio album makes its Hot Stamper debut here with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two, mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • At the right levels on the right system, this early import pressing will present you with a living, breathing Al Stewart standing right between your speakers
  • This is the more folky side of Al Stewart – it also features none other than a Mr. Rick Wakeman on piano and organ
  • 4 stars: “… the first signs of the mix of acoustic and electric guitar sounds that he would perfect on his next album, Past, Present and Future, two years later… gets something of the beat and the sound that Stewart would refine in achieving his subsequent success”


Al Stewart – Year Of The Cat – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

For the first time on our site, TRIPLE PLUS MASTER TAPE SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! We play stacks of copies of this one a few times every year, but I don’t recall ever hearing one that sounded so correct from the first song to the last.

Let me tell you — when this album sounds as bad as most copies do, the music just plain does not work. So many copies add a nasty layer of grit to the vocals, and the effect is positively painful. This copy shows you a Year Of The Cat that is just not available on the typical copy, and certainly not on the MoFi pressing either.

This White Hot Stamper is the UNDISPUTED WINNER and Current Heavyweight Champion of our latest Hot Stamper shootout for Al Stewart’s Masterpiece, Year of the Cat. How come more of these don’t turn up on the site? Simple — most copies of this record just plain SUCK. We kept asking ourselves Where is the Famous Alan Parsons’ Dark Side of the Moon Magic that’s supposed to be on this recording? This record was THE Demo Disc in every stereo store in town when it came out back in the day, but we could not find any correlation between that fact and the sound we were hearing on copy after copy. The full, rich sound we knew so well from other Alan Parsons’ productions was simply nowhere to be found.

Until this bad boy copy came along. Folks, here is the True Audiophile Demo Disc Sound you remember. It wasn’t all a dream. It was real! Rich acoustic guitars, tubey-magical sweetness on the vocals, ambience around everything and everyone, huge amounts of space revealed by the breathtaking transparency of this pressing, top and bottom extension completely unlike the average copy. Everything that this album was supposed to do was finally happening when we dropped the needle on this side one. Talk about BIG SOUND, here it was! (more…)

Al Stewart – Year Of The Cat – Is the MoFi Good or Bad?

Sonic Grade: D to B-

If you own the typical MoFi version of this album you happen to own one of the All Time Mastering Disasters of the modern era. Ridiculously boosted at both ends, their version is all but unlistenable on a high end stereo. 

Some copies are worse than others, so we are conservatively giving MoFi’s pressing a sonic grade of D. We’ve played some in the past that clearly deserved an F (F as in Failing), but we also once played one that sounded pretty good, which we describe below. If you’ve played half a dozen MoFi copies and plucked out the best one, yours might be good too. If you haven’t heard a bunch, chances are slim that yours is any better than awful.

There’s only one way to tell of course, and that’s to pull it off the shelf and give it a spin. You may be shocked at just how hyped-up it has gotten since the last time you heard it.

If you play your records back on an old console, with maybe a blown woofer or two, okay, I can see how the sound of the MoFi might work. But I’m guessing most of you have something better than that, and since you do, one of our Hot Stamper pressings will absolutely positively blow your mind, showing you the real Year of the Cat. We guarantee it. (more…)