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Stewart, Al: 24 Carrot (40th Anniversary Edition)

Yeah, I know. Al Stewart? On SoT?? Surely not…

Well, I must admit that in recent years I’ve found a real soft spot for the more gentle rock tones from the Glasgow, Scotland born singer/songwriter and where better to highlight that than on a underrated 1980 outing that verged, in places, on intelligent soft rock/AOR at its least bombastic. Backed by the band Shot In The Dark, 24 Carrots, with its obvious humour and self deprecating album sleeve, really is a joy to slip back in time with as Cherry Red/Esoteric celebrate this album’s 40th anniversary. By this stage, it would be fair to suggest that Stewart’s star was on the wain, his heady days of top 10 US album rankings left behind him with 78’s Time Passages, while only the subsequent Russians And Americans would attain any kind of chart action here in the UK. Still, the singer songwriter and guitarist remains hugely popular on the live circuit and able to live up to that expectation.

Shot In The Dark, comprised Peter White (keyboards, acoustic guitar, electric guitar), Adam Yurman (electric guitar, backing vocals), Robin Lamble (bass, backing vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion), Krysia Kristianne (backing vocals) and Bryan Savage (alto saxophone, flute) while the album also features the talents of the likes of Jeff Porcaro, Lenny Castro and many more. Expanded out to a three disc set for this reissue, 24 Carrots still comes across as a remarkably poised set of songs from an artist moving on from his folky feelings into a more obviously commercially rock situation and doing so with some style. The opening pair of “Running Man” and “Midnight Rocks” set the scene magnificently, quietly wonderful guitar work infused with heartfelt vocals and lyrics that intrigue without ever showing off. And yet it’s the clean but gritty guitars of “Constantinople” that add the rockier edge that makes this album such an underrated pleasure. The six-string solo soars and stings, while the groove at this song’s heart carries you along, willing or not.

Twee though it may be, “Merlin’s Time” is a beautifully melodic journey, whereas for me it’s the undeniable hook and heart of the ever so slightly heavier “Paint By Numbers” that stands out as this album’s simply unforgettable moment. Even just thinking of it now, I know I’ll be singing it for days! And that keyboard solo? Wowser! But then, don’t forget the more traditional Stewart fare of “Murmansk Run”, which blends this album’s more mainstream bent with the folkier edge Al was better know for, or the guitar heavy and thoroughly wonderful “Mondo Sinistro”.

Now, for long term fans, good though this remaster is, it’s whether the bonus material cuts the mustard that’s probably going to decide whether cash is parted with for this updated album. Well, with disc one adding first time on CD “Running Man” and “Paint By Numbers” single-edits and disc two eight fully formed demos that include five of the main album’s songs plus the excellent other little gems such as “Jackdaw”, “The World Goes To Riyadh” and “The Ringing Of Bells”, which mostly appeared at various other points in Stewart’s catalogue, surely it’s a no-brainer? And yet, with the studio tracks from the live album, Live/Indian Summer having graced previous reissues, but not this one, maybe not. The demos are interesting listening, even if they don’t really vary too much from what was eventually presented in full, however, again there are omissions from what other reissues have offered up.

And the same, again, can be said for the live album found on disc three, the eight tracks form a 1980 Hammersmith show possibly most notable for only featuring two 24 Carrots tracks (“Running Man” and “Mondo Sinistro”), when it’s known that plenty others are available. Still, an extended “Year Of The Cat”, punchy, almost New Wave “If It Doesn’t Come Easy, Leave It” and heartfelt “On The Border” are always going to be welcome. Hence it’s not so much a case of this three disc - although the final two only reach a combined length of around 80 minutes - set not being thoroughly enjoyable, but that it could have been so much more. Still, I’ve loved every second of revisiting an album that continues to surprise and excite and which can, even some 40 years later, reward in the most intriguing of ways.


Track Listing
DISC ONE: 24 CARROTS THE ORIGINAL ALBUM REMASTERED
1. RUNNING MAN
2. MIDNIGHT ROCKS
3. CONSTANTINOPLE
4. MERLIN’S TIME
5. MONDO SINISTRO
6. MURMANSK RUN - ELLIS ISLAND
7. ROCKS IN THE OCEAN
8. PAINT BY NUMBERS
9. OPTICAL ILLUSION
BONUS TRACKS
10. RUNNING MAN (SINGLE VERSION) (PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED ON CD)
11. PAINT BY NUMBERS (SINGLE VERSION) (PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED ON CD)


DISC TWO: 24 CARROTS - THE DEMO SESSIONS RECORDED AT DAVLEN STUDIOS,  LOS ANGELES IN AUGUST 1979 PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
1. MIDNIGHT ROCKS (1979 STUDIO DEMO)
2. MURMANSK RUN - ELLIS ISLAND (1979 STUDIO DEMO)
3. RUNNING MAN (1979 INSTRUMENTAL DEMO)
4. PAINT BY NUMBERS (1979 STUDIO DEMO)
5. JACKDAW
6. THE WORLD GOES TO RIYADH
7. MERLIN’S TIME (1979 INSTRUMENTAL DEMO)
8. RINGING OF BELLS

 
DISC THREE: LIVE AT HAMMERSMITH ODEON, LONDON �" 10th DECEMBER 1980 - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
1. RUNNING MAN (LIVE 1980 - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
2. TIME PASSAGES (LIVE 1980 - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
3. BROADWAY HOTEL (LIVE 1980 - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
4. MONDO SINISTRO (LIVE 1980 - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
5. ROADS TO MOSCOW (LIVE 1980 - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
6. ON THE BORDER (LIVE 1980 - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
7. YEAR OF THE CAT (LIVE 1980 - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
8. IF IT DOESN’T COME NATURALLY, LEAVE IT (LIVE 1980 - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)

Added: November 28th 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: 24 Carrots @ Cherry Red
Hits: 568
Language: english

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» Reader Comments:

Stewart, Al: 24 Carrot (40th Anniversary Edition)
Posted by on 2020-11-29 10:38:17
My Score:

Great reissue and thanks for the review, I wish Al would do this for more albums, the material is there.




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