Al Stewart – Live

It has been a busy week or so since I last was able to put some time into quality blogging. So I'll try to catch up with a number of posts today and tomorrow.

Music. I'm going to do a little housekeeping on musical activities of the last couple weeks.

Al Stewart – Live at The Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, California

Al Stewart, Past Present & Future
Through our mutual passion for wine Al and I have become close friends over the years and whenever he makes it into Southern California we make a point to find time for dinner and sharing of excellent wine.

I've enjoyed Al's music since the late 70's and early 80's when he penned Year of the Cat and Time Passages — both reaching the number one position on the charts and giving Al two multi-gold and platinum albums. A consummate storyteller with charming British wit Al's catalog of over 20 albums gives him plenty of material to choose from. Throughout the 80's and 90's Al toured the world with a full 6 and sometimes 7 piece band. Beyond Al's voice, songwriting and engaging patter, the highlight of these performances perhaps was the guitar work of Peter White. Today, Peter has an extremely successful career as a soft jazz or new age guitar player.

But today, Al prefers the solo acoustic gig where it's just him, his guitar and an engaging audience waiting for him to dole out his trademark songs about history. These include Nostradamos, Roads To Moscow (The Nazi's fateful march in World War II in the footsteps of Napoleon), Running Man (Nazi war criminals and those who hunted them throughout South America), Joe the Georgian (about Joseph Stalin), Antartica (about Robert Falcon Scott and Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton's expeditions to the icy continent), Peter on the White Sea (Peter (I) the Great — Tsar of Russia from 1682, Emperor from 1721) and more. You get the idea.

In 1995 Al released “Between The Wars” featuring ex-Paul McCartney & Wings guitarist Laurence Juber as producer and guitarist. Six years later the two collaborated on “Down In The Cellar” an album that was never officially released in the United States because the U.S. distributor filed for bankruptcy and the rights to the U.S. distribution were/are tied up in litigation. All of this is to say that Al is currently collaborating and writing new songs with Laurence for what could turn into an album that I hope they'll release next year.

Laurence Juber, Guitarist
So this night at the Coach House, Laurence joined us for dinner and Al on stage for an evening of incredible acoustic music. But I have to admit, perhaps the highlight of the evening (save the Marcassin Chardonnay) was minutes before Al and Laurence took the stage when Laurence was warming up and played perhaps the most amazing version of Layla I've ever heard. You know the ending part of that song? You know the part that was played by Derek & The Dominoes drummer and Clapton co-writer Jim Gordon? Watching and listening to Laurence recreate this touching part of that song on a six-string Martin guitar was spellbinding. Everyone in the room urged Laurence to play it for the crowd gathering downstairs for the show. He did. If you don't own any Laurence Juber or Al Stewart music, I urge you to go to the iTunes music store and sample and buy a few. Or, here are my recommendations as an intro to Al Stewart and Laurence Juber at Amazon. Enjoy them!

Back to the show. Al hit the stage first and played a few songs including Apple Cider Reconstitution, on of my favorite and from his classic Modern Times album. Several songs later Laurence joined Al on stage where they played several songs from Between The Wars, most notably Night Train to Munich where the two shined and clearly demonstrated that while it'd been a while since they played live together, one could feel their recent collaboration that week recording demos in Laurence's LA studio was long overdue and they were enjoying playing together.

Al plans to return to LA to work on what may be a new album in early April. Stay tuned.

Photos: (1) Laurence Juber backstage at the Coach House performing amazing acoustic guitar arrangement of Layla; (2) Laurence Juber and Al Stewart on Stage at the Coach House in February 2004.