Picks and Pans Review: Last Days of the Century

updated 10/17/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/17/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Al Stewart

Stewart's singing style reflects a fey, wispy sense of distance. Behind the pleasant facade, though, lurks a wicked potency. His tune License to Steal, for instance, is hardly likely to become the Harvard Law School graduation processional. The license in question is a law degree, and the lyrics include: "He's poking his nose into people's despair/ When tragedy strikes he will always be there/ Looking so cool/ His greed is hard to conceal." Real and Unreal asks the question, "Did you ever have the feeling/ You're the only person living in the world/ And people that you see/ Are one dimensional and never there at all?" Stewart's cynicism is overloaded at times by his tendency to flaunt his intellect. Red Toupée, for instance, includes the lines, "To Catalina on a fishing boat/ We call it Henry Cisneros," alluding to the San Antonio mayor for no apparent reason. Josephine Baker honors a '20s entertainer who has achieved cult status, and King of Portugal salutes a royal figure who is not exactly a competitor of Lady Di in terms of world renown. Stewart, 43, and writing partner Peter White turn out melodies that aren't often as intriguing as their lyrics. The album—the Scotland-born Stewart's 12th—still has the satisfying, conspiratorial feel of a smart, collegial cabaret act. (Enigma)

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