Esoteric Recordings has released a re-mastered four-disc deluxe 45th anniversary boxed set limited edition of the classic 1976 album “Year of the Cat” by Al Stewart. Recorded in the famed Abbey Road Studios, this seventh album by Stewart has now been expanded to a 3 CD + a region-free NTSC DVD box set containing for the first time newly re-mastered 96kHz / 24-bit stereo mix from the original first-generation master tapes by Alan Parsons and also features his all new 5. 1 surround sound mix sourced from the original multi-track tapes. Celebrated producer Alan Parsons collaborated on this album of immense musical inventiveness and creativity, featuring classic songs as “On the Border,” “Midas Shadow,” “If it Doesn't Come Naturally, Leave It,” “One Stage Before” and of course his most well-known song, the title track. The album became a major commercial and critical success upon its release, reaching the US Billboard Top Five and was a European hit, going on to earn platinum disc status in the USA within the first year. The single “Year of the Cat” was also a Top Ten hit in the States and was a Top 40 hit single in the UK.
In addition, the set includes a complete, previously unreleased concert across 2 CD’s recorded at the Paramount Theater, Seattle in October 1976 plus a new mix of the track “Belsize Blues,” recorded at Abbey Road Studios in September 1975.
I can certainly say that Al Stewart's Year of the Cat box set is a must-have for audiophiles and fans of the singer-songwriter's work. The collection is elegantly housed in a 10.2 x 9.9-inch slipcase with a 68-page booklet containing liner notes and interviews, plus postcards and a shop poster featuring the cat-themed album-concept design.
Across the four discs collectors will find a remastered stereo version of the Year of the Cat album, that also includes a bonus track called "Belsize Blues," along with live recordings from a 1976 concert at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle. Of greatest interest to high resolution audio listeners is the fourth disc, which features a choice of a 96kHz / 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 or Dolby AC3 5.1 surround mix of the album. The surround mix adds depth and nuance to Stewart's storytelling and vocals which stay mostly in the center channel and features standout performances by Peter White on Spanish guitar pouring from the front speakers along with Tim Renwick on electric guitar tucked in the back-right channel. One will also hear piano and guitar accents that have been strewn across the surroundscape in a clearer manner.
Of course, most fans will find themselves fully immersed when kicking back to the expansive title track featuring all-channel piano playing that is highlighted by the incredible two-part solo section. White's zesty acoustic guitar solo is placed in the front right channel and is followed by Tim Renwick's electrifying guitar response over in the front left, which in turn leads into Phil Kenzie's pair of alto sax solos from all corners.
The Year of the Cat box set is a great addition to any music lover's collection and is a testament to the artistry of Al Stewart and his collaborator, producer/engineer extraordinaire Alan Parsons. With its high-quality packaging and aural rewards, this collection should easily provide hours of listening pleasure and engagement for fans of Stewart's work.
Release April 2, 2021.
3 CD + 1 DVD containing 5.1 surround mix and re-mastered 96kHz / 24-bit stereo mixes housed in a deluxe box set.
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About the Author
Wesley is a lifelong music enthusiast. He started his career in the recording industry in New York City as an audio engineer, producer, and studio manager. Subsequently he toured across America as a guitarist with the short-lived band Land's Crossing. After many years in the technology sector and amassing a substantial vinyl and CD collection, he delved into immersive audio and created Hi-Res Edition to share with other listeners about the sound quality and discrete mixes available on many formats. He recently upgraded his system to 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos and continues to seek out and share about the best sounding releases.