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Al Stewart Stares Down “Russians & Americans”

By 1983 and ’84, several of the changes that Al Stewart began on the 24 Carrots album (1980) had settled in for better or worse. There seemed to be a calculated attempt to reach a wider audience without alienating older fans. Efforts that tried being danceable came off as mechanized and strained, but were nonetheless a bid for relevance to the times. And even when the fit wasn’t always perfect, Stewart’s elegant, cinematic musicality and scrupulous wordplay remained largely intact. “Murmansk Run/Ellis Island” and “Rocks In The Ocean” were a callback to his historical folk prior to the hit-making years with Alan Parsons as producer. But 24 Carrots underperformed, just as its leadoff single “Midnight Rocks” did, even though it was closest tonally to the approach of the Parsons albums (Modern Times, Year of the Cat, and Time Passages respectively). Stewart was off the Arista label, provoking a considerable gap in time as he found a new (very brief) home on Passport Records. That sole album was Russians & Americans. The effort, as one might …