Released: March 1975
Chart Peak: #30
Weeks Charted: 23
Modern Times, though less calculated in its structure than Al Stewart's previous Past, Present and Future, is also a gloomy concept album, its eight songs contemporary tableaux whose characters are propelled toward self-destruction. One of Stewart's stumbling blocks is the task of making his lengthy narratives tuneful. The two in which he succeeds best are "Carol," the portrait of a promiscuous, cocaine-loving scenemaker, and "What's Going On," a description of her male counterpart, formerly "Mr. Natural," now a glittered up male groupie. The eight-minute title cut, which formalizes Stewart's song cycle, tells of two friends meeting each other in New York after 15 years' separation. The one who became a hippie world traveler declares cryptically: "I've got no use fot the tricks of modern times/ They tangle all my thoughts like ivy." Throughout the cycle, Stewart runs the risk of intellectual condescension. He is highly articulate; his characters aren't. Yet Stewart's sympathy and concern for them seem genuine, and in his descriptions of urban desolation -- verbal equivalents of images form Antonioni films -- Stewart sounds almost as depressed and confused as they do. Though I prefer more spontaneity, simplicity and vulgarity in songwriting than Al Stewart allows, I admire Stewart for his studiousness.
- Stephen Holden, Rolling Stone, 5/22/75.
Second LP for the label from this extremely skilled British folk/rocker who combines the charm of folk, the drive of rock and ends up as one of the few believable electric balladeers around. An excellent storyteller who, whether discussing mythology, the sea or love, is a master of his songs. At his best, he is reminiscent of the best of the early Donovan when it comes to getting a story across in a song. Excellent guitar throughout, with most cuts building from a folky beginning to a more rock oriented style. Stewart is the kind of artist who does not crash into mass popularity all at once. Rather he brings in new fans with every effort. FM play is a certainty here, particularly on the magnificent title cut. One of the few of the "British folkies" who makes a dent here, and one of the best, combining commerciality with an authentic flavor. Best cuts: "Carol," "Sirens Of Titan," "Not The One," "The Dark And Rolling Sea," "Modern Times."
- Billboard, 1975.
Stewart's airy (sometimes sentimental) obsessions with the passage of time take on a special resonance on this outing. Highlights include "Carol," "Apple Cider Re-Constitution," "Dark and Rolling Sea," and "The Modern Times." * * * *
- Rick Clark, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
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