On the Border


Here is an Al Stewart song that you don’t have to do homework to enjoy. Or at least not as much homework. I think this one might be about the Spanish civil war, but it’s pretty vague in the details. And I can assure you that with his pleasant voice and talent for melody, Al Stewart can be thoroughly enjoyed even if you don’t know who Ernst Rohm was or pick up the Vonnegut references. It’s just that Stewart really knows his stuff and uses his references so earnestly and  invitingly that you kind of get inspired to learn along; before you know it you’re elbow deep into researching the members of Hitler’s cabinet or the history of the British navy or the various interpretations of Nostradamus. You never imagined pop music could be so educational! I really can’t think of any musician of quite such a book smart caliber, except possibly Colin Meloy. And if all that esoterica sounds alienating, let me remind you that Al Stewart was once very popular, even in the United States, and there was a time when every self respecting record collector owned a copy of Year of the Cat.

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