Al Stewart’s Time Passages was originally released in October 1978, following the huge success of 1977’s Year Of The Cat. Once again produced by Alan Parsons, Time Passages ultimately did not achieve the same commercial success of the previous album. However, in retrospect, some may argue that it turned out to be a much more complete and cohesive album.
Time Passages was Parsons and Stewart’s third collaboration, following 1975’s Modern Times and 1977’s Year Of The Cat. Sadly, it would prove to be their last: Parsons began working more closely with Eric Woolfson on The Alan Parsons Project, while Stewart moved on to other producers such as Mike Flicker (Poco, Heart) and Joe Chiccarelli (Pat Benatar, Oingo Boingo, etc).
Opening with the classic title track and concluding with the incredible “End Of The Day,” each song tells its own story. Stewart’s passion for history is always present, with Time Passages featuring songs about Sir Thomas Moore (“A Man For All Seasons”), the doomed ship Mary Celeste (“Life In Dark Water”), and Versailles (“The Palace Of Versailles”). The music may often lean towards easy listening, but it still packs a punch. Parsons’ fantastic production and arrangements draw out the absolute best of Stewart’s talents.
The deluxe edition includes three redbook CDs, which contain a new remaster of the original stereo mix (including the previously-unreleased bonus track “Tonton Macoute”) as well as several demo recordings and a live recording. The DVD contains the stereo remaster in high-resolution and the new 5.1 surround remix in DTS 96/24.
As with Year Of The Cat, Time Passages is a perfect choice for the 5.1 treatment. The incredible production of the album lends itself nicely to an immersive experience. The title track in particular benefits from the 5.1 remix, as the dense arrangement and layered sounds open up. The cello is given much more presence and impact, yet the original beauty of the song is preserved. Unfortunately, “Tonton Macoute” was not remixed to 5.1 alongside the rest of the album.
Once you hear the album in 5.1, the stereo mix sounds relatively flat by comparison. The rear speakers are used perfectly and the album has a fresh new sound. Parsons and Stewart have stayed faithful to the original production, choosing not to add or remove any instrumentation in the 5.1 remix. Having grown up with the original vinyl, I can attest that the 5.1 mix sounds like the original album - only bigger and better.
The box set also includes a very informative book that provides some interesting context and history for the album. There may be more included here than some casual fans would prefer, but it is worth the price for the 5.1 DVD. Time Passages has grown in stature since it was first released, and this box set brings out everything that made the album so brilliant to begin with.