I thought he was just another of those old dudes my dad had records of. He's a singer-songwriter. He was active in the 70's. Both of those are strikes in my book. But like the Beatles (and yes, I think I can talk about Cat and the Beatles in the same sentence), Cat is actually worth listening to today.
Positive characteristics of Cat Stevens:
- he makes acoustic-guitary songs that sound nice.
- he makes rolling-piano songs that sound nice.
- his lyrics are mystical in a couple different ways. Take Katmandu for something that sounds South-Asian (oh okay maybe it's just because he's talking about Katmandu), or Into White for something that sounds sorta Anglo-mythological (or maybe this is just me), or Lady D'Arbanville for a medieval chivalry sound.
- interesting career arc! Pop star at 18, tuberculosis, then a few epic albums at 22-24, got more experimental and progressive, deteriorated musically and got tired of the life, converted to Islam at 29, changed his name to Yusuf Islam, and vanished from the music scene. Recorded his next studio album, as Yusuf Islam, 30 years later.
- speaking of progressive, I really like his album "Foreigner", which features an 18-minute track on side 1, which culminates in this like bossanova or samba or whatever old-fashioney bit that apparently people think Coldplay copied? Whatever; it's great. I love a good multi-part suite. Given that I already find him a bit mystical, I will give him a lot of leeway to record such a thing.
- speaking of suites, can we talk for a moment about how good the first half of Janelle Monae's The ArchAndroid is? Seriously, this whole disc is good, but tracks like 2-7 (particularly 2-4) are like no opener I've heard for a while!
- okay, focus. This post is about Cat Stevens. Oh, speaking of copying, apparently the Flaming Lips' Fight Test is just Cat's Father and Son; they somewhat sheepishly admitted as much.
- anyway. Cat Stevens. Good stuff.