Cat Stevens !?!
Our musical correspondent Anne Dante is being followed by a moonshadow:
There are some things that will simply never reach those people standing at the edge of the great Chasm of Hipness sneering at those on the other side: Remember trying to explain Abba to your friends in the 70s as they floated in their smoky cloud of Eagles-Ronstadt-Fleetwood Mac? Did you ever try to get your 13 year old Britney Spears-fan niece to listen to Leonard Cohen?
Well, I’m afraid that Cat Stevens is one of those issues that will probably not make that leap back over to the edge of hipness anytime soon for most of you, even though his records are back in print and there’s even a greatest hits collection being hawked on tv at 3 am. He started to off some time around 1974 when he released “Foreigner”, an underrated album that featured one of his best songs, “The Hurt”, but was built around a rambling 20-minute long “Suite” of song fragments that was accused of overplaying the tortured artiste effect. (It’s really not that bad if you keep in mind that being a tortured artiste was part parcel of the whole 70s singer-songwriter bit for almost everyone - except Harry Nilsson). His next album, the excellent “Buddah and the Chocolate Box” got a better reception, but the release of a mid-70s greatest hits collection essentially stood as a career-ending marker. When the Cat announced his retirement a few years and albums later, few people noticed. Ask someone about him today and they’ll probably say “’Peace Train’ was alright, but didn’t he try to kill Salman Rushdie?”.
Scoff all you want, but the small and gloomy Stevens fans among us, the recent release of the “Majikat” DVD is a treasure. Filmed during a Stevens’ last tour (a theatrical event that apparently included magicians, jugglers and all that – very few of whom are preserved on the DVD), it consists of a 1976 concert with Stevens in top form. The real treats, however, are in the bonus materials, which include a reproduction of the concert program, a handful of early tv clips, including the animated “Moonshadow” short, and a lengthy interview with the man himself, now known as Yusuf Islam, who speaks openly about his career and his abandonment of the same.
Will it convert anyone (to use an appropriate metaphor) to Stevens’ music? Probably not. But if you’re in that small group that clings to your old vinyl copy of “Teaser and the Firecat”, “Majikat” is a pleasant rediscovery, a portrait of the artiste in a not-too-tortured mode.
So phooey on the rest of you.
Editorial note: The editor of this site is not sure that he approves of saying "phooey" to our readers.