This record can be seen as a transition between Cat Stevens spirited pop and his desire to break-free from constraints impacting him both personally and musically.
Written by: Eric
ARTIST: Cat Stevens
SERIAL: ILPS 9240
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Cat Stevens – lead vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, piano, keyboards * Jean Roussel – keyboards * Phil Upchurch – electric guitar * Paul Martinez, Herbie Flowers – bass * Bernard Purdie, Gerry Conway – drums, percussion * Patti Austin, Barbara Massey, Tasha Thomas – backing vocals * Tower Of Power – horns
TRACK LISTING: 01 Foreigner Suite * 02 The Hurt * 03 How Many Times * 04 Later * 05 100 I Dream
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Let’s put aside the unfortunate post 9/11 controversy surrounding Cat Stevens for a moment. If you were alive and aware of your surroundings in the early 1970’s you’ll remember Cat Stevens was one of music’s biggest stars backed by a boatload of poptastic hit singles including ‘Wild World’, ‘Morning Has Broken’, ‘Peace Train’ and my personal favourite ‘Oh Very Young’.
As a kid, I recall seeing the bearded, uniquely voiced musician on TV numerous times and copies of the albums ‘Tea For The Tillerman’ and ‘Teaser And The Firecat’ commonplace at friend’s houses that had an older brother or sister. Years later after actually listening to the records, I found both works positively enchanting and some of the most accomplished pop of the decade filled with peace, love and wide-eyed optimism.
Of course it didn’t last and as the ’70s advanced the hits were fewer and farther between and after a near brush with death, Stevens became disenchanted with the music business and soul-searched for something beyond fame.
His discovery of Islam in 1976 led to a full-blown conversion in 1978 which included abandoning the music industry and the secular trappings of the pop star lifestyle much to the dismay of his extensive fan base. To each his own but recently revisiting his back catalog, it’s difficult to come to grips with what was lost when Cat found religion.
Although not everything Stevens recorded was a complete success at least in the eyes and ears of critics. Earning his stripes in the progressive era, Cat toured extensively with many of the genres leading lights and with Rick Wakeman playing piano on the evergreen ‘Morning Has Broken’ I suppose it was only a matter of time before Stevens tried something a little more complex.
‘Foreigner’ was that album and while it sold relatively well, it left many fans wondering what the folksy rocker had been smoking after the needle dropped on the side long ‘Foreigner Suite’.
Clocking in at eighteen minutes, it’s Jethro Tull‘s ‘Thick As A Brick’, Blood, Sweat and Tears and Al Stewart rolled up in Stevens trademark ‘love one another’ idealism and it holds together rather well, moving between classical rock and Tower of Power driven funk.
A review in Rolling Stone naturally dismissed the song as ‘trite’ and ‘tedious’ and side two didn’t fare much better although it did give Cat a much-needed top 40 hit with ‘The Hurt’. In my opinion, hardly a classic but providing enough hooks for radio and no doubt a sense of relief for the suits at the record companies, in particular his American label AandM.
The remaining tracks really don’t ignite the same sort of magic and although ‘Later’ has a cool Stevie Wonder-ish groove, overall the record can be seen as a transition between Stevens spirited pop and his desire to break-free from the constraints both personally and musically that made him a household name.
One other album I need to mention is the 1977 opus ‘Izitso’. Experimenting with the new electronic technologies of the day, the album was one of the forerunners to the early ’80s synthpop movement and includes Stevens last great single ‘(Remember the Days Of the) Old School Yard’.
Now known as Yusef Islam, he’s since returned to the music business and released a few discs none of which I’ve bothered with, preferring the original version which at his best was brilliant.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)