on 8 December 2004
A great compilation, especially if looking for your first CAT album - over 70 minutes on a CD that does live up to its title and represents money well spent, in my opinion.
Opening with the incredible 'Moonshadow', followed by the excellent 'Father and Son' then the haunting 'Morning has Broken' - you soon realise that this is not an average 'Best Of' album.
'Wild World', 'The First Cut is the Deepest', 'Matthew and Son', 'Hard-Headed Woman', 'Can't Keep It In', '(Remember The Days Of The) Old School Yard', 'Where do the Children Play?', 'Peace Train' and 'Another Saturday Night', this CD pack is exactly what the title says it is, for a change - simply the very best!
Presented in a cardboard cover, included with the CD is a 14-page pamphlet simply entitled 'Cat', detailing his life, the various albums and ending in a list of the 24 tracks on this CD.
Born Steven Georgiou, he adopted the name Cat Stevens for his musical career but subsequently became a Muslim, quitting his musical career and changing his name again, this time to Yusuf Islam. This compilation of his music as Cat Stevens is as good as any you are likely to find.
Cat had a minor UK hit in 1966 (I love my dog) but established himself as a songwriter by providing the Tremeloes with their first hit since Brian Poole left them (Here comes my baby) and by providing P P Arnold with her first hit (First cut is the deepest). Those hits were both in 1967, the year in which Cat had his first major hit as a singer, when Matthew and son peaked at number two in the UK. It was the biggest hit he ever had. He had another top ten UK hit (I'm gonna get me a gun) and two minor hits (A bad night, Kitty) in 1967 but none of those hits are included here. Actually, despite their hit status, they aren't really important.
Cat left his original label (Deram) and signed to Island, after which he recorded a series of albums that won him international acclaim. Although he placed six singles on the UK charts, all included here, his reputation ultimately rests with his albums. This explains why so many of his fans do not like compilations of his music, preferring the original albums.
Nevertheless, there is a market for compilations and there are plenty of people who don't want (or can't afford) to collect Cat's original albums. So here you get those hits (Lady D'Arbanville, Moon shadow, Morning has broken, Can't keep it in, Another Saturday night, Remember the days of the old school yard) as well as other classic tracks such as Peace train, Father and son, Wild world and Cat's own versions of Here comes my baby and First cut is the deepest.
If you want just one Cat Stevens collection, make it this one - but if you decide to collect his original albums instead, start with Tea for the tillerman or Teaser and the firecat.
This is a very decent collection of Cat's songwriting abilities, spanning 60's-80's Almost all of his best known, or hit material is here, and the sound quality is very good, cut at quite a high level, so very immediate. There's also a booklet giving some helpful background to some of the price he had to pay for fame, and an update on where his life/career is now.
Sadly, although his album 'Foreigner' is give a short paragraph, none of the tracks on it appear in this collection. I think 'Later' from that album much better than some of the weaker tracks on here. In fact, I still enjoy the album as a whole, particularly 'Foreigner Suite', but that's probably just me...
Still a very good collection & recommended.
When I heard Cat Stevens in the late 1960's, his hits were 'I Love My Dog' and ' Matthew and Son'. Commercially successful but it took me a while to appreciate this man's enormous talents. From 'Wild World' to the emotional, 'First Cut is The Deepest' and then the poignant, 'Sitting', 'Hard Headed Woman', 'Ruby Love', 'Into White', it goes on and on. This is one man of talent. We know of his religious choice that is to be respected. What he has left is a legacy of expertise. He never seemed to receive the same appreciation as some of the the contempories of his time. It may be said that his recognition came too late. He has since recorded as Yusuf Islam but this 'Very Best' compilation is sheer brilliance. Chase down the original albums if these attract you. Cat Stevens has an immense talent. This is just a sample of his expertise. A man of musical skill.
on 23 October 2004
This is an excellent value compilation, extending to 24 songs over 77 minutes, which pretty much lives up to its title. Four pop hits from 1967-68 are included for the sake of completeness, but their overblown arrangements are grating and only serve to emphasise the appealing simplicity and restraint of much of Cat Stevens' Island Records work from 1970-78. The weakest tracks in the collection are 'Don't be shy' and 'If you want to sing out', which although rarities not available on other albums certainly do not rank among Stevens' best work. Their place would have been better taken by the tracks 'Ready' and 'Two fine people' (which both appeared on his 1975 Greatest Hits album, the latter not being available anywhere else), or 'The hurt'. This CD has the same tracks as the earlier collection 'Remember Cat Stevens', with the exception of two substituted songs, both of which are improvements over the selection on 'Remember'. Altogether a collection well worth having, although for the committed Cat Stevens fan there is no substitute for all his original Island albums, which are now available in superb sounding remastered editions with all the original artwork.
on 6 November 2015
This strikes me as being some of the best composed, best arranged and best performed folk/rock/pop music I have ever heard. I wasn't very interested in this sort of thing in the seventies when it was well known, being more into progressive rock music. Now, however, with a mellower ear, I can appreciate the work that went into these performances. A number of tracks stand out: Rubylove (with Greek friends bousooki accompaniment), Wild World, Can't Keep it in, Lady Darbanville, and Moonshadow. One of thetrracks seemed to have a ¾ waltz timing rather than the standard 4/4.The only track I didn't take to really was 'The First Cut is the Depest' (perhaps because I had heard the Rod Stewart version and didn't like it - this one is better.) In fact this is the first album I have ever hummed and sang the tunes too with great enjoyment for a long time. I'm not surprised they sold millions, but hadn't really listened to them unril recently. The second disc enables one to hear what the original demos sounded like, and some are a bit limp: one immediately appreciates how much Rick Wakeman's keyboard accompaniment contributed to the 'Morning Has Broken' recording – it really took it to another level. Wakeman apparantly didn't receive any royalties for this for years until Stevens amended the error. I immediatly went and bought the 'Teaser and the Firecat' and 'Tea for the Tillerman' disc sets. Highly recommended to any would-be performer, composer, or just listener
on 26 August 2009
This is the best album I have bought in a long time. Very refreshing and uplifting. I listen to it all the time in the car. It is fair to say that there isn't a bad track on it but my personal favourites are "Wild World" and "I Love My Dog". This CD is a must, everyone should have one!
This compilation is very good - of course it is - but it falls into an obvious trap that I am surprised the producers failed to see.
Cat Stevens had distinct phases to his career and they are reflected in his albums. If I was producing a compilation album for him, I would therefore arrange the tracks chronologically, to give the listener a feel for how his music developed over the years. This album doesn't do that and that is why I feel four stars is a more realsitic assessment than five.
Hvaing said that, much of the music here is sublime. Play it to someone unfamiliar with his work and you will get comments like "I had no idea that he wrote that". Some of the tracks here are now recognised standards.
The earlier 'pop' phase as I call it, includes tracks like 'Lady D'Arbanville' and 'Matthew and Son' - not my favourites but liked by many. The later 'experimental' phase is also represented here. But for me the most important 'folk / rock' middle phase of Stevens' career encompasses the three albums 'Tea for the Tillerman', 'Teaser and the Firecat' and 'Catch Bull at Four'. Tracks from these quite rightly form the core of this compilation.
From the middle phase come some of the most beautiful songs that Cat Stevens recorded, not just in terms of melody but also the lyrics. 'Wild World', 'Father and Son', his arrangement of 'Morning has Broken' (with Rick Wakeman on piano): these are high spots that would grace anyone's career. Cat Steven's deep, rich voice is quite unique and his material allowed full expression.
This CD is a good introduction to Cat Stevens' career. If your budget runs to it, I would recommend the three 'middle' albums mentioned above instead. But if you want just one - it's pretty well all here and for the money it's excellent value. Four stars.
'The Very Best Of Cat Stevens' is the strongest single CD of Cat's music, venturing into territory that is often overlooked on compilations such as this. As well as a generous serving of trademark music from his 1970s heyday, listeners are also treated to a brief slice of his work from the mid to late '60s.
His early years as a recording artist are represented by the bouncy 'Matthew and Son', 'I Love My Dog' and 'The First Cut Is The Deepest, the latter has been covering by many artists from Rod Stewart to Twiggy (yes, she does sing), and although Cat wasn't the first person to actually record the song, he did write it. There are some notable omissions, including 'I'm Gonna Get Me A Gun', which peaked in the UK charts at no.6, but you can't have everything from such a musical genius on one CD.
The remaining 22 tracks are all from the 1970s, and unforgettable hits like 'Moonshadow', 'Oh Very Young', 'Wild Love' and 'Morning Has Broken', are slipped in with studio album tracks like the particularly good 'Sad Lisa'. The most recent recording here is 'Remember the Days of the Old Schoolyard', an early synthpop song from 1977.
If you only have one Cat Stevens album in your collection, this is the one to buy. With 24 songs, it provides excellent value for money, and a solid overview of one of my favourite singer/songwriters who will always remain fashionable and popular.
The booklet contains detailed liner notes, as well as photographs and various memorabilia.
on 7 January 2005
I enjoyed CS's music in the seventies, but was to young to really appreciate his talent as a writer. I would sum up this album as unbeatable. Having had listened to this over and over again since Christmas, I love it even more!