After collapsing in the fall of 1968 with a collapsed lung and tuberculosis, Cat Stevens was gone for over a year to recover. His first album had brought him fame and success, while his second album resulted in a much more subdued reaction. Thus it was this third album, and his reintroduction to the music world, which played a key role in his career. After the bloated arrangements of "New Masters", Stevens returned to a stripped down sound, and also transitioned from pop to folk at the same time. "Mona Bone Jakon" was released in July of 1970, a very strong album, and though it did not have much success on the charts, it did lead to "Tea for the Tillerman" later in 1970 which was a great success.
"Lady D'Arbanville" opens the album, with a love song to a dearly departed lady, though in the case of his former girlfriend the death was a metaphor for the state of their relationship. "Maybe You're Right" is next, a song about a relationship that is ending. "Pop Star" is next, an autobiographical piece about his brief career prior to his collapse. "I Think I See The Light" is about how love opens up a new world. "Trouble" closes out the first half of the album, and is a song about his time during convalescence.
The title track, "Mona Bone Jakon" starts the second half of the album. The track is named for Cat's private parts. "I Wish, I Wish" is probably the most Pop sounding song on the album. "Katmandu" is notable because Peter Gabriel plays flute on it. "Time" is next, the shortest piece on the album, even shorter than the title track, and a nice lead in to "Fill My Eyes", my personal favorite on the album. "Lilywhite" closes the album, and like almost all the songs on the second half of the album, it reflects a change in Cat's style, becoming more reflective.
"Mona Bone Jakon" isn't Cat's greatest album, but it is certainly one which is an important step in his career, and one which should not be forgotten. Cat sings, plays guitar, piano, keyboards, drums, and even some strings on this album. He is assisted by Alun Davies (guitar, backing vocals), John Ryan (bass), Nicky Hopkins (keyboards), Harvey Burns (drums, percussion), and Peter Gabriel (flute on "Katmandu").