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.
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.
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.
This is a great album of music - featuring 24 songs by Cat Stevens. It covers the period of his career from 1967 (with the release of the LP "Matthew and Son") through to 1978 (and his "Back to Earth" album). As such, it draws on Cat's material from his first 11 studio albums. This body of work presents an amazing and varied songbook - and Cat Steven's represented one the defining contributors to 1970's folk-rock and pop music. His work during this period was both critically and commercially successful - and, at times, artistically inspirational (especially the tracks on "Tea for the Tillerman" and "Teaser and the Firecat"). With so many wonderful songs to select from, compiling this 'very best of' Cat Stevens must have been a challenge.
This album presents both hit singles and lessor well known tracks from albums. The majority of the songs featured here are great - and the remainder are still good. This particular collection has been re-issued several times, and on each occasion the track listing has altered somewhat. I received the 2003 UK edition. It consists of the following songs:
1."Moonshadow" – 2:50
2."Father and Son" – 3:41
3."Morning Has Broken" – 3:20
4."Wild World" – 3:21
5."The First Cut Is the Deepest" – 3:01
6."Lady D'Arbanville" – 3:45
7."Oh Very Young" – 2:36
8."Matthew and Son" – 2:44
9."Sitting" – 3:14
10."Hard Headed Woman" – 3:49
11."I Love My Dog" – 2:19
12."Ruby Love" – 2:38
13."Don't Be Shy" – 2:51
14."Can't Keep It In" – 3:00
15."Here Comes My Baby" – 2:55
16."Into White" – 3:25
17."(Remember the Days of The) Old Schoolyard" – 2:43
18."Where Do the Children Play?" – 3:52
19."How Can I Tell You" – 4:28
20."Another Saturday Night" – 2:28
21."Sad Lisa" – 3:42
22."Just Another Night" – 3:51
23."Peace Train" – 4:12
24."If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out" – 2:46
The 1990 edition features just 18 songs, while the 2000 edition presents 20 tracks.
For anyone who's unfamiliar with Cat Stevens, and who's interested in listening to 'indie music' from the 1970's, I thoroughly recommend this album. If you're already a fan of this artist, you'll know how truly great this singer-songwriter was during that decade.
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
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.
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!
on 3 September 2005
The career of Cat Stevens is a strange one, beginning in the swinging 60's with a handful of big orchestral pop numbers (often written by Stevens for other artists), before moving into the 70's and taking on the form of the melancholic singer-songwriter. His later songs, those from the latter half of the 70's suffer a little from their experiments with electronic instrumentation, but beneath the synthesisers and disco-production lurk some strong melodies and lyrical sentiments that preach of hope and forgiveness, as opposed to the much more chic wailings of self-pity adopted by similar artists of Stevens's generation.
It often irks me a little that Stevens doesn't get the same respect as the likes of Nick Drake or Jeff Buckley, despite being a songwriter easily in the same league (if not actually greater) than either of those cult figures. Perhaps it's because Stevens found faith, rather than dying too young... thus destroying any chance of an Ian Curtis style cult that would buy up every single posthumous b-side compilation or archive release that the record company decides to throw out in the hope of trading off his legend. Still, this twenty-four-track collection should be enough to justify his inclusion amongst the ranks of the greatest British songwriters of the last fifty years... with perennial favourites like I Love My Dog, Father and Son and Morning Has Broken standing alongside more obscure numbers like Hard Headed Woman, Don't Be Shy and Peace Train.
I first discovered the music of Cat Stevens through the use of his songs in Hal Ashby's cult-classic Harold and Maude... so this collection is integral, as it offers up songs from the film, like Where Do The Children Play?, Don't Be Shy and the elating, If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out, all of which were used in the film, but never official released on any album, besides the extremely hard to find Harold and Maude soundtrack. The other songs are just as great, offering a unique perspective on the world (songs about nuclear devastation and lovelorn nostalgia rubbing shoulders with an ancient prayer set to music, and an ode to the family dog) and some gorgeous melodies. I like the earlier songs, with the sound of the swinging sixties obvious from the bombastic production and swooning vocals, enlivening songs like The First Cut Is The Deepest and Here Comes My Baby... however, as great as those songs are, I find his more intimate acoustic numbers that follow to be the real gold of the album.
It's almost a cliché to say it, but songs like Farther and Son, Moonshadow, Oh Very Yong and Lady D'Arbanville are timeless gems; beautifully told stories with warm instrumentation and a minimal of production so as not to get in the way of the sentiment behind the songs. Like most of the songwriters of the time, Stevens' music switches from the personal to the political, taking something as seemingly confessional as How Can I Tell You (one of the most gorgeous odes to unrequited love ever composed) to the songs that look to more topic concerns, like the aforementioned Where Do The Children Play? and the glorious mini-epic, Peace Train.
It's a shame that Stevens is viewed as something of an AOR artist... or forgotten altogether because of his controversial conversion to Islam. These songs are fantastic, filled with strong arrangements and intelligent lyrics that, although a little world-weary, do offer a sense of hope and warmth for those listening. The second half of the collection throws in songs from his peak-period, along with some lesser-known tracks from the time when his career was reaching something of a cross-roads (Remember The Days Of The Old School Yard and Another Saturday Night are the songs that suffer most from the style of the late 70's, though I'd imagine that an acoustic version of both songs would show just how relevant and timeless they are capable of sounding)... as nice as these songs are, there are better songs that could have been offered instead, like the heartbreaking ballad If I Laugh and the soul-searching Trouble (a song that was written by a youthful Stevens while he was being treated for TB).
The collection ends on a high with the brilliant If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out, which will always remind me of the image of Bud Cort skipping over the hills at the end of Harold and Maude. It's perhaps my favourite Cat Stevens song, one that encapsulates everything that was great about his music during that early 70's heyday (great melody, strong performance, minimal instrumentation and joyful lyrics). True, songs like Old School Yard and Another Saturday Night could have been substituted for songs like BitterBlue, The Wind, Trouble and If I Laugh, but regardless... this is still a great collection. The songs here offer us a taste of Cat at his most celebrated, and Cat at his most obscure... and as well as offering those songs from Harold and Maude (previously hard to find... or so I've heard), this really offers perhaps the best introduction to the work of a unique and sadly underrated singer-songwriter.
on 19 April 2014
Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam), has never treated music as a commodity (which much contemporary music has succumbed too). Instead his music was a road to meeting himself, a means to giving definition to his personality. That honesty, that sheer authenticity, was rewarded with track after track (found on this album) that to this day emit an atmospheric aura, a fragrance that defines those who wear it (or in this case who listen), rather than vice versa.
The simplicity of production can be compared to Adele's albums; the timelessness of his voice to a soft Johnny Cash; the lyrics are as moving as Leonard Cohen. Take advantage of the relative lull in the air/screen play of his brilliant music, and enjoy this album in private - with loved ones - and relate to another human who knows how to be self-reflective, one aware of the many layers of the life story (even back in the 1970s).
on 10 December 2015
Quite a few all-time,evergreen,standards! An absolute "must-have" for any of the younger generations, who are not "au-fait" with The Cats music,this copy has a better travck list and sound re-production than any for sale in Australia!