Once again your rockin’ writer felt the need to resurrect his “Listen Again” series. For those of you just joining us, the “Listen Again” series is a series in which we revisit albums that for one reason or another didn’t receive the attention or acclaim they deserved when they were originally released. Whether it was the recording was ahead of its time, broke away from the artist’s usual style, was poorly publicized or initially misunderstood, the “Listen Again” series urges music fans to listen again. This time we revisit Cat Stevens’ Cat Stevens’ Greatest Hits.
For those of you not up on your classic rock history, Cat Stevens, now Yusuf Islam, was born Steven Demetre Georgiou on July 21, 1948. Stevens is a singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist from the UK. His first compilation album, Cat Stevens’ Greatest Hits, contained a dozen songs from his five previous studio releases, mainly recorded prior to 1975. Stevens was largely a one-man show on guitar, keyboards and vocals.
The album opens on his first American hit “Wild World”. This is a popular piece from 1970 in which Stevens mourns the loss of his lady. Stevens’ skillful use of chords enhances the melancholic music of the beautiful ballad.
"Oh Very Young" follows. This is one is from 1974. The song poses the question: How you would feel about your life if you knew tomorrow was your last day?
"Can't Keep It In", while perhaps not as popular as other cuts, still had its own merits. This song explores the idea of loving someone who for some reason simply cannot experience love.
The next number is "Hard Headed Woman" which is another fine 1970s album track. It’s all too quickly overshadowed by the 1971 fan favorite "Moonshadow". This memorable, folksy cut had an uplifting message and was a “Top 40” track as well.
The sixth selection is "Two Fine People". This was recorded especially for inclusion on this album and makes this collection a must for completists as it was available nowhere else as this went to press. It’s a noteworthy declaration of love.
The unforgettable 1971 tune "Peace Train" was praised for its interesting blend of music genres as many seemed to feel it sounded like a blend of both country and rock. It contains a timeless tuneful message of the need for the continued hope for peace. It’s a call for peaceful resolutions.
"Ready" is admittedly a non-hit from Buddha and The Chocolate Box. Some critics claim that this was not necessarily a required choice for inclusion, yet it further demonstrates the change in focus in his songwriting from before he was hospitalized and became more introspective. It’s followed by "Father & Son" which deals with the universal concept of the differences between a father and son. It features backing vocals by Stevens' oft’times additional guitarist Alun Davies.
Another fine early composition included here is "Sitting". It is easily overshadowed however by Stevens’ rendition of the 1931 hymn by Eleanor Farjeon "Morning Has Broken" which is highlighted by the inclusion of a choir and Stevens’ own personal arrangement. Another cover, "Another Saturday Night", is Stevens’ remake of Sam Cooke’s 1963 classic cut about a man’s inability to get a date with a woman on a Saturday night.
Released on the A&M label in June of 1975 with a running length of nearly 40 minutes, the album was a commercial success going on to sell more than three million copies in the US alone. "Two Fine People" and "Another Saturday Night" both went on to chart respectively at number 33 and number 6 on the US Pop Charts. The compilation collects the cuts that captured listeners’ hearts and exemplifies Stevens’ ability to write beautiful melodies as well as spiritually focused significant lyrics.
The sensitive but often straightforward songs helped establish him in America. His message was universal and his hits knew no national boundaries. The work captures both the honest innocence of his spiritual quest as well as foreshadows his eventual transformation. If you've never listened to Cat Stevens’ Cat Stevens’ Greatest Hits, listen to it. If you've already listened to it . . . listen again.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that's the bottom line.