Sunday, September 27, 2020

Yusuf / Cat Stevens - Where Do The Children Play?

Cat Stevens (Steven Demetre Georgiou - Yusuf) came straight out of the gate as a teen with the LP Matthew and Son, which included three hit singles in the U.K. His second LP didn’t fare as well but did contain “The First Cut is the Deepest,” which made it to No. 1 for Rod Stewart later in the year and was also covered by PP Arnold and Cheryl Crow. At this time, in 1969, Cat was suffering from tuberculosis.

After his recovery in early 1970 came a far different LP, one of complexity and maturity, despite its title (you’ll have to look that one up), and an LP that even Cat fans may never have heard, but should – Mona Bone Jakon. Many think of it critically as the first of his most intricate and iconic works and as a part of a trilogy which includes Tea For the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat. (In many ways, Mona Bone Jakon reminds me of Jack’s Mannequin’s Everything in Transit and The Glass Passenger LPs which foreshadow and chronicle the catastrophic illness of Andrew McMahon.)

The LP, like the two that follow, is good from first to last with the stellar “Lady D’Arbanville” and “Katmandu” each highlighting their perspective sides. The former is about Andy Warhol actress Patti D’Arbanville, Cat’s girlfriend, and pulls off a madrigal sound that bands like Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant, and even Seals and Crofts would gravitate toward over the coming years. “Katmandu” features Peter Gabriel, then of Genesis, playing the flute. While the LP did not chart strongly, three of the songs, “Trouble,” “I Wish, I Wish,” and “I Think I See the Light” support the soundtrack for Harold and Maude.

Less than six months later, Stevens would release my favorite CS LP, Tea For The Tillerman with its hits “Where Do the Children Play” and “Wild World,” and the incomparable “Father and Son.” For the 50th anniversary of this LP, Cat has released Tea For the Tillerman 2, a reimagined version of the LP. Still as good as it was half a century ago.

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