Monday, May 30, 2016

Vinyl Purchases # 24 Cat Stevens

May 29th 2016. Tynemouth Station Market £5.

Always room in your record collection for just one more. Sunday morning, a good friend visiting and we've driven out to Tynemouth. Mona Bone Jakon going for a fiver in the market there. A done deal.

And a very fine album. Recorded in 1970 after a prolonged, illness and stress related break from the music business it's the  true birth of the Cat Stevens we know now, something apart from the perky, early hit singles, much more reflective, questioning and inward looking.

Produced by Paul Samwell-Smith of The Yardbirds, clothed in a quite bizarre, potentially dreadful but actually quite inspired cartoon image of a weeping dustbin as the sleeve, it sets off with Lady D'Arbanville, not a personal favourite of mine, as it's rather too thought rather than felt, at least to my ears. Thereafter though it rarely puts a foot wrong. Maybe You're Right, Pop Star, I Think I See The Light and Trouble, an inspired run of songs on the first side.

This inspiration continues throughout the second side. Deeply ingrained with an awareness of mortality and desire to ask the deeper questions, its at the same time melodic and soothing, the perfect Sunday afternoon listen. Not a huge commercial success on its release, it gained greater attention when a clutch of its tracks were featured in Hal Ashby's 1971 masterpiece Harold & Maud.

Stevens has never really gathered the critical clout of other singer-songwriters like Dylan, Mitchell, Buckley and so forth, perhaps because his touch was too light and his perspective too generally poppy and commercial. Still, this is a record filled with love and wonder and I'm very glad to have it to nestle among the 'S's' on my shelves.

It's also a pointer to the truth on the top of this page about the centrality of memory in life's experience. Playing it again now on Monday, my friend having departed, I'm filled with disparate emotions and reminders of hearing tracks from the record down the decades, and the whole panoply of feelings that evokes. That's music for you.

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