With the CD debut of "Indian Ocean," Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) gives an inkling of a new creative dawn and lends hope that more music will soon be heard from a man who wrote and recorded some of his generation's most beloved songs. Penned and co-produced by Islam, "Indian Ocean" was digitally released in early 2005 to benefit, through Islam's Small Kindness charity, children in the region of Aceh decimated by the December 2004 tsunami. Now the recording highlights Cat Stevens: Gold (A&M/UMe), the singer-songwriter's definitive two-CD retrospective, released November 15, 2005.
After reaching the veritable heights of pop sovereignty, Cat Stevens bowed out and became a Muslim, changing his name to Yusuf Islam and did not record for nearly 20 years. But in the mid-'90s, Yusuf looked back at his life choices and realized what his music meant to the millions of people who had loved and grown up with it. After much soul-searching, he decided that his talent for building peace and harmony through his songs was needed more than ever. Gradually, he began taking steps towards a return.
2000 saw the release of The Very Best Of Cat Stevens, marking his first gold record in more than 20 years. In 2001, the Cat Stevens Box Set was released, from which he donated the royalties to the September 11th Fund and Small Kindness. He also re-emerged on various benefit albums--for Bosnia, the children of Iraq, AIDs, Band Aid and the tsunami victims.
Cat Stevens: Gold spans his career from 1966-1978 and each of his albums with 31 recordings digitally remastered from the original two-track analog master tapes. Gold opens with his second single, "Matthew And Son," which hit #2 U.K. Two other early songs were U.K. hits for others: "Here Comes My Baby" for the Tremeloes and "The First Cut Is The Deepest" for P.P. Arnold (decades later, Rod Stewart and Sheryl Crow respectively turned it into major transatlantic hits). In the U.S., "Lady D'Arbanville" and "Trouble" from 1970's Mona Bone Jakon were for many the introduction to Stevens. Elsewhere, Jimmy Cliff scored a U.K. Top 10 with a reggae reading of his "Wild World," which the author turned into a #11 U.S. hit on 1970's Tea For The Tillerman, which also included such gems as "Hard Headed Woman," "Father And Son," "Where Do The Children Play?" and "Sad Lisa." Stevens' "Don't Be Shy" and "If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out" were then heard in the cult classic Harold And Maude.
Stevens' ability to encapsulate his metaphysical journey in song helped make him a massive star. He sold millions of copies of now-classic albums and performed for adoring crowds in arenas around the globe. 1971's Teaser And The Firecat scored with "Morning Has Broken" (#6), "Peace Train" (#7) and "Moonshadow" (#30). Gold also includes its "The Wind" and "Bitterblue." Catch Bull At Four in 1972 was his fourth of eight consecutive gold albums, and at U.S. #1 his highest charter, and included "Sitting" (#16), "Can't Keep It In," "Silent Sunlight," "Angelsea" and "18th Avenue (Kansas City Nightmare)." His take on Sam Cooke's "Another Saturday Night" (#6) was a single that year before joining his Greatest Hits.
From 1973's Foreigner, Gold culls the 18-minute "Foreigner Suite" and Top 40 "The Hurt." 1974's Buddha And The Chocolate Box yields the #10 "Oh Very Young" as well as "King Of Trees." 1975's concept album Numbers is represented by "Drywood" while 1977's Izitso spotlighted "(I Never Wanted) To Be A Star" and Top 40 "(Remember The Days Of The) Old Schoolyard." 1978's Back To Earth included the prophetic "Last Love Song."
Today, Yusuf Islam is arguably one of the world's most famous converts to Islam. A committed family man, he has continuously been devoted to charitable causes, especially for children and education. In 1996, he achieved historic equality for Muslim families in the U.K. by founding the first government-funded primary school for Muslim pupils alongside long-established existing schools for the Christian and Jewish communities. He has been honored with the World Social Award for his humanitarian relief work (previous recipients include Pope John Paul II, Steven Spielberg and Paul McCartney) and in 2004 he was presented the Man for Peace award by a committee of Nobel Peace Prize laureates. This year, he will receive an honorary doctorate in the U.K. for his work in education.
Meanwhile, three decades after their creation, Cat Stevens' vintage songs retain their emotional resonance. That they continue to be embraced by longtime admirers and new generations of fans is a testament to the songs' ongoing relevance and their timeless efforts to understand the world in which we all live and the tomorrow we all wish for.