Sound — 9
It's so sad Cat Stevens' sudden Islamic transformation into Yusuf Islam has blinded his masterpiece songs the whole generation grew up on due to his religious tricks. "Gold" Cat Stevens, a part of A&M's ongoing "Gold" series, is a useful reminder for a new generation who surely knows most of the songs, but doesn't have a clue who wrote them.
The collection is arranged in chronological order -? thus the first CD contains Stevens' most successful songs from the early age of musical career (late '60s to early '70s) -? starting with his major UK hit "Mathews And Sons," then -- "Here Comes My Baby," "The First Cut Is The Deeper," "Wild World," "Moon Shadow;" the second CD witnesses him fighting for the success he was loosing -? "King Of Trees," "Drywood," "Silent Sunlight." The compilation represents all Stevens' original albums -? at least one song from each album. A few chart-topping tracks are missing here -? like early UK hits "I Love My Dog" and "I'm Gonna Get Me A Gun," also US top 40s "Ready" and "Two Fine People." Instead of them there are some popular songs that didn't make singles, e.g. "Can't Keep It In," "Lady D'Arbanville." Steven's first three albums are represented by five tracks when half of the compilation (15 tracks) is taken from his three most successful ones. All 31 vintage tracks were remastered from the original stereo analog tapes.
The influence of the eastern culture on Islam aka Stevens' life and music is evident as you get to the end of the compilation: "Indian Ocean" is the first new song in years, recorded at the end of 2004 for victims of tsunami. It's filled with harmonies and weird instrument borrowed from the East. The end of "Indian Ocean," full of Eastern overtones, is beautiful -? you get a feel of being in India and actually looking at an Indian woman that sings mantras for you.
Lyrics — 10
Words true and deep as life, lyrics that characterize the hangover era of past '60s. The memory about the past era will always stay with us through his songs "If you want to sing out, sing out/And if you want to be free, be free." The most intrigue part -? what he's gonna sing about in his new song? Well, he's still teaching us something, still guiding with his stories, but now on more serious subjects with a religuious context.
Steven's voice hardly changed over the years, it just became more stable and mature.
Overall Impression — 10
Though a lot radio stations have refused to play his songs due to the facts that have nothing to do with music, Cat Stevens is still one of the greatest songwriters of the past century. The best confirmation of the greatness of the songs is that most of them have been covered by major artists numerous times -- Mandy Moore ("Moon Shadow"), Boyzone ("Father And Son"), Dolly Parton ("Where Do The Children Play?"), Jimmy Cliff ("Wild World") to name a few.
There are quite a few other hits compilation on the market and the record companies are laying themselves out to add some value to another "greatest hits" CD and make it worth buying. Apart from the fact that it's a brilliant collection of songs for those, who want to "meet Cat Stevens," there's a trap for Stevens' old fans -- the new song "Indian Ocean," included at the end of the second disk. It fits the collection fine as Stevens, even with the Middle Eastern mood, sounds much alike to what he used to back in the days in his musical glory. The song intrigues the society with questions "Does that mean the comeback of Cat Stevens? Should there be a forthcoming album?" and "If that happens, would there be those simple songs about love and happiness without any religious or political content?"