Cat Stevens/Yusuf: Where I've Been, Who I Am

Cat Stevens/Yusuf: Where I've Been, Who I Am

“Looking at the jagged journey of my music, starting in the '60s, I would say this new record is a mosaic. A very clearly defined description of where I've been and who I am.” As Cat Stevensor better Yusuf Islamthe name he has adopted since converting to Islam many years ago, he presented “King of a land” his latest album released on June 16 last year. This is our review of that album.

“King of a Land”, the new album by Yusuf/Cat Stevens arrives six years after the previous, partial, album of unreleased songs (“The Laughing Apple” of 2017). The new effort by the English singer-songwriter, the seventeenth album of his decades-long career, is made up of 12 tracks, very varied and preceded by three singles, in the order “Take The World Apart”, “King of a Land” and “All Night, All Days”.

Yusuf/Cat Stevens defines the album “King of a Land” this way: “Looking at the jagged path of my music, which began in the '60s, I would say that this new album is a mosaic. A very clear description of where I have been and who I am.” Words which, obviously, are an admirable synthesis of the content of the album which moves between acoustic atmospheres, beautiful orchestrations, epic moments, melodies and ballads with a greater rock “push”, all enclosed between the past and the present of the singer-songwriter. But beyond the musical part, this album also has something else: there is a political soul that lives in the songs, which fuels them and which showcases Yusuf's thoughts, the idea, the hope of an alternative, “other” world , better, through the observation of reality.

Summary of this “Yusuf thought” are two singles. First of all “King of a Land”, a manifesto song “dedicated” to King Charles III, an invitation to the new Sovereign to use his role to give a positive sign to the world. The song is accompanied by a letter in which the artist provides 10 pieces of advice to the new King, advice, in reality, which can be extended to all politicians and men of power in the world:

1. Even if you are a king, you are still a servant of God.
2. Eliminate hate through education and spread peace.
3. Feed the hungry.
4. We are all human beings who make mistakes, so forgive.
5. Help the sick and homeless.
6. Be careful of negative people around you.

Everyone has a role to play, teach them to work together.
8. Be fair and don't show favoritism.
9. Listen to constructive criticism.
10. Be a guardian of all faiths and the precious Earth we all share.

“The main message of the song – and this applies to all those in leadership positions – is: don't forget that there is Someone above you and pay attention to those who are below you.” Yusuf/Cat Stevens expresses these concepts in a song with an “ancient” flavor, a delicate piece marked by the acoustic guitar and the unmistakable vocal timbre that does not seem to be affected over time.

The other “political” song is the last single from the album: “All Night, All Days”. A rock ballad whose lyrics denounce the way in which “the rich tax the poor” and, with ironic humor, Yusuf suggests a solution: “lock up those leaders in the London Zoo. The only way to move forward in peace is to get rid of the most of them. Not all, perhaps.

Steven Demetre Georgiou or Cat Stevens or Yusuf Islam or more simply Yusuf (after converting to Islam in 1976) on the eve of turning 75 has nothing left to prove and works, produces with maximum freedom, with the awareness of his years and with the his vision of the world which is also influenced by his religious choices, which have become life choices.

The singer-songwriter thus creates an album containing small acoustic pearls (“Son of Mary”, “Things”, “He Is True”), epic and orchestral moments (“Train on a Hill”, “Highness” with gospel tinges and the intense “How Good It Feels”), a good handful of rock ballads (“Pagan Run”, “All Night, all Days”, “Another Night In The Rain”) and a sunny final track (“Take The World Apart”) which sets a seal of positivity on the entire album which obviously does not lack the unmistakable vocal melodies that Cat has always accustomed us to.

After the recent live performance in Rome (18 June), the English singer-songwriter will be on stage at the Glastonbury Festival on 25 June for the first time in his career. He will be performing on the Pyramid Stage in the coveted Sunday teatime slot reserved for legends. “King of a Land” is musically a timeless album, present, current, alive but at the same time linked, with a long root, to the past. Conceptually, however, it is a record rooted in the now and here, in the reflection of a present that Yusuf/Cat Stevens does not always passively share and accept. It is a pleasure to find him in this state of grace, with this capacity for synthesis and exposition.