Sat Eye Candy: Cat Stevens


Today, like every other day,
We wake up empty and frightened.
Don't open the door to the study.
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

We woke with this Rumi poem playing on repeat in our heads. And then, in a flash, it occurred to us what the perfect soundtrack for such poetic philosophizing might be - Cat Stevens. These days he goes by the name Yusuf Islam but the brave, yearning heart of what makes him tick is beating very, very strong. His new album, Roadsinger: To Warm You Through The Night, is a slow stunner (JamBase review), and it's sparked us to explore his back catalog anew. And folks, there's much we need to hear today, now, in this tumultuous moment we find ourselves in.

Like Marley's "Three Little Birds," there's something prayerful and innocent about our opener. If there's a gentler, more quietly blessed way to wake up then we haven't found it.

It's a beautiful thing to see him come back to his old songs, finding a way to fit them into his more pronounced spiritual path of recent years, realizing the great stockpiles of understanding and truth hiding in his "pop songs." To wit, this thoughtful stroll through one of his best from 2007.

Love is a hard thing in his work. It's something that requires much of us, demanding a patience and depth of understanding few of us can muster most of the time. And sometimes he distilled this concept into something wonderfully tough like this blues-tinged jewel from his 1976 Earth Tour.

His recent return to recording in the past few years has shown him to be a vigorous, funny, fiercely engaged musician with still a lot to say in his songs. This is a primo performance of one of the standouts off 2006's An Other Cup.

Here's a dark turn from the new album delivered with restrained style on Jools Holland grand BBC program.

And it isn't always dark clouds and naval gazing. Sometimes he just tossed off a killer ditty that reminds you what a fine nuts 'n' bolts composer he can be.

Stevens' music will always be inexorably liked to the cult film Harold And Maude, which seems to touch a nerve in each subsequent generation where liking the movie lets one know they're amongst fellow freaks. Here's Doug Martsch of Built to Spill performing Stevens' centerpiece tune from the soundtrack.

The highway our feet travel may be long, rocky and full of unexpected twists and dead ends, but if we've tucked the right songs into our bindle we'll be alright. It's a true joy to have this man making music again. We conclude with the title tune from his latest offering and his 2006 Nobel Peace Price concert performance of perhaps his best known anthem.

And don't forget, you can eyeball video sweetness 24/7 with JamBase TV.

[Published on: 7/11/09]

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