Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Cat Stevens 10: Izitso

With his concepts failing to connect with the world at large, Cat Stevens went back to writing just plain songs. While Izitso finds him even closer to chucking it all for a simpler life and enlightenment, he was still finding inspiration from modern synthesizers and contemporary rhythms.
But while some synthesizer experiments of the era still sound fresh, the Cat isn’t so lucky. The needlessly parenthetical “(Remember The Days Of The) Old Schoolyard” is designed to conjure memories of a more innocent youth, screaming children and all, but the keyboard colorings dump way too much color on those old snaps. Interestingly, the song uses a melody line like that theme from the “Foreigner Suite” that sounds like Coldplay, and while Elkie Brooks may be a worthy duet partner, she’s no Kiki Dee. “Life” uses the keyboards better, a more understated musing closer to his classic sound, complete with bouzoukis. And while that establishes a better mood, we’re off to Muscle Shoals for “Killin’ Time”, squarely in the now, but coming off like Bachman-Turner Overdrive playing “Shakedown Street”. And as he says, “You really miss the point.” “Kypros” is a harmless instrumental based around a rhythm box that’s not much more of a demo, and would be ideal background music for any number of ‘80s video games. Shackled to a forced metaphor, “Bonfire” sounds awkward today, even with Chick Corea noodling on piano. The salacious lyrics are more suited to Barry White, especially considering the path he was about to take, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves again.
Speaking of blatant, parentheses strike again on “(I Never Wanted) To Be A Star”, a clever track that weaves in references to his earliest hits soon after he left the old schoolyard. However, the lament is misplaced on an album seemingly designed to top the charts, given the yacht-rock qualities of “Crazy” and “Sweet Jamaica”. Then there’s “Was Dog A Doughnut?”, another windup instrumental that people will insist predicts techno. We’re not sure where the doughnut falls in, but the barking dog effects may indeed have influenced “Rockit”. One of the better songs, “Child For A Day”, ends the album, and while it’s possibly the most archetypical Cat Stevens song here, it turns out his brother wrote it.
At the time, Izitso would have been considered a comeback, and it would have been welcomed. As should be clear, it has not aged well, and while it’s definitely a step up from the last handful of albums, it’s still less than memorable.

Cat Stevens Izitso (1977)—

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