Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Cat Stevens 12: Footsteps in the Dark

After a few years of musical silence, the news emerged that Cat Stevens had changed his name yet again. Now known as Yusuf Islam, he had retired from pop music to devote his life to his family and his faith. Meanwhile, his songs still played on the radio, in all formats, so releasing a second greatest hits compilation wasn’t too much of a stretch.
Despite its subtitle, Footsteps In The Dark is fairly short on actual hits, but it’s still chock full of quality. In a covert admission that the albums since the first hits album hadn’t aged well, the set covers songs throughout the entire ‘70s. As an added bonus, three songs make their album debut.
Side one is nearly flawless, beginning with “The Wind” but veering off course with “(I Never Wanted) To Be A Star”; okay, we get it. “Katmandu” and “Trouble” are rescued from Mona Bone Jakon. In between is the charming “I Want To Live In A Wigwam”, the B-side of “Morning Has Broken”. “On The Road To Find Out” turns out to be just one of the foreshadowings scattered throughout his pop career, while “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out”, written for and featured prominently in the film Harold And Maude finally appears for home enjoyment.
The second side hops even wider throughout the decade, from “Where Do The Children Play?” and “How Can I Tell You” to later tunes “The Hurt”, “Daytime” (whence comes the album title), and “Silent Sunlight”. The simple but sweet “Don’t Be Shy” is the other Harold And Maude song here, and for some reason “Father & Son” appears, despite its inclusion on the first hits album.
The CD era would eventually inspire further collections, beginning with Classics Volume 24 (numbered as part of A&M’s 25th Anniversary Classics series), which combined tunes from both hits albums and nicely included “If You Want To Sing Out”. Several different releases purporting to be The Very Best Of Cat Stevens have appeared over the years; the most recent is not chronological, but includes more pop material from the ‘60s and concludes with, yes, “If You Want To Sing Out”. 2005’s Gold double CD was very comprehensive, going from “Matthew & Son” through Teaser And The Firecat on the first disc alone, and including both Harold And Maude songs. The second disc rushes through the rest of the ‘70s, and even includes a new track recorded by Yusuf Islam himself specifically for this set. All that said, Footsteps In The Dark is still the best (and cheapest) choice, particularly for “I Want To Live In A Wigwam”.

Cat Stevens Footsteps In The Dark: Greatest Hits Volume Two (1984)—

1 comment:

  1. I first heard "Where Do the Children Play?" on the B-side of a reissue of "Morning Has Broken". Its appearance here encouraged me to pick this up. Like you, I wasn't disappointed, except for the rather sloppy re-inclusion of "Father and Son". This was my first exposure to anything from "Mona Bone Jakon". Those are fine songs. I certainly prefer his earlier, more acoustic material to the more produced, keyboard oriented stuff ("Daytime", "..Star", "The Hurt") of his later period. Its noteworthy that, with the exceptions of "..Wigwam" and "..Sing Out", he avoids his more frivolous material such as "Banapple Gas" and "Old Schoolyard". Perhaps he wanted to present himself as a serious, introspective artist at this point in his life.

    Of course, one is always going to have quibbles about what should have been included. Instead of "How Can I Tell You?", "On the Road to Find Out" and "Daytime", I would have preferred "Changes IV", "Longer Boats" and "Bad Brakes". I suppose that lyrics of the latter were way too dark for Cat to consider that.

    Since there isn't one Cat Stevens album I care for all the way through, I agree with you that these two "Greatest Hits" albums will be enough for most people. "Gold" does include his 3 best Deram tracks as well as "Lady D'Arbanville", so that's a bit of a tradeoff. Can't go wrong with either strategy!