Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Cat Stevens 14: Roadsinger

It turned out that Yusuf’s return to the music industry was more than a passing fancy. Roadsinger was promoted with stickers reminding consumers who he used to be, and he even did some promotional appearances on television.
It also helped that the album is more in the spirit of Tea For The Tillerman and Teaser And The Firecat than anything since. These are simple tunes, without unnecessary ornamentation, celebrating the same old ideas of enlightenment and unity, equally without preaching, starting from the opening “Welcome Home” through to “All Kinds Of Roses”. “Thinking ‘Bout You” is a joyful love song equally applicable to a deity as it is a life partner. “Everytime I Dream” alludes to some of the criticism he’d received for his pro-Islam statements, but it’s under a wonderfully retro acoustic arrangement with subtle horns. “The Rain” could easily fit into those early ‘70s albums, as could the yearning “World O’Darkness” (noted as being “from the musical, Moonshadow”, which opened and closed a few years later).
“Be What You Must” daringly incorporates the piano melody of “Sitting”, seesawing between a major chord and a minor, while what sounds like a children’s choir helps out on the chorus; thankfully, it’s only Michelle Branch and Gunnar Nelson. “In This Glass World”, also from the musical, is built around a gently fingerpicked electric guitar, and picks up drums and crunch halfway through for a heavier sound that fits. The title track finally emerges as something of a statement of purpose, or at least a theme song. “Dream On (Until…)” isn’t much more than a sketch with saxophone, but it works as a closing benediction, followed by the gentle instrumental “Shamsia” (which we assume is also from the musical, as that’s the name of one of the characters).
Though astonishingly short, at barely over half an hour, Roadsinger reminds us why we liked this guy in the first place. Even the packaging shows his care, with the lyrics appearing either as handwritten sheets or word processor printouts with handwritten corrections, among photos of smiling children we assume are his. (Not included on most editions of the album was the single “Boots And Sand”, written in the aftermath of being refused entry to America under suspicion of terrorism, and featuring vocal support from Paul McCartney and Dolly Parton.)

Yusuf Roadsinger (2009)—

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