Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Cat Stevens 16: The Laughing Apple

Yusuf continued to embrace his history as Cat Stevens, and the legacy it entailed, with the mix of new and old on The Laughing Apple. Once again credited to his current and previous names, it’s another pleasant set of singer-songwriter folk music, just like he used to make.
In fact, unless one were intimately aware of his deep catalog, it’s not always easy to tell which songs are remakes. Four songs, including “Blackness Of The Night”, “Northern Wind”, “I’m So Sleepy”, and the title track, were originally recorded and released fifty years earlier on his second album. With the exception of some ornamental touches, the new versions are much more relaxed and not as fruity as the style of the times. “Grandsons” is an update of a Mona Bone Jakon outtake that had appeared on a few latter-day compilations, and rings truer in his current voice than it did then.
If “You Can Do (Whatever)” sounds like a cousin of “If You Want To Sing Out”, that’s probably because it was also intended for the Harold & Maude soundtrack but wasn’t finished in time. Similarly, “Mighty Peace” was begun in the early ‘60s. He wasn’t the first guy to put new music to “Mary And The Little Lamb”, but at least the choruses transcend the verses.
Of the new songs, “See What Love Did To Me” could have fallen off either Tillerman or Teaser, and listen for the subtle substitution of “God” in the later verses. “Olive Hill” is a spritely reverie for halcyon days, with something of a “cowboys on the prairie” instrumental break, while “Don’t Blame Them” is a call for universal tolerance with a melody inspired by Beethoven’s Pathétique sonata.
The Laughing Apple also sports contributions from longtime collaborator Alun Davies, helping the warm sound. The package is nice, too, full of storybook-style sketches for each of the songs.

Yusuf/Cat Stevens The Laughing Apple (2017)—3

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