You can’t always blame people for their religious convictions, but when you’re a public figure like Cat Stevens was with his string of accessible hits and album cuts, then it can be disappointing when they disappear from the stage entirely. One of the qualities of Cat Stevens was his deep-seated desire to see a better world. It is indicated in many of his early ‘70s hits like “Moonshadow,” “Morning Has Broken,” “Wild World,” and “Peace Train,” songs that are necessarily effective to help counterbalance a world that tilts at every angle from strife and every disruptive point jabbed into it daily. We’re not naïve enough to think that songs can eliminate such strife and anger but they can certainly alleviate them.
After some 28 years of absence, Cat Stevens now returns to the stage using his given Islamic name, Yusuf. His absence is greater felt with his debut return album, An Other Cup. Had the album been an entirely lackluster effort, we would have accepted the departure and his musical legacy as the end results of a personal choice. But since the songs that Yusuf have created for this album have a familiarity with his earlier albums and their songs, well, that 28 years becomes a well of dryness, a waterless period in which we as partners in this musical world will never know the words and music that doubtless would have been sung but now have no voice. And yes, this is a chastisement as well as a review.
An Other Cup begins with the splendid “Midday,” a song about watching life as it happens. It is a piano composition that is accented by horns making this song truly a reminder that Stevens/Yusuf maintains the ability to craft timeless songs that say a lot and are musically magnetic. It is clearly the best song off the album. The single off the album, “Heaven/Where True Love Goes” follows “Midday” and carries the familiar Cat Stevens sound in a more adult contemporary mode than his much more familiar works. There is also a track that is a carry over from the 1960s, "Green Fields/Golden Sands."
Does Cat Stevens/Yusuf still have a voice for this day and age and does his music reflect the music that we have grown to love some 28 years earlier? My short answer is yes. And with that I welcome back the music of Stevens/Yusuf. With songs like “Midday,” I’m led to believe that, should Stevens/Yusuf continue with his music, he will fit back into classic material yet again.