As uncool and politically incorrect as it is to admit it, I’m really digging the hell out of having the Cat Stevens back catalog available on compact disc. Not for all of the songs that once appeared on the ubiquitous Cat Stevens Greatest Hits, mind you–since I’m as sick of that too-too-treacly-treacly collection as anyone–but instead for all the lost songs that don’t make the compilations.
Songs like “Music” and “Sun/C79” from Buddha and the Chocolate Box, for instance, or “Longer Boats” from Tea for the Tillerman, or just about anything from Numbers and Foreigner, two woefully underappreciated, underanthologized discs. As a general rule, the non-Greatest Hits songs tend to be knottier, grittier, more densely arranged and more artfully performed than their more famous counterparts.
A particularly strong recommendation must be given to the reissued Mona Bone Jakon, the first album Stevens released after falling into a tuberculosis ward from the lofty heights he had achieved as a mid-’60s U.K. pop star. It’s a powerful collection, with nary a whiff of the sentimentality normally associated with Stevens’ work. I mean, jeez, the opening tune, “Lady D’Arbanville” is about a dude pining over the body of a dead woman, whose method of demise is left mysteriously unexplained.
It’s ooky. It’s spooky. But it’s Cat Stevens. How weird is that?