Wednesday, November 29, 2006


The artist formerly known as Cat Stevens and Steven Demetre Georgiou, is now recording as Yusuf (short for Yusuf Islam). "Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," he sings. Cat's "Animals" cover version here is more compelling than his new soft-rock originals.
He sings it to counter the bad publicity he received for allegedly siding with the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, as well as devoutly following a religion that has followers who devoutly engage in the mass-murder of innocent people while screaming fanatic slogans.
The hostility against "Cat Stevens" led 10,000 Maniacs (none of them maniacal suicide bombers) to remove a cover of "Peace Train" from their "In My Tribe" album. After the 9/11 attack in 2001, Yusuf performed "Peace Train" for "The Concert for New York City" in 2001, his first public performance in 20 years. He also donated a chunk of change to the September 11 Fund and declared:"I wish to express my heartfelt horror at the indiscriminate terrorist attacks committed against innocent people of the United States right thinking follower of Islam could possibly condone such an action..."
Now he hopes right thinking followers of Yusuf Islam will support his new album, which continues a career that began 40 years ago with the catchy "Matthew and Son" in 1966, followed by "The First Cut is the Deepest" (more of a success covered by others). After a big lull, including recovery from tuberculosis, Cat resuscitated his career in 1971 with "Wild World," "Moon Shadow" and "Morning Has Broken," establishing him as a tremulous addition to the ranks of James Taylor and Elton John. By 1977, he had tried everyone's patience with the seriously annoying "Izitso" album, and after becoming a Muslim that year, issued "Back to Earth," and dropped out of sight.
He wasn't heard from again until the Ayatollah's death decree against Salman Rushdie, which prompted Cat to yowl: "In Islam there is a line between let's say freedom and the line which is then transgressed into immorality and irresponsibility and I think as far as this writer is concerned, unfortunately, he has been irresponsible with his freedom of speech. Salman Rushdie or indeed any writer who abuses the prophet, or indeed any prophet, under Islamic law, the sentence for that is actually death."
Today he spins it this way: "At a lecture, back in 1989, I was asked a question about blasphemy according to Islamic Law, I simply repeated the legal view according to my limited knowledge of the Scriptural texts, based directly on historical commentaries of the Qur'an. The next day the newspaper headlines read, "Cat Says, Kill Rushdie." I was abhorred, but what could I do? I was a new Muslim. If you ask a Bible student to quote the legal punishment of a person who commits blasphemy in the Bible, he would be dishonest if he didn't mention Leviticus 24-16."
Yusuf now sings: "You can't bargain with the truth. 'Cause whether you're right or you're wrong, we're gonna know what you done, gonna see where you belong in the end." You can choose to view lyrics like that as comforting if you want to.
Along with other 70's solo stars such as Paul Simon, Elton John and Paul McCartney, the ex-Cat Stevens is capable of issuing innocuous albums that won't embarrass older fans but won't bring in many new ones. He's here on the illfolks page since he was once a physically ill folkie (tuberculosis), and is now trying to mount a comeback from obscurity. Check Cat's new bag of tricks here:
UPDATE MARCH 20, 07 -- due to inactivity (ie, disinterest) the file died.
Update JULY 2008: file returns. If it expires again, it'll be terminal.
UPDATE: May 2009. Interest in this one was so low, Rapidshare finally killed the link for having been idle for 90 days. This Cat doesn't have nine lives here! No Re-up.


Hazy Dave said...

I'm not a Paul Simon fan, but I thought McCartney's Chaos And Creation In The Backyard is the best album I've heard from him for some time. I've read that Elton's isn't quite the successful throwback to the seventies that certain publicity might lead one to hope. His (new) albums became uninteresting to me around the same time Cat Stevens' did, anyway. The Yusuf album sounds pretty decent (it might sound even better relatively speaking, if he'd continued putting out crappy albums for the last 20 years) though his new version of "I Think I See The Light" from Mona Bone Jakon would have been better at three and a half minutes than it is at five and a half. I wonder whether Natalie Merchant now finds herself more in agreement with Yusuf than, say, the current resident of the White House.

Ill Folks said...

Yes, I think Paul's "Chaos" may have benefitted from having a strong producer involved, and something to prove.

It seems aging rockers lose the "hook." Few of the new songs are as instantly hummable as the old.

Dylan's admitted he'll never write anything like those early hits again. But if they still have that "fire in the belly" (and Bob is perpetually wired, it seems)they don't really disappoint.

Maybe expectations go down a notch. Then you can say "Well, here's another pleasant Ringo album," and "Elton John was smooth, and some of it was kind of catchy."

If a superstar doesn't have it, he'll need solid ghost-writing help, a fresh bunch of backing musicians, and some luck...which Paul Simon didn't quite have. A good album but not the great comeback album he needed. Likewise, Joni Mitchell can blame the music biz all she wants, but if she doesn't have a hit single, no amount of push will help. Her numbers will continue to erode as a natural result of demographics and interest.

Somebody mentioned that a key to staying in the Top 10 is doing the unexpected, and some of these guys are too predictable. Buying the new album isn't a high priority so you don't see that instant, eye-catching jump to the top of the charts.

Stevens could be in a position to be a Lennon for this age; to re-state the idea of giving peace a chance by calling out to East and West by embracing Western music while being a role model for his religion.

It's a lot to ask, and maybe it's not quite what he wants to do or can do.