Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Cat Stevens - Mona Bone Jakon (1970)


Released April 1970

Recorded at Olympic Studios and Abbey Road Studios, London

Cat Stevens had suffered from tuberculosis in 1968 and after considerable recuperation, he returned in early 1970 with this highly impressive album. Always a sensitive lyricist, the slightly pop styled songs he had released a few years previously had developed into some seriously reflective, spiritual and wise material. This was going to be his most productive and fecund period as a recording artist.


1. Lady D'Arbanville
2. Maybe You're Right
3. Pop Star
4. I Think I See The Light
5. Trouble
6. Mona Bone Jakon
7. I Wish, I Wish
8. Katmandu
9. Time
10. Fill My Eyes
11. Lilywhite

“Lady D’Arbanville” is just gorgeous. Haunting and mysterious. Who was she, I wonder? His ex-lover, apparently. When listening to the song I always imagine her as some historical character. It is a supremely atmospheric song. “Maybe You’re Right” is a mid-tempo rock-ish ballad with hints of Bob Dylan from the same era about it. Not sure which song. “I Threw It All Away” I think.

“Pop Star” is blues rocky and sees Stevens already cynical about the pitfalls of fame and the music industry. “I Think I See The Light” is very early Elton John in style, full of vocal attack and a rocking vibe. This is Stevens at his effervescent, spirited best. His spiritual quest is beginning to be given expression.

“Trouble” is a laid-back, beautiful acoustic ballad. Again, Stevens did this sort of thing so well. “Mona Bone Jakon” is a short song in praise of Stevens’ penis, apparently. This was his name for it. Coming from the gentle, sensitive Stevens, it sits somewhat incongruously. I am sure the Lady D’Arbanville enjoyed it, though. “I Wish, I Wish” is a rocky, vibrant number with a ending drum and piano sound and Stevens ruminating on the pace of the modern world an hoping for a better future. A great guitar solo passage in the middle of it too.

“Katmandu” is a wistful, airy acoustic and sublime bass-based ballad, with a bit of folky flute thrown in there too. It is a truly beautiful piece of music and vocals. A bit Crosby, Stills and Nash in places. Tapping in to the relaxing, chilled-out folky trend of the era. It is perfect. “Time” is an almost psychedelic ballad, although it is still acoustic, with some sweeping string orchestration. It sounds like mid 1990s Paul Weller. He must have listened to this. It segues seamlessly into the similarly beguiling “Fill My Eyes”, another razor-sharp acoustic ballad.  “Lilywhite” is a beautifully orchestrated song, its backing almost classical. A lovely end to a thought-provoking and meaningful piece of work.


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