Monday, 25 February 2019

Cat Stevens - Catch Bull At Four (1972)


Released October 1972

This was Cat Stevens' final folky album before he bravely attempted to experiment with the following year's "Foreigner". He was at a bit of a crossroads, and he was definitely still trying to put the world to rights. He was never comfortable with being a "pop star" yet he seemed to be able to put out regular, appealing albums that always contained a killer hit single. This was not a "bedsitter" album of poetic tenderness, however, there was far more attack, disillusion and religious undertones to be found in its tracks. Were the old studenty fans still with him? Maybe not.


1. Sitting
2. The Boy With A Moon And Star On His Head
3. Anglesea
4. Silent Sunlight
5. Can't Keep It In
6. 18th Avenue (Kansas City Nightmare)
7. Freezing Steel
8. O' Caritas
9. Sweet Scarlet
10. Ruins                                                          

"Sitting" is an Elton John-influenced, piano-driven solid ballad with Stevens on customary dominant vocal form. There is an impressive rolling drum passage half way through the song. "The Boy With A Moon And Star On His Head" has a T. Rex -inspired title and a very America-style acoustic guitar backing. It has a plaintive, poetic hippy-inspired lyric, as one had come to expect from Stevens in this period. It actually is a rather lovely song. however. "Anglesea" has a rapidly-strummed acoustic backing that reminds me of some of Neil Diamond's late sixties material. The track is energetic and committed and includes some wonderful keyboard riffs and some Greek folk music choral backing.

"Silent Sunlight" is a plaintively sung ballad with some lovely strings and a moving vocal. Yes, Stevens' voice has always brought accusations of melodrama, but one could never doubt his sincerity or indeed, his ability to move the soul. The jerky, catchy "Can't Keep It In" was the album's hit single, and deservedly so. It has a captivating organ riff and a typically uncompromising vocal.

"18th Avenue (Kansas City Nightmare)" also has echoes of Elton John about it. Surely Billy Joel was influenced by this too. Great orchestration on it and inspirational piano. "Freezing Steel" is in the same vein, but more quirkily energetic. "O' Caritas" is sung in Greek (until right at the end) and borrows completely from the Greek folk tradition. It is most atmospheric. "Sweet Scarlet" is a gentle, tuneful, sparsely-backed ballad. "Ruins" is slightly reminiscent of David Bowie's acoustically-driven rock from the same period. The thoughtful lyrics and instinctive sincerity that characterised Stevens' late sixties/early seventies work is still here. This is still a good album.


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