Release Date: May 5, 2009
Record label: A&M
Genre(s): Rock, Singer-Songwriter
Cat Stevens fell in love with the Islamic faith shortly after his brother gave him a copy of the Qur’an as a gift following a near-death experience where Stevens nearly drowned off the coast of Malibu, California in 1976. He formally converted two days before Christmas in 1977, taking the name Yusuf Islam. He would record one more secular album, 1978’s Back to Earth, before turning his back on his career and life as Cat Stevens altogether, spending the next three decades as a devout follower of the teachings of Allah on a deep, spiritual search for a sense of inner peace within himself, a solace he had been yearning for in song since his 1970 A&M debut, Mona Bone Jakon.
The album fits like a glove onto Stevens' former identity, with some songs as gloriously rich and beautiful as anything he's ever written. With its lithe string arrangement and guitar work by Yogi Lonich, the title track asks a central question: "...Where do you go/When the world turns dark/And the light of the truth is blown out/And all the roads are blocked..." "Dream On" is a gauzy, small wonder of a track with a gorgeous saxophone part that stands as an accompaniment to the repetitive vocal. "All Kinds of Roses" is a hymn to tolerance despite one's own beliefs; its metaphors are artfully layered.
The man born Steven Georgiou sounds here more like his old showbiz self, Cat Stevens. The vocal pipes are rustier, but the twisting melodies and earnest vocals are cut from the same mould as Tea For the Tillerman. To confirm a sense of a circle completed comes a 1974 song, The Rain, that melds easily into a well-produced mix, rich in guitars, discreet strings and the occasional sax toot.
Mini music reviews Ciara Fantasy Ride, Ride spends a lot of time in the car-pool lane, with guests like Justin Timberlake (”Love Sex Magic”) and Ludacris (”High Price,” a slinky, if lyrically obnoxious, ode to acquisitiveness). Still, her solo turn on the morning-after ballad ”I Don’t Remember” hints at something deeper under the high-gloss sheen. B — Leah Greenblatt The BoxmastersModbillyBoxmaster Billy Bob Thornton’s recent radio meltdown begged to be heard over and over.