I have been reading the reviews here and want to give my honest feedback on Yusef's first new pop album in 28 years. By far, this is the best music he has done since he quit music. With that said though, it is not up there with his best 3 albums: Tea For The Tillerman, Teaser & the Firecat & Catch Bull at Four. It is just not as strong lyrically or musically and does not have the mass appeal(as a whole). That doesn't mean it isn't good; it is, but not everyone will be drawn to some of religious songs that appear.
Anyway here is a song by song breakdown:
1) Midday - 8.5/10
Though it lacks a chorus, the wonderful instrumentals make this song. I agree the production is like his very early stuff - very lush, but this time not overdone. I like this song very much.
2) Heaven/Where True Love Goes - 8/10
We have all heard it. This song is inspiring, uplifting & one of the few really upbeat songs. It is a love song I think for his wife or son with a spiritual message.
3) Maybe There's a World - 10/10
This is the best song far and away. It sounds like a lost song from Tea for Tillerman. His vocal is very strong and I love the backing harmony of the chorus.
4) One Day At a Time - 6/10.
This song is not one of my favourites. It is very mellow and the vocal is very quiet. The style is similar to the songs on Numbers. Musically it is kinda weak & it almost lulls me to sleep to be honest.
5) When Butterflies Leave - 7/10
It is so short it is hard to rate. How can you complain about a 40 second song? Even if you don't like it, it ends so fast. So what if it is a poem? Nothing fantastic, but it is decent enough.
6) In the End - 8/10
This song will turn some off, for it does sound a bit preachy. Yet unlike Dylan's Gotta Serve Somebody it is not in your face. Yusef expresses a heartfelt viewpoint of following a path that is good, not evil. It may sound a bit preachy, but this song is very strong and being a spiritual, but not religious person, I connect with his message and don't feel he is trying to convert you.
7) Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood - 7.5/10
This seems to be Yusef's theme song now. If you do a cover, you have to expect one to compare it to the original and in doing that it is not as good as the Animals version. The main problem I have is that Yusef slowed down the song so much, that it loses its appeal. He does a decent version, but the song sounds better at a faster tempo and Yusef still has the voice to do it that way. It could have been the second single, but it is too slow to work.
8) I Think I See The Light - 8/10
I am not a big fan of redoing old songs. Yusef takes out the word girl and turns this old love song into a song about God. Yet despite that, it is a very good remake and backing instrumentation is great. This version may be better than the original.
9) Whispers of a Spiritual Garden - 6/10
Another poem set to music. Not my cup of tea, but have no problem with it.
10) The Beloved - 7/10
This song is most the religious of them all. It is a song about the prophet Muhhamed. It is a nice song, but the song has limited appeal. Muslims will love it, but most would have preferred a more secular song. Considering this album is meant to appeal to the Western World, this song will turn more people off. I don't have a problem with him writing it and singing it, but feel this album was not the place for it. He could have included on one of his more religious releases. Then again maybe Yusef wanted to do a record where there is something for everyone and this song is not the one for me. I like this the least.
11) Greenfields, Golden Sands - 8.5/10
They are calling this Yusef's Imagine. It is not. John Lennon's Imagine was his masterpiece and this song is not that good or as good as Cat's best peace song - Peace Train. Yet it is a very good song. It has a very strong melody and I think more than any other song, this song will grow on you. Its style is similar to early work 1966-1968, and it was written in 68, so it falls more into that category than his 1970-72 style. It is a strong song to end the album.
I do wish they listed the musicians that played on each song like they did in the old days. I wanted to know what songs Alun Davies & the rest of his old band played on. But I guess I can live without knowing.
In conclusion, giving this 1 star is absurd. The album has moments of greatness, but I wouldn't give it 5 stars either, for it has some weaker moments and giving it 5 stars would say it is up there with his best work and I don't think it is. But it is a good album and it is great to hear the ol' Cat back after so many years.
And the production is great and his voice sounds as good as ever. And who said he lost his skill as a musician? After 28 years, he is going to be rusty, but amazingly he is very strong on the guitar again and I am a musician so I can hear his skill shining through again.
Go buy this album if you liked Cat Stevens. It is better than 95% of the music out there.