It is unfortunate that many reviewers of 'Catch bull at four' have tended to regard it as a poorer quality album than its two predecessors 'Tea for the tillerman' and 'Teaser and the Firecat'. I feel that this does the album a great injustice; no artist should be expected to remain unchanging in style, and if he had simply stayed with a winning formula after the success of 'Teaser' Cat Stevens could have rightly criticized. However, Stevens demonstrated integrity and vision throughout the early years of the 1970s, with each of his first five Island Records albums showing a clear progression and artistic development, even if on occasions (perhaps most notably 'Foreigner') this was not always commercially successful.
After achieving a very focused and concise style on 'Teaser', Cat Stevens understandably wanted to experiment with more unusual song structures and ambitious arrangements, and the result is a somewhat more stylistically diverse album than its predecessors. As a result it is, if anything, a stronger, more musically satisfying album, and includes new elements such as electric guitar, synthesizer, female backing vocalists and the accomplished keyboard work of Jean Roussel. At the same time, the album retains much of what made Cat's earlier work appealing, and also includes the welcome re-appearance of the bouzouki to add its distinctive sound to 'O Caritas'.
The mood of the album is at times somber, reflecting Stevens' continuing spiritual pilgrimage at this time, and his deep feelings perhaps show through most in the opening track 'Sitting' and the bleak closing song 'Ruins'. Though there are a couple of weaker tracks (such as 'Boy...' which has a pleasant arrangements but a rather tedious, over-long lyric, and 'Angelsea' which is perhaps too dominated by synthesizer sounds), these can be appreciated as valid musical experiments, and are more than compensated for by other very appealing up-tempo tracks (such as 'Sitting', 'Can't keep it in' and 'O Caritas'). The album contains several lovely ballads, such as 'Sweet scarlet' and the madrigal-like 'Silent sunlight', whilst the more complex song structure of '18th avenue', with its orchestral interlude and changing rhythms, hints at the direction Cat would take with his next album 'Foreigner'. The whole package is enhanced by the crystal clear remastering, and restoration of the stylish original album artwork. Altogether, 'Catch bull at four' can be regarded as a very satisfying album which, along with 'Tillerman' and 'Teaser' ranks among Cat Stevens' best work.