Very Best Of
A textbook example of an artist whose early work defined him, Cat Stevens’ pop career from 1967-1978, has been historically difficult to encapsulate in a single disc anthology. This 20-song retrospective is the fourth and most ambitious attempt, and although relatively comprehensive, it’s not definitive.
Kicking off with two late ’60s British hits from his short stay on the Deram label, both “Matthew and Son” and “The First Cut is the Deepest” lose Stevens’ unique, honey-grained voice amid over-orchestrated pop. After recovering from tuberculosis, Stevens switched labels (to A&M) as well as styles (to introspective folk-pop), and along with James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, exemplified the sensitive singer/songwriter balladeer. Very Best Of continues chronologically, cherry-picking a hefty four tracks each from Stevens’ high-water marks Tea for the Tillerman (“Wild World,” “Father and Son”) and Teaser and the Firecat (“Peace Train,” “Moon Shadow”) yet only another eight from his final six albums combined, where the pickings are remarkably slim. The remastered sound is excellent, but choppy liner notes that overemphasize Stevens’ eventual conversion to the Muslim religion and name change to Yusuf Islam, as well as the omission of key songs from the Harold and Maude soundtrack, leave this worthy compilation frustratingly deficient.
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