Cat Stevens
Mona Bone Jakon



by FA USER (7 Reviews)
May 31st, 2006 | 7 replies

Release Date: 1970 | Tracklist

Who honestly thought that folk singer/songwriter Cat Stevens (who would later change his name to Yusuf Islam) would be deported 34 years after his release of Mona Bone Jakon? Stevens was deported to Britain after United States officials said his activities could be "linked to terrorism" and his name was later put on a US no-fly list back in 2004. Stevens actually was a part of the British Pop scene back in the late 60’s up until his run-in with tuberculosis. Nearly a year after recovering from his infirmity, he released Mona Bone Jakon in the Spring of 1970. It wasn’t until the release of this album, did Stevens finally find his grounds in the music he wanted to create. His lyrics became more pensive and personal, as well as his music in general. Almost ironically, he turned away from his previous “pop star” roots and began singing songs for himself rather than for commercial success. It was probably not until then, did Stevens find what was right for him and for his music; the delicate vocals occasionally reaching baroque sound. I’m sure most Cat Stevens fans would say that his albums Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat were his most creative albums, containing his most classic pieces of work. I have to say that Mona Bone Jakon is not necessarily an inferior album to the two. Although it may be a little less well-received and admired by fans, it definitely set precedent to the kind of music he would be creating for the rest of his musical vocation. It was a groundbreaking, musical dissertation created after his run in with a deadly illness, altering the personal and effective tones to his music that is enjoyed by his fans today.

The opening track sounds of something you’d hear at the beginning of a western film or could maybe be put to a film like “Desperado”. Lady d’Arbanville opens with Stevens singing over the gentle plucking of his acoustic guitar soon followed after by the thumping of bongos and the haunting background vocals straining “ahhhh’s”. I am not certain, but I believe the vocals used in the background are those of Peter Gabriel, who later accompanied the album with his flute. Considering the recent new sound that Stevens has produced on this album, the sound stays germane and comparable throughout the album. The raucous tones and uneven notes provide to the music the personal and more intimate edge to each and every track on this album.

I Think I See the Light is probably most famous for it’s appearance in the film Harold & Maude; the film contained a total of three songs on this album by Stevens. The piano within the song almost reminds me of a Ben Folds Five song and the occasional organ riff sounds like that of The Doors and their use of the organ. The lyrics really sketch out his emotions in this album, singing:

I used to trust nobody, trusting even less their words,
until I found somebody; there was no one I preferred

and then proceeding to the chorus where he feels he is finally seeing things at an optimistic view:

I think I see the light coming to me,
coming through me giving me a second sight.
So shine, shine, shine,
shine, shine, shine,
shine, shine, shine.

When you arrive to the song Trouble, you obtain a vague premise of the hardship and the aftermath Stevens experienced.

Oh trouble set me free
I have seen your face
And it's too much too much for me

Covers of this song include the likes of Elliott Smith, Pearl Jam, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Although, listeners to his music, they may or may not have shared his personal experience, but they understood the tentative optimism and the issues he was trying to display through his newfound music.

This album was not top-chart material to begin with, but it opened the door to a broader audience and it allowed the success of his next album, Tea for the Tillerman.

You get a first look at his uprising in his future oeuvre.
If you enjoyed the film Harold & Maude and the music in that film, you will most likely enjoy this.
A more folksy feel than his previous “Pop” albums.

Not as entertaining as his latter work.
May not seem as catchy.

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user ratings (61)

Comments:Add a Comment 
May 31st 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

Sorry if the opening seems redundant, but I felt it kind of led nicely into his past "British Pop" scene.

May 31st 2006


Your review had good points but it feels it little unfinished and could've used some final editing, but good effort anyways.

wtf, ur not galapogos

June 2nd 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review, I'm glad someone else finally took a stab at Cat.

December 1st 2008


Album Rating: 4.5

Justin, your review starts very nicely. But after the introduction passed, it's rather disappointing. You didn't say that "Lady d'Arbanville" was a song written from a TRUE love with the French actress of the same name. Stevens felt he was losing his love and wrote this desperate song. Some said she moved to Mick Jagger.

You completely overlooked the magnificent "Katmandu" with the Peter Gabriel flute playing at the time when Genesis was near nothing in the prog scene. (His contribution is mentioned on the 2000 remastered CD I own). "Time" and "Fill My Eyes" are very nice and sensitive folk tunes you totally overlooked. "Lilywhite" (a bit syrupy) and "I Wish I Wish" are a tiny bit behind but still interesting. From the metamorphosis from a over-orchestrated pop style to an original and quite innovative and intimate sincere folk genre, I would rate this album 4,5*. "Lady d'Arbanville", "Trouble" and "Katmandu" are the 3 very best songs here, just followed by "Maybe You're Right" and "Fill My Eyes". At last I can't vote "yes" or "no" because I can't make up my mind.This Message Edited On 12.01.08

July 30th 2013


Album Rating: 3.5

Mona Bone Jakon is Cat's nick name for his penis. This album is pretty good, showing flashes of the brilliance that comes in the next two albums.

July 31st 2015


Excellent album, the first 8 songs are all great. Tends to decline a bit after, but it remains a very exciting listen for Cat fans. The two albums that came after are only slightly better.

May 27th 2018


Album Rating: 4.0

Lovely album, “Lady D’Arbanville” is one of his best tunes

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