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.