I think by now you get it: I like getting my e-circle to contribute to this here Tumblr. This post is written by Will Salzer, a Potholes contributor and college kid who is a legitimate #teen. Will totally took to this record and assignment: I think the total time between when I asked if he wanted to write something, him selecting the album, and writing the piece below was like 2 hours.
Let me preface this by saying something: Yusuf Islam is someone that everyone loves to hate, and I’ve never understood why. Cat Stevens, in my eyes, takes up the same aura as like a Gordon Lightfoot type of artist; his pop success is immeasurable, and the amount of consistent material he’s put out is absolutely egregious. Despite all of this, and his humanitarian efforts, Cat Stevens gets the typical pop artist reputation: it’s not real music. It’s too preachy. It’s vapid. But let me ask you this, what’s more real than “If you want to say yes, say yes, and if you want to say no, say no”? But, I digress, I’m a nineteen year old college student whose being wasn’t even conceptualized in the time of Cat’s popularity, but for me, a sucker for a good voice and a good acoustic guitar ditty, Cat Stevens (and Gordon Lightfoot, for that matter) are more than enough to settle my stew.
My first interaction with Cat Stevens was when sixteen year old me found a used copy of the film Harold and Maude on sale at the Blockbuster five minutes away. It was two dollars. The cover looked bizarre, and it made me uncomfortable, but I was fascinated. I was going through a weird period where I was trying to get into art films, but I was failing because they all sucked. This wasn’t my last resort, but I was sure as hell getting to the end of my rope with the art world. I waited to watch it that night till everyone had gone to bed, at risk of someone in my family seeing me watching it, thus making me the “odd” child. All throughout the movie, I couldn’t help but feel that it had a singularity to it; a singularity that I would later realize was achieved because of how well the soundtrack and the movie were related. After watching the movie and becoming fixated on finding what that one damn song was called, I went onto IMDB to look up the soundtrack. I then discovered the aforementioned song was “Where Do The Children Play”, which, since that night, has been one of my favorite songs. Cat’s soundtracking for Harold and Maude was untouchable, the consistency was just bloody perfect.
But, I should probably get to talking about Greatest Hits. I fucking hate it. The album may have all of Cat’s greatest hits commercially, and probably to most people, they are his best songs, but not to me. As I said, he had a good deal of commercial success, more power to him, but Greatest Hits does not reflect the true Cat Stevens, in all of his cliche-ridden, genuine warmness. It has a few great songs: “Wild World” and “Moonshadow” are both fantastic. But this album portrays a time in Cat’s life where his songs were over-produced, machinated, and were getting increasingly further away from the good, folk sound he wanted.
Greatest Hits might call to you on levels incomprehensible to human ears, and I hope it does, because Cat’s music is universal, and in an age where cliches are becoming more and more of a bad thing, the music of Cat Stevens will always be around to remind us, that if you want to be free, be free.