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Album Review - Circus Magazine - Janis Schacht - July 1974

Cat Stevens

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Buddha and The Chocolate Box (A&M)

It was early 1967 when Cat Stevens, a young boy from London’s Shaftesbury Avenue first entered my life. At the time there was no doubt in my mind that he was one of the most incredible finds I’d ever made. Mismanagement, ill-health and too much living took the Cat away for two years, but when he returned in 1969 he was stronger and even more impressive than ever. As Cat Stevens grew bigger and bigger and more important, his music began to slip a little. It never got bad, it just became less personal and less blatantly exceptional. In fact, the last time Cat played New York City he was so bored with himself and his music that he even clock-watched for the duration of his performance.

Now, something very special has happened. Cat Stevens has been hanging out on Shaftesbury Avenue again, helping to redecorate his mother and fathers’ restaurant, the Moulin Rouge, and with this re-entry to his past his music has become stronger, more interesting and a good deal better than either Catch Bull At Four or Foreigner.

It was 1971 on a London stage not far from Cat’s original home that he introduced a brand new song called "King Of Trees," explaining that it had taken him over a year to finish, because he wanted to create words as beautiful as the melody. For some strange reason it’s taken him two and a half years to put the song on record, but it’s as staggering now as it was that very first time.

Two people have returned to Mr. Stevens’ life on this LP: Paul Samwell Smith and guitarist Alun Davies who were both sorely missed on Foreigner. These two bring the guitar playing back up to par and put the production back into control.

"Oh very young," Cat sings, "what will you leave us this time/You’re only dancing on this earth/for a short while." Perhaps he has come to realize that he does have something very special to give us earthlings, and it had better be the very best he can give us all the time. Still very young at twenty-four, Cat Stevens has lived a lot harder and more fully than many older than him. Still he sees life in a unique way. Whether he’s singing about ladies on the road in songs such as "Sun/ C79" or about a tired old film lot in "Ghost Town," his perspective is always far more vivid than most.

Strangely, Cat Stevens is never a cynic. His music is full of life and the sheer love of it. Supposedly because of his early brush with death, he sees the world with crystalline clarity, and, thank goodness the music he’s putting down is now as clear, and as beautiful as the thoughts he’s trying to bring across. Buddha and The Chocolate Box is Cat Stevens’ second comeback.

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