- Melody Maker
- Saturday 23rd March 1974
- Courtesy of Linda Crafar
Cat On The Prowl
Cat Stevens is
back-with an 'oldstyle' album and a 5 week tour. He talks to Chris Charlesworth.
CAT STEVENS, never one of
our most prolific or hard working artists begins a flurry of activity this week. On Monday
evening he opened a five week tour in Glasgow that will ultimately take him to four
continents, and record shops will ship his new album "Buddha And The Chocolate
Box" in a few days time.
Stevens is an artist whose career seems to
consist of short bursts of energy followed by lengthy periods of relaxation. Hes
never one to rush into things or hurry a production, and has reached that comfortable
stage where he can afford time over his work.
More significantly, his
following remains loyal despite the small output. In this respect hes Britains
answer to Paul Simon quality before quantity is the name of the game.
The new album marks return
to pre-1973 style of his two most successful albums, "Tea For The Tillerman" and
"Teaser And The Firecat."
Stevens entered another
phase with his last set "Foreigner," "Catch Bull At Four" acting as a
bridge between the two styles. "Foreigner" wasnt as commercially popular
as his previous efforts, and the new record seems like a deliberate attempt to recapture
his former style.
It's an excellent album,
more enjoyable, than "Foreigner," and packed with those pretty songs that
typified "Teaser" and "Tillerman," though the arrangements are
considerably more ambitious. His guitar-picking buddy Alun Davies returns to the fold, as
does producer Paul Samwell-Smith. Neither worked on "Foreigner." (The nucleus of
his working band Is Davies, Gerry Conway on drums, Jean Roussel, keyboards, and Bruce
Theres a wealth of
diversity, unusual instrumentation and girly backing singers. Mostly the music is gentle
and lilting, rather than raunchy, but it's lusher than anything Stevens has produced
before. Ill be very surprised If it isnt more popular than both
"Foreigner" and "Catch Bull."
Stevens himself is well
pleased with the results of his last four months, which is the time it has taken him to
produce "Chocolate Box." He admits to feeling a little nervous now that
its eventually coming out and because he hasnt appeared live in a long while.
But it was a relaxed Steve
on Monday morning, just an hour before he was due to catch a plane to Glasgow for the
opening show on the tour. He still smokes too many cigarettes, but seems happy to be
re-united with his old band.
"Right now, just
before the album comes out, I feel a bit panicky about it, as if its a mistake, but
everybodys reaction has been good so far," he told me as he inspected the cover
of the album.
It was, apparently, the
first time hed seen the finished sleeve which contains a number of illustrations by
He agreed that the new
album Is more like his earlier material.
"Yes, I knew that
people wanted to hear that kind of -stuff again and I wasn't scared about doing it again
at all. I felt that Foreigner detached me from a lot of people who generally
listen to my stuff. I figured Id better come back and show that I can still write
the stuff they want, but Im not going to do it all the time. It was what I wanted to
do anyway, because after Foreigner I felt I needed another change.
Alun (Davies) and Paul (Samwell-Smith) came back and I felt great about that. "
The stand out track on the
album, "Oh Very Young," has been chosen as a single and on this Steve duets with
Suzanne Lynch, the wife of his bass player.
out on the road with the band and she has a beautiful voice," says Steve. "We
tried all sorts of things on that track, including a banjo, but the girls voice was
the best. It took us four months to make the album, but that wasnt working all the
time. We were spasmodic about it, and that is why I think each track has turned out an
individual in itself. When you make a record all in one week, things tend to sound the
same. Ive linked up the tracks on this record with little bits of notes in between
and I think this makes it flow more. Some of the material is quite old. One track I
wrote three years ago, but mostly it's just ideas and little riffs Ive discovered
sitting around at home or on tour.
Oh Very Young
was very recent. I wrote it when I was feeling happy and its turned out a very
There are tacks where Steve
seems to expose personal feelings. On the closing track on side two, "Home
In The Sky," be sings of music being like a lady and, knowing Steves
association with high class chicks, I inquired of any meaning behind this.
"The philosophy behind
that is that Ive realised that I can't have a dual relationship between my music and
a lady that I love. I cant split myself like that, I brought them together in that
song. There's a Japanese goddess called Benten and shes the goddess of music and
art, and the idea is that if, in Japan, you have a good relationship with somebody she
might get jealous and take away your artistic talent. Thats a very simplified
version of what happens with me. Art comes from yearning and if you're not yearning
you're not creating."
On tour Steve will be
playing most of the material from the new albums. He says he found the material from
"Foreigner" difficult to get across on stage as it was very much a
There will be snatches from
that album, though, as well as some of his favourites from previous albums.
Hell still do "Father And Son."
"I know that if I go
and see an artist like, say, Stevie Wonder, Ill be disappointed if he doesn't play
some of his early materiel. But Ill also be interested to hear new things that I
havent heard before. You have to strike a balance. The show lasts about two hours,
but Linda Lewis is on stage with me and shell be doing a few numbers. As a whole
this is the biggest tour Ive ever done, starting in Glasgow and finishing In
Steve still maintains that
hes always changing and his career is unpredictable. He agrees that Its unlike
him to undertake a tour of this magnitude, but insists that he never really knows
whats going on around him anyway.
"I just go along with
things and if It feels right at the time I say yes. Basically I didnt
know the tour was going to be this big but now it turns out it will be huge. I can predict
up to a point what I would like to think and maybe that comes true or it doesnt. But
Im still changing all the time. You can never gauge whats going to happen next
with me and neither can I. Every day I feel different. I always like to be
I mentioned that
"Foreigner" hadnt been as commercially successful as his previous album.
He dryly observed that his accountant had pointed out the same thing.
"I wasnt really
disappointed because I knew before it was released what kind of album it was. The reaction
to it more or less fitted in with what I thought would happen. Foreigner was a
very necessary album for me. If it wasnt for Foreigner there would be
nothing to relate the new album to. Having a constant sound, like Glen Campbell or
someone, bores me silly, so its good to have changes. Its mysterious, and I
like mysteries. I dont know where the hell Foreigner came from anyway.
It was exactly what the title said, a foreign record for me. It didnt fit in with my
usual pattern. I dont want people to judge me by my looks, my appearance or my
image, or whatever I manage to get across, but by the music. Maybe thats why I put
out Foreigner, to have a break from the predictable. "
Steve says that during 1974
he will travel and work a lot to avoid being complacent.
"I feel that this
album will make it and if it does I dont want to be sat around doing nothing. I
dont want to be sitting around talking with people about the album; I want to be on
stage playing it or doing another one. I think the next one will probably come very
quickly. With me a long album is years, and a quick album about a year. Its possible
Ill have some new songs written by about halfway through this tour, but there
wont be any unrecorded material included in the sets. I like to give my musicians a
strict thing to work in, then they can do what they want within those boundaries. Did you
know that Indian music, which sounds the free-est of all music, is actually the most
regulated of all? I think the things we play from Foreigner could get loose on
stage, but most of my music Is pretty regulated, Were doing Later from
the Foreigner album, but we dont know yet whether itll last three
minutes or seven. Things like that have still to sort themselves out. Max Middleton may
come in to play piano, and Jim Cregan, Lindas (Lewis) guitarist may want to come in
and play on some numbers. If thats the case, It's cool with me. The total band,
including all the extra singers, is now about 12. There's no strings but I
bought a little synthesiser and it didnt work properly, so that's out. Im a
bit nervous because its seven months since I last did anything, and that was an
American TV show. I didnt think It was too good compared to the shows over here.
Steve's faint Cockney
accent tailed off as a car arrived to take him to Heathrow for the first of many flights
in the near future. Steve took a last look at the Japanese garden hes building at
the rear of his house, picked up a number of cases, containing guitars and odd percussion
instruments and set off for the car.
"Wish me luck,"
he said. "I might need it. "
Snippets from Melody
Maker -Saturday 23rd March 1974
Look Here Guide To Weeks Events
- Thursday 21st March Odeon
- Saturday 23rd March Empire
Liverpool The bedsitter idol returns
- Sunday 24th March New Theatre
- Wednesday 27th March Theatre
Royal Drury Lane
- Thursday 28th March Theatre Royal
Any Questions? Page 34
Cat And The Fairy Tales
Q: Is it true that Cat
Stevens wrote a book of fairy tales, and if so, what is the title and where can I get it?
What is the instrumentation
used on the "Tea For The Tillerman" album and where can I get the music for Cat
Stevens records? W. V. Maris, Amsterdam, Holland.
A: The book Cat
wrote is titled "Teaser And The Flrecat " and it is an extension of the story
which is encapsulated in the album illustration. It costs £1.60 including postage and is
available from Miss Val Davies, c/o the Cat Steven's fan club, which Is known as the Cat
Stevens Fantasy Ring. Address is 27 Curzon Street, London W1. The instrumentation on
"Tea For The Tiilerman" was Cat Stevens (guitar and keyboards), AIun Davies (2nd
guitar), John Ryan (bass), Harvey Burns (drums), Jack Rostein (solo violin) and strlngs
arranged by Del Newman. The record was produced by Paul Samwell-Smith. Music for
Cats albums has been published in the form of fan books, and these are Foreigner
(£1.25), Catch Bull at Four (£1.50), Teaser And The Flrecat (£1) and one which
incorporates songs from "Mona Bone Jakon" and "Tea For The Tillerman"
(£1.25). All these should be available at any music shop in the United Kingdom, but it
might be difficult to get them In Holland. If so write to Freshwater Music, 155-157 Oxford
Street, London WI.