This is the album where Cat Stevens went from the brash, dandyish late 60's pop star to the more reflective, introspective singer-songwriter of the early to mid 70's, from writing light songs about dogs, cats and guns to altogether deeper intimations of life, death and love.
It's quite a turnaround, all the more when you consider he was only twenty one but a life threatening brush with TB which incapacitated him for months brought about the musical change and with it his fortunes. An image shift too, now sprouting curly locks and a beard, and changing faded jeans for velvet trousers completed the transformation and saw him in particular break America to become one of the most successful acts of the era.
It all started here I suppose and while, probably like most Stevens admirers, it's the next two albums he did which find him at his best, this is still a good record. Yes, it's a bit hippy-child-like at times in its naïveté and gauche-ness but given the precocity of his age I can forgive that and indeed many would argue this only adds to his charm.
The arrangements are stripped down, no anonymous, electrified studio session musicians here, just acoustic instruments, intimately produced behind the singer's close-miked voice. Not unnaturally he sings of his recent health issues, almost despondently on the delicate "Trouble" but more positively on the brighter "I Think I See The Light", perhaps reflecting different stages of his incapacity.
The lead-off track and UK top 10 single "Lady D'Arbanville" sets the scene perfectly, with its gliding, courtly, melody counterpointed by another melancholy lyric and haunting background vocals. Other highlights are the finger-picking good "Katmandu", while the ear-friendly melodies but soul-baring lyrics of "Maybe You're Right", "I Wish I Wish" and especially "Fill My Eyes" further usher in the new Cat on the block, while the closing "Lilywhite" ends the set with a memorable strings-only coda, fading away into the distance.
It's not all hand-wringing, doom and glooming though as he takes a pop (no pun intended) at his previous self on "Pop Star" and even gets the horn on the grungy title track.
Stevens was clearly on the road to find out on this almost revelatory album compared to his two previous albums. Unfairly overlooked compared to what came after, it's a fine, precocious album reintroducing a rare talent to the new decade.