Several years ago, media conjecture as to whether statements from orthodox Muslim Yusef Islam, formerly and better known as the singer-songwriter Cat Stevens, actually supported death threats for Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie caused a backlash and hurt sales for the artist until he adamantly denied the claim on television. What can be said for sure is that, during his heyday, Stevens possessed an unforgettable voice and wonderful sense of melody and song. Something about his best work maintains a sense of youthful rites of passage or growing pains eloquently rendered through joyous, almost spiritual discovery of the soul. His version of “Morning Has Broken,” for example, turned a non-denominational hymn into a classic ballad to nature.
Collected here on four discs is a sweeping overview of the legendary pop star’s career (which he abandoned in its prime for a life of religion). Disc one is entitled “The City” and contains the early British material (it sounds over-produced and misguided for the most part). Disc two ("The Search") is probably my favorite; it contains introspective songs from the early to mid-70s, including out-takes from Mona Bone Jakon, the Harold and Maude soundtrack material, and rarities like B-side “I Want to Live in a Wigwam. “ Disc three ("The Hurt") has some live tracks from Tokyo in ‘74, and disc four ("The Last") contains some new 2001 material from the man now known as Islam.
Famous songs like "Trouble," "Father and Son" and "The Wind," among many others, stand as enduring examples of Stevens’ heart-rendered purity and artistic talent. Besides the usual greatest hits, there are some unreleased highlights—like energetic live tracks from William & Mary College in Virginia (the 1976 Majikat Earth Tour). All of this comes via deluxe packaging, with an informative booklet containing Islam’s comments on many of the tracks, wrapped together in fancy purple ribbons like the holy script of ‘70s pop.