Cat Stevens, Catch Bull At Four

For an aggressive anti-anti-traditionalist like Steven Cat Yusuf, the only solution after going a bit pop friendly in Teaser And The Firecat is to go right in the other direction. The inscrutability starts with the title, and the tracks might smack to the modern ear as a prototype for the late 1970s Jethro Tull; there's echoes of the future Heavy Horses in "Silent Sunlight," and we should all be grateful Ian Anderson mostly avoided reprising the tediously syrupy "The Boy With A Moon & Star On His Head." But there are still treasures to be found: when Stevens mixes in just enough bottom and savour to make the backing just substantial enough, you get wonderfully sophisticated textures of delicacy juxtaposed against growly grit ("Angelsea", "Sitting"); when he restrains his prolix lyricism to the abstract and elevated, we exult to the wistful elegy of "Sweet Scarlet" and "Ruins." Unfortunately, he can't avoid overdoing the former or the latter, as in the grotesquely overwrought "O Caritas" (in Latin!), or the sublimely ridiculous "18th Avenue" manufacturing painfully bogus pathos from an airport ride. Ah, but the song indeed does carry on, and through the imperfect window of his soul at least some light has shone, even if we don't always understand what the light is reflecting upon. (Content: adult themes in one track.)