Cat Stevens, Izitso

Cat Stevens becoming Yusuf Islam wasn't the most surprising thing he did in 1977, surprisingly, when he whipped out the synthesizers for what's my favourite album of his because it's so odd and yet sounds so good. Heck, you have actual proto-trip on a Cat album ("Was Dog a Doughnut?") back when people thought that was just something Peter Sellers did before he fell over. The best part of the album is not that it's inventive for inventiveness' sake but that it understands when not to be: intro track "(Remember the Days of the) Old Schoolyard"'s Moogy fanfare brings them in solid, but gentler tracks like "(I Never Wanted) To Be a Star" and "Child For a Day" know when to say when. Particularly underappreciated is "Life," with a welcome touch of prog in the bridge, and of the instrumentals while "Was Dog a Doughnut?" gets all the retrospective bemusement "Kypros" has a throwback beguilement all its own. The tracks in the middle kind of blur together and he was probably bit too stingy with the schmaltz overall, but wow, what a record. It cries out for the modern re-release it so richly deserves, in particular the legendary Ringo Starr sessions which to date only exist as bootlegs. (Content: no concerns.)