Yusuf—Roadsinger (A&M Records)
Review by Hugh Lilly Roadsinger (To Warm You Through The Night) is Cat Stevens’ second pop record since his conversion to Islam in 1978. Asked a few years ago by Jools Holland why he left the glamorous pop world, he answered “You come to a point where you have sung…your whole repertoire and you want to get down to the job of living.” This feeling of being fed up with the spotlight—with the garish superficiality of the record business—was telegraphed early by songs like “Pop Star,” from his 1970 masterpiece Mona Bone Jakon. While that album saw the emergence of an artist wholly different to the pop singer previously known only for commercially-oriented songs like “Matthew and Son,” Roadsinger sees Yusuf Islam, as he’s now known, combine his signature finger-picking style and rich, peaceful voice to proffer his ideas, hopes and dreams for the world.
The first two tracks, “Welcome Home” and “Thinkin’ ’Bout You” are returns to form, traditional Cat Stevens-style tunes for a new era. Laments like “World O’ Darkness” and “The Rain” colour the record and distinguish it from An Other Cup, his 2006 studio album. Whereas that record was consciously pop-oriented, nearly every track on Roadsinger covers issues of humanitarian concern—this is a troubadour promoting his particular brand of political balladry.
“Be What You Must” features a children’s choir – Islam founded the Islamia Primary School in North London, and is the tamest of all the tracks, melodically similar to “Peace Train” , “ The brief ” , “ In This Glass World ”, with its hint of percussion and electric guitar, is the heaviest track – elsewhere Roadsinger is acoustic guitar and sweet lap steel atop eastern-influenced percussion and light string arrangements. “Shamsia” , a Persian word meaning ‘light’ is the title of the lilting closing track – a short, delicate lullaby in a minor key.