.
http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/195211793d954e9ff4318454e791c8aacbd52547.jpg Back To Earth

Cat Stevens

Back To Earth

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 0 0
March 22, 1979

Cat Stevens was one of several post-folk-pop innocents who came along in the early Seventies and were immensely comforting at the time. Carole King and James Taylor were two more singer/songwriter siblings of this sort, with Joni Mitchell the Mater Dolorosa. Stevens' charmingly simple tunes had an especially consoling, childlike quality, but while the other artists "grew up," he didn't. After Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat, his whimsicality became increasingly cloying, the naiveté childish. Pretty soon, his records resembled foolish toy-box music, like Wings at its worst.

 

Insofar as he's forsaken Cloud-Kiddieland, Cat Stevens has, on his new album, come Back to Earth. For one thing, the sound and arrangements are attractively muscular, and nowhere more so than in "Bad Brakes," an exciting if uncharacteristic exercise in power-chord rock. Elsewhere, Stevens' trademark, guitar-led syncopation and unpredictable melody making are gratifyingly in evidence.

But taken individually, most of the songs are too weak to deserve their excellent arrangements or to keep the singer interested. Not just the amiable throwaway instrumentals or the truly icky "Father," but also such sincerely romantic numbers as "Last Love Song" and "Never," both of which are minor, unresolved imitations of earlier and stronger Stevens compositions. One of the most sensually delightful tracks, the pulsating, hyperproduced "New York Times," has the dumbest lyrics: "New York poor New York/Sniper on the rooftop New York.../Not fit for a dog in New York.../You need a gun to walk into New York."

There are some qualified pleasures here, however, including the opening cuts, "Just Another Night" and "Daytime." And "Randy" features Cat Stevens' most inspired vocal, though the crashing climax unbecomingly recalls "Mandy" (not, unfortunately, "Sandy," "Candy" or "Brandy"). The most conclusive thing to be said about Back to Earth is that it neither disappoints nor completely satisfies.

prev
Album Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Santa Monica”

    Everclear | 1996

    After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com