Yusuf/Cat Stevens is rereleasing his 1978 LP Back to Earth on April 10th as a five-CD box set featuring a remastered version of the original album, rare demos from the period, and a charity show he played at London’s Wembley Arena in 1979.
There are also two unreleased songs from the album sessions, “Butterfly” and “Toy Heart,” which he deemed “too pop” to release at the time. Check out this new video for “Butterly,” directed by Matthew Robins.
Back to Earth was recorded after the singer-songwriter had a religious conversion after nearly drowning in the ocean near Malibu, California. He made a promise to God that he’d transform his life shortly before a wave washed him to shore. Not long afterward, his brother, David, gave him a copy of the Koran.
“This was before Islam was a headline,” Yusuf told Rolling Stone in 2015. “The Iranian Revolution wasn’t even on the horizon. I felt like I was discovering something that was an amazing and immense secret.”
He ultimately decided that music went against his new faith and made the hard choice to end his career, but first he had to create one last album to fulfill the terms of his contract. Bringing his career full circle, he reunited with his Tea for the Tillerman-era producer Paul Samwell-Smith and recorded Back to Earth. (He also teamed up with his brother, David, to create the 1978 LP Alpha Omega (A Musical Revelation), which is also included on this new Back to Earth box set.)
There was no tour in support of Back to Earth, but on November 22nd, 1979, he agreed to perform at the Year of the Child concert in London. The set, which was packed with classics like “Peace Train” and “Father & Son,” was essentially a goodbye to his longtime fans. It is included in full on this new set.
Yusuf/Cat Stevens (as he now bills himself) began playing guitar again shortly after 9/11. “There was so much antagonism in the world,” he said in 2015. “Many Muslims have come up to me, shook my hand and said, ‘Thank you! Thank you.’ I’m representing the way they want to be seen.”
He’s been off the road since 2017, but this summer he’s gigging all across Europe. His most recent release was 2017’s The Laughing Apple.