Posts Tagged ‘Cat Stevens’

In 1971, Island Records released a double sampler album called El Pea. This compilation cost the princely sum of £1.99 and featured many fledging artists who would go on to become household names,this album was a revelation, and changed my attitude to music forever.

Island Records started out with a catalogue of Jamaican music but the charismatic founder, Chris Blackwell, soon diversified into an eclectic stable of contemporary acts. Some didn’t make it, some did, but all of them appeared on one or other of the samplers Island Records released in the early 1970s.

The appeal of the samplers was clear. Punters got a chance to hear some of the best new music at a heavily discounted price, whilst the record company got to promote music that did not readily lend itself to radio or TV airplay. Some of the compilations were classic recordings in their own right, and Island Records probably came out with the classiest.

El Pea was released in the UK in 1971, but it has an enduring appeal. This was probably the folkiest of the Island samplers, with the inevitable influence of Joe Boyd. However it had its heavier moments, a touch of prog and a little reggae to make for a heady brew. The album cover was hardly arresting and probably played too much on the pun in its name – a long-playing double LP called… El Pea,  However the slapdash artwork disguises a classic album. They couldn’t even get the track listing right – you might be pleased to see Nick Drake on the album but the track listed as “One Of These Things First”, is actually the even better, astonishing, “Northern Sky”. Another track worth the purchase price is by McDonald and Giles, previously of King Crimson fame, and the album from which the track comes is one of those forgotten gems you won’t regret checking out.

You can’t get El Pea on CD, but all of the tracks are available on subsequently released CDs. Additionally a number of compilation CDs have come out over the years to reprise the glorious days of the Island sampler.

With selections ranging from much-anticipated new albums by superstars Traffic, Free, and Cat Stevens; cult demigods Mott the Hoople and Quintessence; and a handful of names that might well have been new to the average browser: Mike Heron, slipping out of the Incredible String Band with his Smiling Men With Bad Reputations debut; Nick Drake, still laboring away in absolute obscurity; and so on.

There was also a spotlight shone on Emerson, Lake & Palmer, the so-called supergroup whose own eponymous debut was still awaited with baited breath, and the choice of the virtuoso “Knife Edge” over any of the album’s more accessible tracks further confirms El Pea’s validity. Any other label would have gone for “Lucky Man,” knowing that no one could resist its plaintive charms. “Knife Edge” let the ingenue know precisely what to expect from Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

And so it goes on — from Jethro Tull to Blodwyn Pig, from Fairport Convention to Sandy Denny, 21 tracks spread across four sides of vinyl serve up one of the most generous and alluring label samplers you will ever lay your hands on

Side A

A 1 – Traffic – Empty Pages
A2 – Sandy Denny – Late November
A3 – Alan Bown – Thru The Night
A4 – John And Beverley Martyn – Auntie Aviator
A5 – Fairport Convention – Lord Marlborough

Side B
B1 – Jethro Tull – Mother Goose
B2 – Quintessence – Dive Deep
B3 – Amazing Blondel – Spring Season
B4 – McDonald & Giles – Extract From Tomorrow’s People – The Children Of Today
B5 – Tir Na Nog – Our Love Will Not Decay
B6 – Mountain – Don’t Look Around

Side C
C1 – Free – Highway Song
C2 – Incredible String Band – Waiting For You
C3 – Cat Stevens – Wild World
C4 – Bronco – Sudden Street
C5 – Mike Heron – Feast Of Stephen

Side D
D1 – Emerson Lake & Palmer – Knife Edge
D2 – Nick Drake – Northern Sky
D3 – Mott The Hoople – Original Mixed-Up Kid
D4 – Jimmy Cliff – Can’t Stop Worrying, Can’t Stop Loving
D5 – Mick Abrahams – Greyhound Bus

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cat stevens the laughing apple

The Laughing Apple brings Yusuf’s career full circle, coming 50 years after his first album the song sounds like vintage Cat Stevens; not surprisingly, he co-produced the song . It reunites him with producer Paul Samwell-Smith and guitarist Alun Davies, prominent collaborators on landmark recordings including 1970’s multi-platinum “Tea for the Tillerman”.

The Laughing Apple follows the common ’60s template of combining newly written songs with covers from Yusuf’s catalog, presenting some of his earliest material as he has always wished it had been recorded.

The most recent songs  “See What Love Did to Me,” “Olive Hill” and “Don’t Blame Them” possess the reflective insight of a spiritual seeker. Four others, including one initially intended for the 1971 film ‘Harold and Maude,’ have been updated with new sections. Additional highlights include contemporary versions of “Blackness of the Night,” “Northern Wind (Death of Billy the Kid),” “I’m So Sleepy” and the title track, songs that appeared in their original incarnations on 1967’s New Masters.

The Laughing Apple takes listeners to that little garden where the Tillerman sat under the tree, with a new illustration by Yusuf. Yusuf also has illustrated each of the album’s 11 songs in his naïve style, resembling a storybook — for those whose hearts have never grown old.