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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Cat Stevens: Majikat - Earth Tour 1976


1) Wild World; 2) The Wind; 3) Moonshadow; 4) Where Do The Children Play; 5) Another Saturday Night; 6) Hard Headed Woman; 7) King Of Trees; 8) C79; 9) Lady D'Arbanville; 10) Banapple Gas; 11) Majik Of Majiks; 12) Tuesday's Dead; 13) Oh Very Young; 14) How Can I Tell You; 15) The Hurt; 16) Sad Lisa; 17) Two Fine People; 18) Fill My Eyes; 19) Father & Son; 20) Peace Train.

During his pre-Islamic times, Cat Stevens never tried releasing a live album, nor did his record label put any pressure on him in that respect — it was well known that, although performing as such was not a major burden for him (after all, so many of his songs simply scream to be accep­ted by a friendly audience), touring was, and that he always saved his creativity, if not necessarily energy, for the studio sessions. Still, tour he did, on a regular basis, and just a couple years before he finally made a proper return to the world of music, one of the shows from his 1976 tour of North America surfaced as an official CD and DVD release — I have a bit of trouble understan­ding where and when precisely it was recorded (Williamsburg, Virginia is listed as the location in some sources), but that would be a useless piece of trivia anyway, since we may safely presume that Cat's shows did not vary too much.

In all honesty, Majikat is an album that can only be recommended to completists. Stevens treats his concerts as loyally performed duties — the setlist, as can be easily seen, does not even con­centrate all that much on the album he would be supposed to promote at the time (Numbers), but is blatantly skewed in the direction of his hit singles, as well as massively popular songs that happened to avoid single releases (ʽWhere Do The Children Playʼ, etc.). The arrangements of these songs, in turn, remain loyal to the studio versions — to the point that even the song lengths of the originals and the live versions sometimes match second-for-second. Where they do differ, the new versions are usually inferior, because, for instance, Stevens does not have a string section onstage, and has to either omit the original parts or replace them with synthesizers, neither of which is a happy option, especially if you cannot find any way to compensate.

He is loyal, for sure: the setlist is good (although his decision to wipe Matthew & Son out of his memory is not something I can agree with), and all the performances are tight and heartfelt; in fact, Stevens gradually shakes himself up into what would probably count as a shamanistic state for him, sometimes losing control over his voice for the sake of heating up extra passion. If he were in a band like The Who or Jethro Tull, that would add to the excitement of a great rock'n'roll performance; unfortunately, with his acoustic guitar and piano, and a backing band that has to respect the soft-rock conventions of the originals, this is not to be, and ultimately all that extra energy does not add much to the already familiar experience.

As a consolatory bonus, you get some banter towards the end (starting with ʽSad Lisaʼ, he begins to provide brief revelatory, self-ironic, and/or humorous comments to each new song) to help turn this into your own personal fireside rendez-vous with soon-to-be Yusuf Islam. You also get his cover of Sam Cooke's ʽAnother Saturday Nightʼ (a big non-LP hit single), which is cute but can­not hope to surpass the original. And then there's always the DVD — Cat looks real good in white, and hey, far be it from me to deny that he was quite handsome in his prime, but whether his stage presence will mesmerize you is a question left wide open. (I, personally, find myself bored fairly quickly at having to constantly try to peer through the Spiritually Closed Eyes). All in all, it is good to have this historical document — every decent artist needs to be remembered in connection with his audience — but I doubt that even big fans will find themselves regularly re­visiting this CD (the DVD might be another matter).

1 comment:

  1. Thought this was pretty well amazing when it emerged, an elaborately staged and well filmed concert which was totally unknown about.