The Sound Cafe
Yusuf/Cat Stevens Announces The 50th Anniversary Edition Of 'Catch Bull At Four'
Following the 50th anniversaries of Yusuf / Cat Stevens’ seminal albums Mona Bone Jakon, Tea for the Tillerman, and Teaser and the Firecat, 2022 will see the legendary singer-songwriter celebrate 1972’s Catch Bull At Four with a newly remastered 50th anniversary edition. The platinum-selling title, which marked Cat Stevens’ most successful chart album, will be available on vinyl for the first time since its original release on both 180-gram black vinyl and limited edition 180-gram orange vinyl, which will be available exclusively on CatStevens.com, UDiscover Music and Sound Of Vinyl. Catch Bull At Four will also return to CD for the first time since its reissue in 2000 and the new remaster will also be available for streaming in both standard and stunning hi-resolution audio. All formats will be released December 2nd via A&M/UMe/Universal Music Canada.
Speaking about the experience, Yusuf / Cat Stevens remembers:
“Contrary to the spiritual nature and theme of the album, Catch Bull At Four went straight to number one and became one of my biggest commercial accomplishments. It was scary! I feared it would divert me from my spiritual goal. That's precisely why I followed it up with an album called Foreigner, which would sacrifice my newly acquired crown for a welcome return to obscurity.”
Released in the autumn of 1972, Catch Bull At Four marked Cat Stevens’ sixth studio album and fourth release on Island Records – A&M in the U.S. – following Mona Bone Jakon, Tea for the Tillerman (both 1970), and 1971’s Teaser and the Firecat. In the two years leading up to the highly anticipated title, the British singer-songwriter had soared to incredible heights, becoming a global star with such hits as “Father and Son,” “Wild World,” “Where Do The Children Play?” “Morning Has Broken” and “Peace Train.”
The album found Cat Stevens reuniting with producer (and former Yardbird) Paul Samwell-Smith and guitarist Alun Davies, who collaborated with the artist on his previous three records. Joining them in the studio was drummer Gerry Conway, who appeared on Teaser and the Firecat, plus bassist Alan James, and keyboardist Jean Roussel. The album’s title, meanwhile, was inspired by Kuòān Shīyuǎn’s “Ten Bulls of Zen,” a series of short poems, in which a protagonist sets out in search of a bull, catches and tames him, and, through the experience, finds enlightenment.
When examining the years leading up to Catch Bull At Four, it’s certainly no surprise that the artist found himself looking increasingly inward. After having initial success as a teenager with hits like “Matthew and Son” and “I Love My Dog,” Cat Stevens faced a near-fatal battle with tuberculosis. As he endured months of recovery, the artist made significant changes to his life and began to explore spirituality. This metamorphosis was also reflected in his songwriting, as he embraced a stripped-down, folk-rock aesthetic, while his lyrics became increasingly reflective and poetic. During this period, which proved to be quite prolific, the artist wrote more than three dozen songs – the majority of which appeared on Mona Bone Jakon, Tea for the Tillerman, and Teaser and the Firecat. By the time Cat Stevens began work on Catch Bull At Four, however, he was entering a new creative chapter.
The songs on Catch Bull At Four find the artist grappling with his dizzying rise to fame, while, at the same time, delving deeper into his spiritual journey. This search for meaning is illustrated in the album’s title, which specifically references the challenge and strength one must summon as they seek enlightenment. The opening track, “Sitting,” also speaks to this dichotomy. Cat Stevens sings, “Sitting on my own not by myself/Everybody’s here with me/I don’t need to touch your face to know/And I don’t need to use my eyes to see.” Later, the artist speaks to the trappings of celebrity: “Bleeding half my soul in bad company/I thank the moon I had the strength to stop.”
Sonically, the songs reflect a stylistic shift, with Cat Stevens opting for a more elaborate sound than his previous three records, introducing a broader array of instrumentation, backing vocals, and lush, multi-layered arrangements. This development resulted in no small part from the fact that Cat’s steep ascent into superstardom meant that he found himself performing in ever bigger venues to increasingly large crowds. He felt the need to expand his sound accordingly and began to lean on his love of R&B, soul, and even musical theatre to do so. These influences can be heard across the album, but particularly in such tracks as “Can’t Keep It In” and “O’Caritas,” both of which find the artist expressing his concerns for the state of the world. The foreboding album closer, “Ruins,” takes these sentiments a step further. In many ways the song can be seen as a successor to the prescient ecological anthem “Where Do The Children Play?” although, this time the outlook seems considerably more bleak. “Ah but it's all changed winter turned on a man/Came down on day when no-one was looking and it/Stole away the land, people running scared, losing hands/Dodging shadows of falling sand, buildings standing like empty shells/And nobody...helping no-one else,” he sings.
Catch Bull At Four certainly has plenty of moments of optimism as well. A joyful, romantic spirit runs through songs like the tender “Sweet Scarlett” and the playful “Angelsea,” featuring guest vocals from singer Linda Lewis. Cat Stevens also offers a message of hope with “Silent Sunlight.” Bolstered by strings and woodwinds, he sings about embracing a childlike sense of wonder: “Sing a song of love and truth/We'll soon remember if you do/When all things were tall/And our friends were small/And the world was new.” These songs contain all the charm, sincerity and imaginative flair that were so instrumental to the success of his previous three albums, and his gift for timeless folk storytelling arguably reaches its zenith with the glorious “The Boy With A Moon And Star On His Head” Clocking in at nearly six minutes long, the song weaves the elaborate tale of a man’s passionate and deeply romantic transgression prior to his wedding. A year later a baby is left in a basket upon his doorstep and the child grows to become a sage who gives voice to the enlightened message of universal love “And people would ride from far and wide just to seek the word he spread/I'll tell you everything I've learned/And love is all, he said.”
Upon its release Catch Bull At Four built on the massive success of its predecessor, becoming Cat Stevens’ first album to top the Billboard 200, where it remained No. 1 in the U.S. for three consecutive weeks. Certified Platinum by the RIAA, and broadly acclaimed by critics, Catch Bull At Four also topped the album charts in Canada and Australia and peaked at No. 2 in the U.K. Single “Sitting,” meanwhile, was a Top 20 hit in the U.S., while “Can’t Keep It In” peaked at No. 13 on the UK pop charts.
Now, a half a century later, fans can enjoy Catch Bull At Four at its best, with audio digitally remastered at 24bit/96kHz from the original stereo production tapes by Mazen Murad. The LP edition is pressed on 180-gram vinyl and housed in a gatefold jacket, featuring newly-restored artwork. The CD edition, meanwhile, includes a new 16-page booklet featuring photos and press clippings from the era, as well as lyrics.