Whether by plan or not, Cat Stevens's decision to renounce his phenomenally successful career as a singer-songwriter (and to embrace a life of spiritual education and charity) neatly coincided with the explosion of punk an... more »d new wave that would drastically reshape the pop landscape for decades to come. Released in December of 1978, Back to Earth would be the last of Stevens's pop career, an album with a recognizable, even slightly mature feel. But one doesn't have to scratch too far beneath the surface of the familiar, invitingly simple balladry here to find an artist wrestling with any number of weighty personal issues. Indeed, Stevens seems almost angry and bitter at the failed relationship of "Just Another Night," owns up to the edgy state of his sanity on "Bad Brakes," and displays a resigned fatalism on "Last Love Song" and "Never" that's ironic indeed coming from the artist who heralded the "Peace Train" with such convincing optimism. --Jerry McCulley« less
Whether by plan or not, Cat Stevens's decision to renounce his phenomenally successful career as a singer-songwriter (and to embrace a life of spiritual education and charity) neatly coincided with the explosion of punk and new wave that would drastically reshape the pop landscape for decades to come. Released in December of 1978, Back to Earth would be the last of Stevens's pop career, an album with a recognizable, even slightly mature feel. But one doesn't have to scratch too far beneath the surface of the familiar, invitingly simple balladry here to find an artist wrestling with any number of weighty personal issues. Indeed, Stevens seems almost angry and bitter at the failed relationship of "Just Another Night," owns up to the edgy state of his sanity on "Bad Brakes," and displays a resigned fatalism on "Last Love Song" and "Never" that's ironic indeed coming from the artist who heralded the "Peace Train" with such convincing optimism. --Jerry McCulley
"To hear some listeners tell it, you'd think Cat Stevens's last three commercial releases were pure dreck. This is just false; plenty of major stars have spent entire careers without releasing an album as fine as _Numbers_, _Izitso_, and _Back to Earth_. (And I can't make myself give any of his work fewer than four stars.)But none of them are of the stratospheric quality of his finest three albums. He had two absolutely great albums -- _Tea for the Tillerman_ and _Teaser and the Firecat_ -- and _Mona Bone Jakon_ was mighty close. If you have those three, you have most of the "very best of" Cat Stevens already, never mind those other "best of" collections. (The rest of the best is on _Buddha and the Chocolate Box_ -- "Oh, Very Young" and "Sun/C79.")Nevertheless, _Back to Earth_ is a _good_ album -- both on its own terms and as Cat's farewell to the life of the "pop star." Most of his familiar themes are here -- children, father-son relationships, the beginnings and endings of romance -- and the music has, at times, something of the gentle touch we knew from his earlier work.I don't personally think there are any real standout tunes here; I like "Just Another Night," I enjoy the hit "Bad Brakes" about as much as I enjoy "Can't Keep It In" (from _Catch Bull at Four_), and so forth, but there's no single tune that really grabs me. And I do think there are a couple of false steps (I can safely predict that I'm probably never going to care much for "New York Times"). But the album is much better crafted than you might think from what people sometimes say about it.All in all, it's a fitting final collection from a fine singer/songwriter. Speaking of which, here's a little history for the uninitiated:"Cat Stevens" was the stage name of Steven Georgiou, who was born in the U.K. in 1949 of a Cypriot father and a Swedish mother. Something of a musical prodigy, he released his first two albums well before he was twenty years old and was on his way to becoming a "pop star." He then fell victim to a terrible case of tuberculosis. When he returned to singing and songwriting, he had taken a decidedly more reflective turn and found himself delivering absolutely beautiful stuff with no apparent commercial potential. That was fine with him; he was no longer particularly interested in commercial success. But, perhaps ironically, his delicate confessional songs and his deliberate avoidance of "commercial-ness" turned him into a huge international star.Well, he eventually (1977) became a Muslim and adopted the name "Yusuf Islam" (after the biblical dream-interpreter Joseph). At about that time he also left the music industry. He has since recorded a couple of albums about Islam, but his last collection of commercial music was _Footsteps In The Dark_ (ostensibly a second volume of his "greatest hits," but in fact a set of lesser-known favorites and a handful of tunes not available elsewhere).You can feel safe in ignoring the comments from people who think he has become "rigid" and/or "intolerant." The simple fact is that nearly every Cat Stevens album (the exceptions being his first two) is filled with "spiritual seeking," and he eventually found what he was looking for in Islam. His "recent" (actually, 1989-90) remarks on Salman Rushdie were not what you probably think they were (and in particular he didn't call for Rushdie's death). He's no more "rigid" or "intolerant" than the rest of us; he's simply a religiously observant Muslim, that's all. There's a problem here only for people who think seekers should never get around to finding, or that traditional religion is more "dogmatic" than irreligion.His songs don't need to "transcend" their creator in order to be great; there's no need to run down Yusuf in order to elevate Cat. And since they _were_ written during his "seeker" stage, they're suitable for everybody -- future Muslims or not."
My All time favourite
Tnahpellee | Australia | 06/19/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I think Back to Earth is his best album. It's definately my favourite. It has recaptuerd that simpleness and rawness that primed his Glory days of Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman and fused it to the beautifulness of albums like Buddha and the Chocolate box. Not that Tea and Teaser weren't beautiful, but they didn't have the cute sounds and very happy melodies of Izitso and Buddha. The arrangements aren't synthesiser laden but simple, just Piano [or synthesiser], strings, bass guitar and vocals. If you liked Sad LIsa and Silent Sunlight, this ones for you. But this arrangement has more "loveliness" to it than the Acoutic guitar. It's not really superior. THe acoustic guitar also shows it's head on "Just another night" and "Daytime" which are fan favourites that harken back. Songs like Daytime, Father, The Artist, last love song and Randy are vocal classical music. The melodies on these songs are exquisit. Checkout the piano fianle to The Artist. Randy must be one of the rawest love songs he's done, it doesn't seem to make sense or go anywhere but is full of feeling and atmosphere. It explores many styles from rock, classical and pop. Last love song is similar but is sadder. His piano playing reminds me of someone [beautiful woman perhaps?] slowly walking along a beach. The string section on Father is so beautiful and touching , along with the lyrics about his presumably deceased Father. Daytime is great poetry and has some fantastic orchestration. But hang on, Nasimento is a dreamy disco number btu still has some beauty to it. Bad Brakes is a bad boy blues number, reminds me of Billy Joel's Glass Houses with lyrics that could've been written by ZZ Top [actually written by Alun Davies and Cat]. New York times is like something from the Izitso album but with less experimentation. So there is good variety. Buy it and enjoy it, that is all I can say."
Not Up to Cat's Standards
Ross Prather | Meadville, PA | 11/11/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Briefly -- be aware before you buy this that it is far from the great music Cat previously released. I am amazed at the reviews that say this is the reviewer's "favorite," or that it is one of Cat's best. It simply is not. That is my opinion, and the opinion of just about every other serious Cat fan. Before you buy this album based on the reviews, consider the following: (1) if you own no CS, then look at Tea For The Tillerman, Catch Bull At Four, Mona Bone Jakon, or Teaser and The Firecat. They are better, by almost all fans' testimony. (2) If you already have the above, and you want this to round out your Cat collection, then go ahead, but be ready for a sore disappointment. It's better then your average pop, but not what we expect from Cat."
A good closing chapter
John S. Ryan | 06/30/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This album probably would've gotten a fairer hearing had it come out in 1972 or 1973 instead of 1978, when the musical landscape had changed so dramatically from a few years earlier. When it was released, the general sense from the music press was that Stevens' time had passed and that this was a limp, anachronistic set. That isn't fair, nor is it accurate. There are a lot of moodier, softer songs than on previous albums, but they still pack a lot of punch. "Just Another Night" is Cat's recounting of his time with that "Hard Headed Woman" he'd sung about on TEA FOR THE TILLERMAN, but he's sadder and wiser to her here. "Randy" is as lovely a love song as he'd ever done before and "Bad Brakes" was one of his few times he'd tried a rocker, and it works. The cut that stays with me, though, is the closer, "Never," which is ALMOST bitter about losing a lover, but comes off ultimately as sadly resigned that the romance is over. Which is probably how he was feeling about his music career at the time, as this was the last Cat Stevens album. Exit Cat, enter Yusef Islam. This album was a good way to end an era and it still resonates today."
A Light Fitting Farewell By Cat Stevens
Ross Prather | 09/13/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Cat's last pop oriented album, appropriately tited "Back To Earth" is a very good album, but a little on the light side.It is a nice album to relax to, and not as keyboard drenched like its predecessor, Izitso.There are many highlights including: Just Another Night, Daytime, and Never. And there's really only one lowlight -- New York Times (the chorus sounds like a cheesy "I Love New York" commercial!).A very good album as I said before, a nice calm way to go out as Cat Stevens!"