Catch Bull at Four

Catch Bull at Four

5.0 1
by Cat Stevens
     
 

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In "Miles from Nowhere" on his album Tea for the Tillerman, Cat Stevens as usual depicted himself as being on a journey, but indicated he was moving in the right direction and in no hurry. By the time of Catch Bull at Four, a little less than two years later, he was beginning to worry that he might be falling behind schedule or even going in circles. The album began… See more details below

Overview

In "Miles from Nowhere" on his album Tea for the Tillerman, Cat Stevens as usual depicted himself as being on a journey, but indicated he was moving in the right direction and in no hurry. By the time of Catch Bull at Four, a little less than two years later, he was beginning to worry that he might be falling behind schedule or even going in circles. The album began with a statement of purpose, "Sitting," in which, despite the song's title, he tried to talk himself into believing that he hadn't stalled ("I'm on my way, I know I am"), yet wondered, "if I sleep too long, will I ever wake up again," and concluded, "try as you may, you're going to wind up where you started from." "Sitting" marked a return to the sense of conflict expressed on Tea for the Tillerman after the relatively confident, if simplified, vision of its followup, Teaser and the Firecat. It may be that Stevens' recent experiences had contributed to his sense that he was running out of time. Though he was never a directly confessional writer, one got the sense that his disaffection with the life of a pop star was reasserting itself in songs like "18th Avenue" (subtitled "Kansas City Nightmare") and "Freezing Steel" ("I've flown the house of freezing steel," he sang, meaning, presumably, an airplane). And while he was touring unhappily around the world, the world was still going to hell in a hand basket, falling into "Ruins," as the album-closing song put it. Yet Stevens was still motivated by his urge to help mankind mend its ways, a compulsion he described in "Can't Keep It In." "I don't want to lose the harmony of the universe," he declared in "O Caritas" (though what he actually sang it in the Latin, "Hunc ornatum mundi / Nolo perdere"). Love, expressed in the parable-like story songs "The Boy with a Moon & Star on His Head" and "Sweet Scarlet," provided some comfort, and in "Silent Sunlight," Stevens came up with another reverie in the form of a hymn. But for the most part, the singer who had seemed so excited in "Changes IV" and "Peace Train" on Teaser and the Firecat now sounded apprehensive. In this sense, the most telling song was "Ruins," an unmelodious patchwork of musical segments in which a man returns to his old town to find it turned into a nightmarish landscape where "evil destruction has taken everything."

Stevens set his reflections to a mixture of musical styles that included traces of old English folk song, madrigals, and Greek folk music along with more typical rock stylings, all performed with the stop-and-start rhythms that added drama to his performances. One could enjoy "Sitting" and "Can't Keep It In" without worrying too much about the ruminations expressed in the lyrics, and many people did; the former was a modest hit in the U.S., the latter in the U.K.

Nevertheless, Catch Bull at Four was a more difficult listen than its three predecessors. Coming off the momentum of Teaser and the Firecat, which had contained three Top 40 hits, it roared up the charts, quickly hitting #1. But it actually stayed in the Top Ten fewer weeks than its predecessor and had a shorter run in the charts overall. After two years of quickly increasing popularity, Stevens had leveled off. Fans who had been stirred by his rhythmic tunes and charmed by his thoughtful lyrics were starting to lose interest in his quasi-religious yearnings, busy arrangements, and self-absorbed, melodramatic singing. His career still had a ways to go, but as of Catch Bull at Four, he had passed his peak. (The album was reissued as a remastered CD on July 25, 2000.) ~ William Ruhlmann

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - William Ruhlmann
Catch Bull at Four began with a statement of purpose, "Sitting," in which Cat Stevens tried to talk himself into believing that he hadn't stalled, beginning to worry that he might be falling behind schedule or even going in circles. It may be that Stevens' recent experiences had contributed to his sense that he was running out of time. Though he was never a directly confessional writer, one got the sense that his disaffection with the life of a pop star was reasserting itself. And while he was touring unhappily around the world, the world was still going to hell in a handbasket. Yet Stevens was still motivated by his urge to help mankind mend its ways. Love provided some comfort, but for the most part, the singer who had seemed so excited on his last album now sounded apprehensive. Stevens set his reflections to a mixture of musical styles that included traces of old English folk songs, madrigals, and Greek folk music along with more typical rock stylings, all performed with the stop-and-start rhythms that added drama to his performances. Nevertheless, Catch Bull at Four was a more difficult listen than its three predecessors. Coming off the momentum of Teaser and the Firecat, it roared up the charts to number one, but stayed in the Top Ten fewer weeks than its predecessor. Fans who had been stirred by Stevens' rhythmic tunes and charmed by his thoughtful lyrics were starting to lose interest in his quasi-religious yearnings, busy arrangements, and self-absorbed, melodramatic singing. His career still had a ways to go, but as of Catch Bull at Four, he had passed his peak.

Product Details

Release Date:
07/25/2000
Label:
A&M
UPC:
0731454688628
catalogNumber:
546886
Rank:
22403

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Yusuf (Cat Stevens)   Primary Artist,Organ,Synthesizer,Acoustic Guitar,Mandolin,Percussion,Piano,Drums,Electric Guitar,Rhythm Guitar,Keyboards,Hammond Organ,Electric Piano,Vocals,Whistle (Instrument),Penny Whistle,spanish guitar,Electronic Mandolin
Alun Davies   Acoustic Guitar,Vocals,spanish guitar
Linda Lewis   Vocals,Background Vocals
Gerry Conway   Percussion,Drums,Vocals
Alan James   Bass,Vocals
Del Newman   Strings
Jean Roussel   Organ,Piano,Keyboards
Andreas Toumazis   Bouzouki
C.S. Choir   Vocals,Background Vocals

Technical Credits

Yusuf (Cat Stevens)   Composer,Engineer,Cover Design
Ted Jensen   Mastering
Paul Samwell-Smith   Producer
Andreas Toumazis   Contributor
Vartan   Art Direction
Junie Osaki   Reissue Design

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