On the Road to Find Out
Prior to his last live performance in 1979 and his conversion to the Islamic faith, British songwriter Cat Stevens had spent the bulk of his career as a songsmith with a knack for generating mystical, introspective Top 40 hits. Thus, this gorgeous four-CD box set traces Stevens's musical journey from his days as a late-'60s British pop star up to his late-'90s incarnation as Yusuf Islam, a devout Muslim who still occasionally records songs with religious themes, such as 1997's "God Is the Light." Along with a broad selection of his best-known hits and a lavish 96-page booklet featuring original album artwork, an essay by Stevens (including song-by-song annotations), and extensive photos, there are a number of musical rarities here, including demos, outtakes, B-sides, live recordings, and 11 previously unreleased tracks. Prime among these cuts is the brassy "Honey Man," a 1970 recording with a then-unknown Elton John on piano, that fits in neatly alongside '60s pop hits such as "There Goes My Baby" (most recently covered by the Mavericks) and "The First Cut Is the Deepest." Hit singles such as "Wild World," "Peace Train," and "Morning Has Broken" point to Stevens's ongoing spiritual quest, as do lesser-known but equally worthy compositions such as "On the Road to Find Out" and "Sitting" and the hard-to-find songs he composed for the film Harold & Maude, such as "If You Want to Sing Out." Fifty percent of the royalties from sales of this box set will go to the September 11th Fund to help victims and families of the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, with the remainder earmarked for orphans and the homeless in underdeveloped countries. Thoughtfully rendered and thought-provoking, the Cat Stevens Box Set pays homage to one of the 20th century's greatest singer-songwriters.