Cat Stevens: Mona Bone Jakon (1970)

Mona Bone Jakon is the genesis of Cat Stevens the folk/pop star: the warm baritone, stop-and-start rhythms, toy piano tinkling and playful spirit leaping. As such, it marks the beginning of Cat’s classic phase, a period that produced such hits as “Peace Train,” “Wild World” and you don’t really think I’m going to type all of them, do you? Yet, like so many early classic albums, it reveals an artist still in transition, one foot in a past that history would just as quickly forget. The opening “Lady D’Arbanville,” for example, is not a song that Cat Stevens will be remembered for at the end of days. It’s serious beyond its years, clearly the product of a clever mind but also the product of a lost age when free love and madrigals from the Middle Ages wafted in the conjoined air. The future yet to come is heard on unfamiliar-to-many album cuts like “Trouble,” “I Wish, I Wish” and “I Think I See The Light.” You get an inkling of that on the second track, which see-saw shuffles like an old friend ambling towards you. So, in summing up Mona Bone Jakon, a very good half of it could be interwoven into the filler of his next two albums (e.g., “On The Road To Find Out”) without anyone being the wiser, the other half is an important young artist finding his voice. It’s precocious and immodest (the title track is written about his penis), but even this provides an historical context for the far superior serving of Tea to come. And a fair warning to prog fans: If you bought this to hear Peter Gabriel, you were flaut out robbed. He pipes up in “Katmandu,” barely, thanks for not(h)ing.

Original LP Version
A1. Lady D’Arbanville (3:40)
A2. Maybe You’re Right (3:20)
A3. Pop Star (4:10)
A4. I Think I See The Light (4:00)
A5. Trouble (2:50)
B1. Mona Bone Jakon (1:38)
B2. I Wish, I Wish (3:45)
B3. Katmandu (3:17)
B4. Time (1:26)
B5. Fill My Eyes (2:58)
B6. Lilywhite (3:40)

All songs written by Cat Stevens.

The Players
Cat Stevens (acoustic & classical guitar, keyboards, vocals), Harvey Burns (percussion), Alun Davies (additional guitar, backing vocals), John Ryan (bass) with Peter Gabriel (flute on B3) and Del Newman (additional arrangements & strings). Produced by Paul Samwell-Smith; engineered by Michael Bobak; mixed by Paul Hicks.

The Pictures
Illustrations by Cat Stevens. Photography by Richard Stirling.

The Plastic
Released on elpee on April 24, 1970 in the UK (Island, ILPS-9118), the US and Canada (A&M, SP 4260), Australia (Island, SFL-933865) and the Netherlands (Ariola/Island, 88165 XAT); reached #63 on the UK charts and #164 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold record).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1973 in Brazil (Island, 410020).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in 1974 in the US (A&M, SP 4260) {silver label}.
  3. Re-issued on elpee in the US (A&M, SP 3160).
  4. Re-released on remastered compact disc in the UK (Island, IMCD-267).
  5. Re-issued on compact disc in France (Island, 842 351).
  6. Re-issued on remastered compact disc on May 23, 2000 in the US (A&M, 546 883).
  7. Re-packaged as Chronicles with Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat on 3CD on January 31, 2006 in the US (A&M, 50280).

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