Cat Stevens
Lovely City/Image of Hell

Released 1968 on Deram
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 09/11/2000ce

The year 1968 proved to be a solid bummer for Cat Stevens, he only managed to squeek out 2 45's all year after becoming seriously ill with tuberculosis. 1967 was a banner year for Cat as he scaled the charts in England and Europe with several discs including the classic "Mathew and Son" which crashed in at number 2. But Cat spent most of "67 appearing on countless TV shows and taking part in an exhausting package tour with Jimi Hendrix and Englebert Humperdink. This must have taken it's toll on Cat because by early 1968 he was in a British hospital on the verge of death. This would have a profound effect on Cat and would shape the bulk of his songwriting in the 70's.
But the 2 45's Cat did manage to issue in 1968 are both overlooked gems, "Here Comes My Wife" was a splendid record that few got to hear as it bombed commercially. Even better was "Lovely City (When Do You Laugh)" this was a brilliant "Swinging London" style record that opens with some brightly played acoustic guitar the song then kicks in with a wonderful psychedelic beat group arrangement that includes tasteful horns and strings and even some stinging acid guitar lines. As usual Cat's voice steals the show, his vocal seems to be treated with a liberal amount of echo that really adds wonders to the song. Oddly enough this song appeared on a USA Cat Stevens album called "Very Young And Early Songs" that rounded up many of his UK only sides, but the version on this LP has a totally different (and inferior mix) so by all means try to hear the 45. The flipside "Image Of Hell" is an eerie downer ballad that Cat must have written when he was very sick.
I'm a huge fan of Cat's early records on Deram and I think it's about time they are re-discovered. Cat's writing style of this period always reminded of Ray Davies and even The Bee Gees early records which is about the highest compliment I can give anyone.

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