This week was not the best week for new releases, but after several samples, I decided on an album to review. The latest album by Yusuf, who was formerly known as Cat Stevens, is entitled “Tell ‘Em I’m Gone”, and sounded like the best choice. Cat Stevens is still one of the most iconic songwriters of all time. With songs like “Moon Shadow”, “Peace Train” and “Wild World” in his rearview, Yusuf has quite the legacy to live up to.
“I Was Raised In Babylon” opens the album with some spectacular acoustic blues guitar and down to bedrock deep lyrics. The verse “I used to serve the empire, on which the sun set never. Now times have turned, we thought our white skins would save us, then we got burned” is but a small sample of the lyrical content on this track.
With “Big Boss Man” and its blues tradition, one might think this was Yusuf’s acoustic blues album. With all the percussion and the oportunistic harmonica playing it really sounds more like world blues.
“Dying To Live” is a poignant piano piece, that though written by Edgar Winter, Yusuf’s voice is very reminiscent of Randy Newman on this cut.
Back to the world blues with a world blues reworking of “You Are My Sunshine” with an upbeat grit, that sounds like it would be just at home on the inner city streets as on a southern back porch. The whole song sounds like it was Ben Harper doing this traditional song.
“Editing Floor Blues” is another serious blues number between the guitar and harmonica, but more African in the percussion. The call and response with the guitar is cool, but the song ends kind of experimental, which probably not what they needed on tape.
Yusuf revisits his past with “Cat & The Dog Trap”, which is a sad folk song at its core.
The organ stands out on the jangly blues of “Gold Digger”. It is a little different than the earlier tracks and though it isn’t my favorite on the album it really isn’t a bad tune.
“The Devil Came From Kansas” is more of a rockin’ modern country-ish tune, minus the vocal twang.
The title track starts more world beat and dips into the blues influence. The voices singing background really add a traditional feel to this number.
“Doors” is more of a church number with organ to boot. While it is well done, it is less than the best on the new album.
Yusuf has truly evolved on his latest release, “Tell ‘Em I’m Gone”. Though I can’t say I loved every song on the new album, I can say that I love the direction he appears to be headed into. I was extremely impressed with the covers of “Big Boss Man” and “You Are My Sunshine”. Yusuf still has a way with words and really shows off on this album. I would recommend this album to long-time listeners of Cat Stevens, but even more so, to Ben Harper fans and lovers of acoustic blues. That’s What I Know, So That’s What You Know!! Enjoy!!
HAPPY LISTENING!!!! 😉