Catch Bull At Four 50th Anniversary Remaster
It is now half a century since the release of the number one, platinum selling, Catch Bull At Four and this monumental achievement is being celebrated with a newly-remastered 50th anniversary edition of the record. This ground-breaking classic album will soon be available on both the highest quality 180-gram black vinyl and a vibrant limited edition 180-gram orange vinyl. It will also return to CD for the first time since its reissue in 2000 and the new remaster will be available for streaming in both standard and stunning hi-resolution audio.
The album’s title derives from Kuòān Shīyuǎn’s Ten Bulls, a narrative representing the ten stages of Zen enlightenment. This clearly speaks to Cat’s sense of the progress he was making upon his own inner journey, which in many ways was at odds with the album’s tremendous commercial success.
“Contrary to the spiritual nature and theme of the album, Catch Bull At Four went straight to number one and became one of my biggest commercial accomplishments. It was scary! I feared it would divert me from my spiritual goals.” Yusuf / Cat Stevens
Catch Bull At Four is a masterpiece of artistic creativity that saw Cat Stevens at the peak of his powers taking his insightful and introspective songwriting into a bold new direction. He was beginning to lean into his love of R&B, Soul, and even musical theatre with stunning results. Sonically, the album is bigger than the previous three records, introducing a broader array of instrumentation, backing vocals, and lush, multi-layered arrangements. Cat’s trademark impassioned vocals and percussive guitar style is combined with the sound of a new fuller backing band featuring Gerry Conway on drums, Jean Roussel on keys, and Alan James on bass, alongside the ever present force of Alun Davies on guitar. This heavier musical ensemble allowed the artist to inject a new level of drama into his work as is displayed on songs such as ‘Can’t Keep It In’, ‘18th Avenue (Kansas City Nightmare)’ and ‘Freezing Steel’. Even tracks such as the much loved ‘Sitting’ and ‘Angelsea’, that bare the hallmarks of songs from the Tillerman and Teaser albums, have a previously unheard intensity that is deeply hypnotic and entirely compelling.
Although Catch Bull At Four represents a progression beyond the classic Cat Stevens acoustic sound, thematically it is unmistakably a continuation of his earlier work. ‘O Caritas’ and ‘Ruins’ are both rooted in the prescient environmental and societal concerns found throughout his previous albums stretching back into the late 1960s. Similarly, ‘Sweet Scarlet’ and ‘Silent Sunlight’ emanate from the same sensitivity that informed many of his most beloved songs and that had already garnered so much profound devotion from legions of fans worldwide. And yet it is ‘Boy With The Moon And Star On His Head’, arguably the album’s crown jewel, that at once seems the most familiar song while simultaneously breaking new ground in terms of timeless folk storytelling. The song’s mystical narrative of a man’s transgression on his wedding day that results in a blessed child that grows into a wise sage who is revered by people from far and wide, feels as though it belongs in a collection of the world’s greatest epic poems or among the sagas and legends of a time now lost to history. This song, perhaps above all others, is a testament to Cat Stevens’ deep and transcendent spiritual awareness. Magnificently arranged layers of meaning and beguiling symbolism unfold to speak of the deeply personal while also casting comment upon fundamentals of the wider human experience.
Catch Bull At Four is a landmark album on the artistic journey of Yusuf / Cat Stevens. The record’s confident development beyond the safety of his tried, tested and much loved acoustic sound speaks volumes of Cat’s spirit of adventure and his willingness to forge assertively into the unknown. The album is bold, exciting and brimming with an intense passion for knowledge and experience. Catch Bull At Four documents growth in all areas of Cat Stevens’ being, from his profound songwriting gifts to his commitment to spiritual seeking and yet at its core it is built upon immovable foundations of peace, kindness and humility. As we look back at this amazing achievement from five decades ago perhaps it is now that we understand most clearly that Yusuf / Cat Stevens is indeed the album’s central character, the boy with a moon and star upon his head, and Catch Bull At Four shows that his message has remained constant and true on every step of his path.
‘I’ll tell you everything I’ve learned,’
And ‘Love’, is all he said.
Pre-order Catch Bull At Four: https://yusuf.lnk.to/CBAF50
Image 1: Illustration of stage four of the Ten Bulls of Zen by Tokuriki Tomikichiro
Image 2: Cat Stevens in London, 25th May 1972. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)