Cat Stevens’ ‘Catch Bull At Four’ Gets Remastered For 50th Anniversary

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Cat Stevens in London, May 25, 1972. (Photo: Michael Putland/Getty Images; used with permission)

Cat Stevens’ 1972 album, Catch Bull At Four, is getting a newly remastered edition for its 50th anniversary. The title, which marked the singer-songwriter’s most successful chart album, is available on vinyl for the first time since its original release. Catch Bull At Four, which includes such favorites as “Sitting” and “Can’t Keep It In,” has also returned to CD for the first time since its reissue in 2000 and the new remaster is also available for streaming in both standard and stunning hi-resolution audio. All formats were released Dec. 2, 2022, via A&M/UMe. The title follows the expanded 50th anniversary editions of Yusuf / Cat Stevens’ seminal albums Mona Bone Jakon, Tea for the Tillerman, and Teaser and the Firecat.

Speaking about his experience at the time, Stevens remembers: “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 goal. That’s precisely why I followed it up with an album called Foreigner, which would sacrifice my newly acquired crown for a welcome return to obscurity.”

From the Oct. 7 announcement: Released in the autumn of 1972, Catch Bull At Four marked Stevens’ sixth studio album and fourth release on Island Records – A&M in the U.S. In the two years leading up to the highly anticipated title, the British singer-songwriter had soared to incredible heights, becoming a global star with such hits as “Father and Son,” “Wild World,” “Where Do the Children Play?” “Morning Has Broken” and “Peace Train.”

On Nov. 18, 1972, Catch Bull At Four began a three-week run at #1 in the U.S.

The album found Stevens reuniting with producer (and former Yardbird) Paul Samwell-Smith and guitarist Alun Davies, who collaborated with the artist on his previous three records. Joining them in the studio was drummer Gerry Conway, who appeared on Teaser and the Firecat, plus bassist Alan James, and keyboardist Jean Roussel. The album’s title, meanwhile, was inspired by Kuòān Shīyuǎn’s “Ten Bulls of Zen,” a series of short poems, in which a protagonist sets out in search of a bull, catches and tames him, and, through the experience, finds enlightenment.

When examining the years leading up to Catch Bull At Four, it’s certainly no surprise that the artist found himself looking increasingly inward. After having initial success as a teenager with hits like “Matthew and Son” and “I Love My Dog,” Cat Stevens faced a near-fatal battle with tuberculosis. As he endured months of recovery, the artist made significant changes to his life and began to explore spirituality. This metamorphosis was also reflected in his songwriting, as he embraced a stripped-down, folk-rock aesthetic, while his lyrics became increasingly reflective and poetic. During this period, which proved to be quite prolific, the artist wrote more than three dozen songs – the majority of which appeared on Mona Bone Jakon, Tea for the Tillerman, and Teaser and the Firecat. By the time Stevens began work on Catch Bull At Four, however, he was entering a new creative chapter.

The songs find the artist grappling with his dizzying rise to fame, while, at the same time, delving deeper into his spiritual journey. This search for meaning is illustrated in the album’s title, which specifically references the challenge and strength one must summon as they seek enlightenment. The opening track, “Sitting,” also speaks to this dichotomy. Stevens sings, “Sitting on my own not by myself/Everybody’s here with me/I don’t need to touch your face to know/And I don’t need to use my eyes to see.” Later, the artist speaks to the trappings of celebrity: “Bleeding half my soul in bad company/I thank the moon I had the strength to stop.”

Watch Stevens perform “Sitting” in 2016

Sonically, the songs reflect a stylistic shift, with Stevens opting for a more elaborate sound than his previous three records, introducing a broader array of instrumentation, backing vocals, and lush, multi-layered arrangements. This development resulted in no small part from the fact that Cat’s steep ascent into superstardom meant that he found himself performing in ever bigger venues to increasingly large crowds. He felt the need to expand his sound accordingly and began to lean on his love of R&B, soul, and even musical theatre to do so. These influences can be heard across the album, but particularly in such tracks as “Can’t Keep It In” and “O’Caritas,” both of which find the artist expressing his concerns for the state of the world.

The foreboding album closer, “Ruins,” takes these sentiments a step further. In many ways the song can be seen as a successor to the prescient ecological anthem “Where Do the Children Play?” although, this time the outlook seems considerably more bleak. “Ah but it’s all changed winter turned on a man/Came down on day when no-one was looking and it/Stole away the land, people running scared, losing hands/Dodging shadows of falling sand, buildings standing like empty shells/And nobody…helping no-one else,” he sings.

Upon its release Catch Bull At Four built on the massive success of its predecessor, becoming Stevens’ first album to top the Billboard 200, where it remained #1 in the U.S. for three consecutive weeks and getting certified Platinum by the RIAA. “Sitting” was a Top 20 single in the U.S., while “Can’t Keep It In” peaked at #13 in the U.K.

The 50th anniversary edition offers audio digitally remastered at 24bit/96kHz from the original stereo production tapes by Mazen Murad. The LP edition is pressed on 180-gram vinyl and housed in a gatefold jacket, featuring newly-restored artwork. The CD edition includes a new 16-page booklet featuring photos and press clippings from the era, as well as lyrics.

Catch Bull At Four Track Listing
1. Sitting
2. Boy with a Moon & Star on His Head
3. Angelsea
4. Silent Sunlight
5. Can’t Keep It In
6. 18th Avenue (Kansas City Nightmare)
7. Freezing Steel
8. O’Caritas
9. Sweet Scarlet
10. Ruins

Related: Stevens has performed his first concerts in 5 years

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  1. rob66
    #1 rob66 7 October, 2022, 17:50

    Any word on a super deluxe box with bonus material ? All of the previous re-issues have been released in gorgeous box sets. I was really looking forward for the rest of his albums to be released (especially Foreigner) in anniversary box sets with beautiful packaging along with demos and live tracks like the previous anniversary editions.

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  2. JC3
    #2 JC3 2 December, 2022, 14:27

    So Cat put out Foreigner in an effort to not be so successful? He wanted to return to “obscurity”? Poor fellow. What about those of us that really liked that album? Were we duped?

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