Cat Stevens has always had a thing for telling stories about people (remember "Sad Lisa", "Hard Headed Woman", "Mathew and Son", "Lady D'Arbanville"?). As Yusuf he's no different. "Roadsinger came to town/Long cape and hat" he sings on the title track. It's an apt description of the long and winding road he's travelled from chart topping, post-hippie folk pop poster boy Cat Stevens to orthodox beard-sporting Islamic convert Yusuf.
At one stage it was thought that he abandoned Cat altogether. Rumours swirled that he wanted to remove all copies of Cat's music from the world. But listening to this album, that can't possibly be true. The cover and liner notes take you on a nostalgic hippie trip down memory lane in an old Kombi, revisiting photos of him placed cheekily in contemporary references (like a Barack Obama poster!). The message is simple, but effective. He wants you to know that the Cat is back, just in another of his nine lives.
Although his voice is as clear at 61 as it was at 19, you can hear the years in his lyrics. The fire in "Peace Train" has been exchanged for an environmental consciousness in "The Rain", while the fear he felt in "Wild World" has been replaced by a contemplative calm for the unexpected in the almost dirty, bluesy "Everytime I Dream". Then there's "All Kinds of Roses" which has that classical guitar picking reminiscent of "Moonshadow", while "Shamsia" is a beautifully haunting instrumental track rounding off what is a quiet, easy-listening affair.
If you've never really been a fan, this album probably isn't going to convert you. But if you are, it's a wonderful way to rekindle those memories made in the back of Kombis to earlier albums and salute the man who helped a lot of us grow up.