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Third album released by singer-songwriter Cat Stevens. After a meteoric start to his career, surprising even his original producer at Deram Records with the hit singles "I Love My Dog", "Matthew and Son", and "I'm Gonna Get Me a Gun", Stevens' debut album, Matthew and Son began charting as well. However, after the pressure for a repeat album of the same calibre, Stevens, considered a young teen sensation, was overwhelmed by a new lifestyle, as well as the demands of writing, recording, performing, publicity appearances, and touring. In the fall of 1968, he collapsed, with the diagnosis of tuberculosis and a collapsed lung. For over a year, while recovering, Stevens virtually disappeared from the British pop scene. Mona Bone Jakon is notable not only for his return, but for the emergence of a very different artist. The album was certified gold for sales/shipments of more than 500,000 copies in the United States.
During his hospital-dictated year of bedrest, he began writing a catalogue of songs to fill far more than his next album. After his recovery, Stevens negotiated out of his contract with Deram Records and joined with former Yardbirds bassist Paul Samwell-Smith with a stripped down sound, with songs played in spare arrangements on acoustic guitars and keyboards and accompanied by a sparse backing band, consisting only of three other performers: second guitarist Alun Davies, bassist John Ryan, and drummer Harvey Burns—and on one song, "Katmandu", Peter Gabriel on the flute. Smith also produced the album and brought Stevens a high fidelity sound that was not as present on his previous releases. Smith was one of the early producers in rock to push the lower bass frequencies more prominently into the mix in an attempt to keep up with the new audiophile generation which was embracing larger home speakers and high end phonographic cartridges. Stevens began to make the transition from pop star to a folk-rock performer, when the term "singer-songwriter" was just being coined.
The songs themselves were darker in tone: the madrigal-inspired ballad "Lady D'Arbanville" elevated the tragedy of a lost lover (in this case, Stevens' former girlfriend Patti D'Arbanville) to that of a deceased one; "Trouble" was a plea to stave off death. There were also lighter songs; "Pop Star" showcased Stevens' dramatic change in voice by satirising the triviality of celebrity.
Though "Lady D'Arbanville" would reach No. 8 on the British charts, Mona Bone Jakon was only a modest success upon its initial release. The album attracted attention, however, in the wake of the commercial breakthrough of its follow-up, Tea for the Tillerman, and with the inclusion of three of its songs ("Trouble", "I Wish, I Wish", and "I Think I See the Light") in Hal Ashby and Colin Higgins's black comedy Harold and Maude in 1971. ...
01. Lady D'Arbanville 3:46
02. Maybe you're right 3:26
03. Pop star 4:14
04. I think I see the light 3:56
05. Trouble 2:48
06. Mona Bone Jakon 1:41
07. I wish, I wish 3:49
08. Katmandu 3:23
09. Time 1:27
10. Fill my eyes 3:01
11. Lillywhite 3:42
Cat Stevens – piano, minimoog, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, lead guitar, keyboards, vocals
Alun Davies – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, rhythm guitar, backing vocals
John Ryan – bass
Harvey Burns – drums, percussion
Peter Gabriel – flute on track 8
Del Newman – strings, arrangements