Albums of the Year 2017: Yusuf/Cat Stevens - The Laughing Apple The spiritual songsmith rode back on

From The Arts Desk

2017 was the year I began to feel my age. It started with mild fatigue and soon progressed to general world-weariness. I wasn't the only one feeling worn-out. This year everyone seemed tired and angsty. From Brexit to Harvey Weinstein, hardly a week went by without some section of society becoming upset. The world was in dire need of some old-fashioned peace, love and understanding. I got my dose from Yusuf's The Laughing Apple.

I first heard the songs at the album's launch party in London where Yusuf was playing live. On the walls were a selection of photos from the Cat Stevens days, showing the singer looking handsome and freewheeling. The man in front of us, by contrast, looked calm and wise. And yet, as soon as he struck the opening chords of "See What Love Did to Me", that old wild-eyed optimism started to shine through

The Laughing Apple was a deliberate attempt to recreate the feel of the Tea for the Tillerman era. It was made up of three new songs and eight re-interpretations of forgotten tracks from the Sixties and Seventies, all infused with childlike wonder and avuncular wisdom. Three songs, in particular, stood out: "See What Love Did to Me" was full of warmth and thoughtfulness. "Got a Thing About Seeing My Grandson Grow Old" oozed empathy and emotion. My favourite was "You Can Do (Whatever!)". It made me feel like I was fifteen, again, full of plans and schemes.

There were many other fine albums I could have chosen as my album of the year. St Vincent's Masseduction, for instance, or Laura Marling's Semper Femina. But, ultimately, the former was a little too hipster and the latter, a tad too earnest. Both were also very 2017. The Laughing Apple, on the other hand, felt timeless. It rose above the here and now and spoke with existential force. The result was a genuinely restorative experience.

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