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On the Road to Find Cat Stevens and Ray LaMontagne

My first exposure to Cat Stevens was through my father’s vinyl record collection. He seemed to switch back and forth between two of Stevens’ best: Tea for the Tillerman (1970) and Teaser and the Firecat (1971). While much of my dad’s collection was a hard sell to me at a young age (Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Jethro Tull; Arlo Guthrie), Cat immediately struck a chord. Even the cartoon artwork drawn by Cat himself was fascinating.

It would be a few more years until I saw Hal Ashby’s seminal black comedy, Harold and Maude, which firmly cemented Cat’s music in my psyche. The soundtrack made fine use of his songs – “Where Do the Children Play?”, “On the Road to Find Out,” “Miles from Nowhere,” and “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out” – songs forever etched and now quite synonymous with that film.

I’ve found that a lot of the music my parents listened to (and that by default I was exposed to as a kid) returns later on in life. What you may have reviled as a child or a teenager is often fully embraced as an adult – either as full-on nostalgia or perhaps you’re simply old enough to get and appreciate it now. Yes, it happened to me with Jethro Tull. And while my father’s tales of Ian Anderson, frontman and former ballet dancer, playing flute on one leg for an entire show or crossing the Fillmore stage in three leaps was somewhat lost on me as a child, I can now say that the magic of those moments he described ... still evade me. Had to be there, I guess. But Jethro Tull’s music does indeed resonate and makes me quite happy now. Emerson, Lake & Palmer? Um, not so much.

Out in our stores now is our Cat Stevens Opus CD: A Journey, featuring our favorite songs of his, including some of the ones I mentioned and his later work as Yusuf.

Right next to that album in our coffeehouses is one more I ought to mention: God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise by Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs. It’s LaMontagne’s fourth and inarguably his best yet. The former shoe store employee continues to, erm, “step up” his songwriting skills with this infectious slab of Americana-infused folk rock, fully embracing his influences of Stephen Stills, Tim Buckley and the Band. Favorite cut: “Like Rock & Roll and Radio.” Check it.

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