Musical elders: Yusuf’s Cafe Session
Over the past few years, a bunch of our old musical faves have released DVDs that capture their “mature” artistry in the (recent) prime time when they’re infused with the wisdom of the years, yet with their musical chops still fully at their disposal as well. Click on over on the “Rock Elders late-career DVDs” category on the right to see others as they’re added.
The first one I wanted to share has flown totally under the radar, and will be a delightful – and heartful – discovery for anyone who was into Cat Stevens. And in the early 70’s, who wasn’t? Tea for the Tillerman was the first LP I ever bought (while on a band exchange trip), and for a few years there, he was one of the purest voices of the gentle, spiritual search of the generation. After spending 25 years out of the music business and in the heart of England’s Islamic community, he returned to performing in 2006. His new studio albums have been mixed affairs (though Footsteps in the Light, originally only released in the UK, with some old tunes and some devotional tunes, is a real treasure). But in 2007, he performed an intimate concert at London’s gorgeous Porchester Hall. Here’s the opening sequence:
The concert is a treat from start to finish. Twelve musicians create a gentle, rich tapestry on which Yusuf’s songs find new wings, a flying carpet of heart and soul. First among them is Alun Davies, seen above, who must surely be one of the most selfless musicians we love and don’t know: the half-hour BBC documentary that accompanies the concert on this disc reveals that Alun has been there at Cat’s side through all the years, his guitar weaving together with Yusuf’s to create that “Cat Stevens sound.” Who knew??
Among the many highlights of the show is a Zulu-infused Wild World, a couple of riveting Islamic vocal passages, and a surprising bluesy interlude. And just try to keep a dry eye during “Father and Son” if you, like me, have crossed over from one side of that story to the other….
The documentary is great, with a glimpse of his wild London 60’s years, which led to him falling deeply ill, living at his dad’s house, out which emerged the gentle Cat we knew and loved. Seeking refuge from fame in foreign lands, he soon left the music world, and the film offers an illuminating perspective on the role he played as one of the leaders of the London Islamic community (he did far more good work than we knew, having heard little more than the widely publicized and misinterpreted comments on Salmon Rushdie).
So start your Musical Elders DVD collection today by seeking out this gem at your local music store (I wish!), or here at Amazon.