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|Kicking off A&M's ambitious Cat Stevens reissue program is this 20-song introduction. The set surveys all of Stevens's stages, from the orchestrated late-1960s sides through his early-'70s peak to his more eclectic late-1970s experiments. Following the progression makes for an interesting endeavor as Stevens learns to harness his ambitious ideas with arrangements that don't obscure his rhapsodic messages. Few artists of his generation were more gifted when it came to plucking timeless melodies out of thin air, and his sumptuous voice was always able to movingly convey his bittersweet lyrics. As a career overview (including one previously unreleased cut) this set achieves its goal, hitting all of the chart successes along the way and basically defining his role as a sensitive '70s singer-songwriter, but some fans may opt for the classic early-'70s studio records, which find Stevens at his most consistently touching. --Marc Greilsamer|
|Will the Real Cat Stevens Return?|
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