Yusuf / Cat Stevens has announced King of a Land, his seventeenth studio album, set for release via BMG / Dark Horse Records on 16th June 2023. Pre-order here.
The news arrives amidst a wave of celebratory activity for 2023 following the announcement of Yusuf / Cat Stevens’ Glastonbury Festival debut. Set to take place this June 25th where he will perform the coveted Sunday tea-time legends slot at the Pyramid Stage – a highly prestigious billing previously occupied by Diana Ross, Kylie Minogue, Dolly Parton, Paul Simon, Brian Wilson and many more. The performance will come just one month ahead of Yusuf’s milestone 75th birthday, and closely follow the anticipated release of King of a Land.
King of a Land is an epic body of work. More than a decade in the making, its 12 new songs are full of extraordinary surprises. Unique and transportive, Yusuf’s new music, words and melodies paint a vivid picture of a world which embraces the lost lands of truisms and stainless youth, and brings it into touching distance. His poetical storytelling invites the listener on a journey towards the gates of an alternative universe to that which we presently inhabit – where happy endings can possibly happen.
Looking at the jagged journey of my music, beginning as I did in the 60’s, I would say this new record is a mosaic. A very clearly defined description of where I’ve been and who I am.” – Yusuf / Cat Stevens
Opening a delightful entrance to the powerfully childlike theme of the album is the closing track, ‘Take The World Apart’. Released today alongside an accompanying animated lyric video created by Peter Reynolds, it matches the joy and optimism Yusuf’s music naturally evokes, and is destined to charm. Watch / listen here.
“Sometimes you have to take something apart, to find the peace you’re looking for.” – Yusuf / Cat Stevens
The album’s artwork was also created by Reynolds, the award-winning Canadian children’s illustrator. King of a Land is the continuation of a collaboration between Yusuf and Peter that began with the New York Times best selling ‘Peace Train’ picture book in 2021. As well as the King of a Land cover art, Peter has created illustrations for each of the songs portraying the album’s lyrical themes that feature in the record’s accompanying booklet.
“Someone pinch me. Illustrating the Peace Train picture book was an honour, but when Yusuf asked me to create the album art and animation for King of a Land… well, I feel like I’m dreaming. The music and lyrics are truly what the world needs now more than ever.” – Peter H. Reynolds
King of a Land is an album not bound by genre, but a deeply meaningful and moving self-portrait by one of popular music’s most enduring and beloved songwriters. From the gloriously unexpected hard-rock intensity of ‘Pagan Run’ to the Tchaikovsky-inspired orchestration on ‘How Good It Feels’, the delicate acoustic balladry of ‘He Is True’ through to the driving Phil Spector-goes-gospel vibe of ‘Highness’. The Travelling Wilburys-styled rolling Americana groove of ‘All Nights, All Days’, and the ornate, atmospheric ‘Son Of Mary’.
Early recording sessions for ‘King of a Land’ stretch back to 2011 at Berlin’s Hansa Studios (the setting for classic albums such as David Bowie’s Low, Heroes and U2’s Achtung Baby). From there, recording locations moved through the years from ICP Studios in Brussels to La Fabrique in Provence, South of France. Additional overdubs and a 60-piece orchestra were recorded in Air and Angel studios in London, with some key work originally recorded in Yusuf’s own garage-based home studio in Dubai he calls “Dubville”. “Most of the songs started with me playing and recording everything at home in the garage – it’s as close as you can get to being inside my head,” Yusuf says.
Overseeing the recording process was Yusuf’s long-term producer (since 1970’s Mona Bone Jakon), and later co-producer, ex-Yardbird, Paul Samwell-Smith. In choosing the musicians for the album, Yusuf and Paul assembled a top-flight team including bass-player Bruce Lynch (who first worked with him on 1974’s Buddha and the Chocolate Box), keyboard-player Peter Vettese (Jethro Tull, Bee Gees, Simple Minds) and drummer Russ Kunkel (Joni Mitchell, Carole King, James Taylor, CSN&Y), as well as his familiar two-piece band of Kwame Yeboah and Eric Appapoulay.
The final mix down of King of a Land took place in Henley-on-Thames, at George Harrison’s private studio lodged in his former home, Friar Park. “We were very privileged to be in Friar Park,” says Yusuf, “and to be one of the first outsiders to enter that control room and mix an album. George Harrison has been an immense influence on me spiritually, from the very beginning. He pioneered certain thoughts and ideas, which stretched way east, and that was very important. If you listen to some of these songs on this album, you’ll hear a kind of spirit of George.” The album is also released through Dark Horse Records, Harrison’s own label run by his son Dhani.
The enduring success of Yusuf’s musical legacy is built on a myriad of factors but key among them is the uncanny ability he has to translate his vibrant imagination into musical form. This hunger and drive to write, record and entertain, is abundant throughout King of a Land’s new creative landscape. It has not waned. Nearly 60 years have passed since a 17 year old ‘Cat’ burst upon the pop scene with hits such as ‘Matthew and Son’ and ‘I’m Gonna Get Me a Gun’, writing timeless classics like ‘The First Cut Is The Deepest’ and ‘Here Comes My Baby’. These early songs were just the start of a long musical adventure that continues right up to the present.
King of a Land is available for pre-order on green vinyl in a gatefold format with a 36 page booklet featuring illustrations by Peter Reynolds. The CD also features a booklet illustrated by Peter Reynolds – pre-order here. An exclusive edition of the album, pressed on white vinyl, is available from the official Yusuf / Cat Stevens online store along with album merchandise – visit the official store here.
‘King of a Land’ Album Tracklisting
1. Train on a Hill
2. King of a Land
3. Pagan Run
4. He is True
5. All Nights, All Days
6. Another Night in the Rain
8. Son of Mary
10. The Boy Who Knew How to Climb Walls
11. How Good it Feels
12. Take the World Apart