An Other Cup

Yusuf Islam

Polydor, 2006

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


There are a few rare instances when I actually respect the actions of individuals in the music industry. In a business model where profit and popularity are the driving forces, it is increasingly rare to see someone who shuns those “positive” goals.

Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens) was such a person, rejecting popular music in the late ‘70s to focus on himself and his conversion to the Muslim faith. For decades, he remained steadfast in his decision and did not release a “conventional” pop record despite clamors for one. From a consumer’s standpoint, this was a loss, as Stevens was a talented individual capable of crafting great music.

In 2006, it was announced that Islam would return to the scene with a pop record, ending his self-imposed exile. Personally, I find the fact that he remained away for years upon years demonstrates his dedication and seriousness to his faith; this album was most decidedly not a soulless endeavor demanded from record label fat-cats for the sake of a new release.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

After such a long period of time, it was only naturally to wonder just what Islam had within himself; would it be possible to return to form? The answer was a qualified yes: An Other Cup never strays from becoming a modern day Cat Stevens record.

The naivety in some of Islam’s work has always been a source of strength for him; few artists can pull it off with such reliability and sincerity. In the records that I have played of his, there has never been an ounce of malice or ill will. That trend continues on An Other Cup; feelings of love and peace permeate every ounce of the album, and throughout, Islam defies the listener to lose their smile.

Stylistically, this album draws from the well of folk rock, but it would be a mistake to label the record as having to do much with “rock.” To label it as a beautiful, lush album would be much more appropriate. Islam walks a fine line throughout the record, on the one hand adding orchestral flourishes and grand, sweeping movements to one song ("Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”), and stripping down a track to its very bare, acoustic core on the other (“One Day At A Time”). That is a line he has much experience toeing, and in this instance, that familiarity rewards the listener.

The topic of Islam’s faith rarely detracts from the listening experience. Many tracks take their cue from works like “The Beloved,” which makes references to Allah, but mostly these mentions are in a general fashion that lack specifics. An Other Cup does not consist of reading from the Qur`an set to accessible melodies and beats; his beliefs are merely one of the influences that inspire the music.

Two years ago, this record stood out as a welcome return for an old friend, although critically and commercially that was not the case. Today, listening to An Other Cup once more, it has held up and demonstrated lasting power. If this is the final record of Islam’s long and successful career, then it was well worth the wait.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2008 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Polydor, and is used for informational purposes only.