I knew I wanted to include at least one Cat Stevens song as I’ve listened to and enjoyed his music for such a long time. I feel guilty for not choosing others, but I’m happy to have chosen “Foreigner Suite.”
Foreigner is Cat Stevens’ seventh studio album and the first one solely written and produced by him. After 4 mega-hit albums, he departed from the formula and turned to what he called, “black music” where he considered himself a foreigner. The title also refers to Brazil where he was living at the time. The album was recorded in Jamaica.
“Foreigner Suite” is the first cut on the album, running at a lengthy 18:21, taking up the first side of the disc. Amazingly, Cat does vocals, piano, keyboards, acoustic guitar, synthesizer, guitar synthesizer, clavinet, RMI electric piano, string/brass/wood arrangements on the song. Other musicians are Gary Conway on drums and percussion; female backup vocalists: Patti Austin, Barbara Massey, Tasha Thompson; Jean Roussel (keyboards and string/bass/wood arrangements;) Phil Upchurch (electric guitar,) Paul Martinez (bass guitar,) and Tower of Power (horns.)
This song is one of the most heartfelt musical proclamations of love that has ever been written. I can only imagine how the target of this song must have felt hearing it and knowing it was about them. Not only the words but the music reflects how one might at first have a casual interest or lust for a person, but then it turns into an obsessive burning desire to join with them. I don’t know if I will ever feel that for anyone again, but as I listen to it I’m reminded of the thrill and joy of being in that place for and with another person.
Hopefully you can understand the words as you listen. I went through and made notes about the music itself. First a heartbeat and an intro plea of proclamation with piano and voice, shifting to organ music that opens into happy go-luckiness. It feels like a dancing form cavorting about with the lilting notes that keep changing, like a child at a carnival. It’s difficult to know what the timing is on it which is so liberating!
Next come the horns and it slows down for a few bars then speeds back up. Add a few drum and guitar fluourishes, which builds to all of the instruments converging. The beat becomes more regular and then morphs into a jazzy snazziness that I love. It reaches a lovely perfectly meshed crescendo. The anti-climax goes into what sounds a lot like a revival hymnal. Enter angelic backup vocalists. Brief interlude of fervent plea then back to the chorus.
Finally begins a slow delicious organ-drum duet where the organ almost sounds like it has a wah-wah effect. It’s a call to spirit, answered in call and response. The lens shifts from macro to micro into an alluring promise of delight. Cat gets for real for real with intimate piano and poetry. Enter the repeat and progression of intro plea.
It’s been fun writing about “Foreigner Suite.” I hope you enjoyed reading about it. The whole album is par excellence and one I’ve had in my music collection since I was a teenager, lost in 1994, and regained a few years ago.
This was first published on hanspostcard.