Twenty-eight years was a long time to wait for a new album from Yusuf Islam. Back in the 1970s, the artist (then known to the world as Cat Stevens) won over audiences with pop hits like “Wild, Wild, World,” “Peace Train,” and other folk-inspired songs. His recently released album, “An Other Cup,” vaguely remembers that music while developing a sweet sound of its own infused with Sufi stylings and spiritual overtones.
It takes some getting used to, this new music of Islam. The infectious, rollicking pop beats have given way to mellow, dreamy rhythms and lazy guitar strumming. The lyrics are easy on the ears as well, with lines like “One day at a time, we can look the future in the eye” (from “One Day at a Time”) and “Greenfields and golden sands, that’s all I need; that’s all I want …” (from “Greenfields, Golden Sands”).
One song, “The Beloved,” invokes the artist’s Islamic devotion, as it praises the Prophet Muhammed with lines like: “He was born to be the beloved, a will of the Divine.” Even though this is a pop album, it is permeated with Islam’s love for spirituality and his faith. Yet religious love doesn’t overwhelm the album, as Islam allows his old folk roots to shine through on numerous tracks.
Listening to this album with Cat Stevens on the brain would be a mistake. He left that life behind when he converted to Islam. But the musical persona of Cat Stevens can be faintly heard in this album. It’s a decent (though not incredibly awesome) first step after nearly 30 years way from making commercial pop music.