Cat Stevens was a hugely successful folk-rock singer in the late 60s and 70s, enjoying considerable success and recognition on both sides of the Atlantic.
In late 1969, his recorded output took a marked change, as he had dispensed with the production services of former Springfields guitarist Mike Hurst and recruited ex-Yardbirds bassist Paul Samwell Smith. The latter took a more positive view of the new folk-rock direction Stevens wanted to take, and with a new record deal signed to Chris Blackwell’s Island Records, Cat was able to embark on a fruitful period of writing and recording.
Prior to the crystallization of this new direction, the likes of Peter Gabriel had played flute on Mona Bone Jakon, while Nicky Hopkins had also played keyboards on the same album, having contributed electric piano to The Beatles’ Revolution among others. However, Samwell Smith was now critical in shaping Stevens’ new sound, as he introduced him to new session players who would be crucial in creating his seminal Island album.
Arguably the very best of some of Cat Stevens’ session musicians was a guitarist named Alun Davies, also known as Daydo to those in the music industry (this nickname was also the title of his first solo album, in the mid-70s). Davies was a prominent exponent of the new folk-rock genre then emerging, and his finger-style guitar, compatible backing vocals and his general perfectionist approach suited Stevens very well, so much so that he continued to appear on all except for two of Stevens’ albums before his retirement.
Stevens’ retirement from the music business in 1979 left Davies at a particularly low ebb, but their friendship was such that 27 years later when Stevens resurrected as Yusuf, Davies was again by his side, making an invaluable contribution.
Other notable session players who participated in Cat Stevens’ production include: vocalist Linda Lewis, who herself had solo hits in the 70s; Herbie Flowers who is perhaps better known as the bass player with rock/classical conglomerate Sky (and for his bass line on Lou Reed’s Walk On The Wild Side); David Sanborn, a saxophonist of some renown; Brenda Russell, who had a solo hit in the 80s with her own song Piano In The Dark; Art Garfunkel, who sang on the Numbers album; Chick Corea, the prestigious keyboard player, recently passed away (2021), a member of The Mahavishnu Orchestra and his own Return To Forever project, who played on the Izitso album – and finally Elkie Brooks who sang prominently on the hit song Remember The Days By the old the schoolyard.