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A childlike simplicity runs through Yusuf, Cat Stevens - The Laughing Apple / Philly.com

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After creating some of the most beloved albums of the early 1970s singer-songwriter era, Cat Stevens (born Steven Georgiou), converted to Islam, changed his name to Yusuf Islam, and retired from the music business for nearly three decades. In 2006, he started recording again (going solely by Yusuf). The Laughing Apple, his fourth album since his return, is a self-conscious nod to his early career: He's working with several of his Tea For The Tillerman collaborators, and, aside from three new compositions, he's revisiting songs he wrote 50 years ago (when New Masters, his second album, came out).

A childlike simplicity runs through The Laughing Apple, in the lilting, allegorical title track, in the expanded nursery rhyme "Mary and the Little Lamb," and in the lullaby "I'm So Sleepy." He sings about aging in "Grandsons" and then gets his eight grandkids to contribute to "Mighty Peace." At times, The Laughing Apple sounds like a children's album, but that's part of the same comforting innocence that was central to "Moonshadow" and "Oh Very Young" and other Cat Stevens hits from the '70s. -Steve Klinge

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