Cat Stevens was a hugely successful folk-rock singer of the late 60’s and 70’s, enjoying considerable success and recognition on both sides of the Atlantic.
In late 1969, his recorded output took a marked change, once he’d dispensed with the production services of former Springfields guitarist Mike Hurst and recruited the ex-Yardbirds bass player Paul Samwell Smith. The latter looked more favourably on the new folk-rock direction Stevens wanted to take and, with a new record deal signed for Chris Blackwell’s Island Records, Cat was able to embark on a fruitful period of writing and recording.
Prior to the crystallisation of this new direction, the likes of Peter Gabriel had played flute on Mona Bone Jakon, whilst Nicky Hopkins had also played keyboards on the same album, having contributed electric piano to The Beatles’ Revolution amongst other things. However, Samwell Smith was now critical to shaping Stevens’ new sound, inasmuch as he introduced new session players to him who would be crucial to the making of his groundbreaking Island albums.
Arguably, the very best of any of Cat Stevens’ session musicians was a guitarist by the name of Alun Davies, also known as Daydo to those in the music business (this nickname being the title of his first solo album, too, 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 overall perfectionist approach tallied exceedingly well with Stevens, so much so that he went on to appear on all but two of Stevens’ albums prior to his retirement.
Stevens’ withdrawal from the music business in 1979 left Davies at a particularly low ebb, but such was their friendship that, 27 years later when Stevens re-emerged as Yusuf, Davies was once again at his side, making an invaluable contribution.
Other notable session players who participated on Cat Stevens’ output included: vocalist Linda Lewis, who had solo hits herself in the 70’s; Herbie Flowers who is perhaps better known as the bassist with the 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 80’s with her own song Piano In The Dark; Art Garfunkel, who sang on the Numbers album; Chick Corea, the prestigious keyboard player, recently deceased (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 Of The Old Schoolyard.