My Top 1000 Songs #271: On The Road To Find Out
As noted previously, I had a convoluted relationship with Cat Stevens (later Yusuf Islam). Some early associations--overnight camp campfire sing-alongs, girlfriends who played his greatest hits album to death--put me off of his music for awhile. But seeing Harold & Maude in college, which made judicious use of his music, gave him some hipster cred, and over time I came to appreciate a number of his songs.
One that's always moved me is "On The Road To Find Out," from 1970's career-peak Tea For The Tillerman (as well as that Harold & Maude soundtrack--which I later recreated as a more intriguing imaginary album). It had the benefit of not being on that greatest hits album, saved from the childhood overplay that made it harder for me to approach the music anew as an adult; but it's also, hey, one hell of a great song.
It's pretty, a nice bit of pastoral folk-rock, but with some rousing dynamics and harmonies that give it more epic sweep than many of his better-known ballads. Frankly, it just sounds amazing--if you're a fan of a well-recorded acoustic guitar, this baby just rings. And the lyrics, post-hippie finding yourself that's part life travelogue and part inner soul-searching, manage to convey spiritual insight in a way that feels true. I mean, "kick out the devil's sin, pick up a good book now" doesn't necessarily speak to me on a religious level, but the delivery sticks the landing.Live in 1971: