I love much of Cat Stevens’ music from the early 1970s. But, I really love a film from 1971 which featured his music called Harold & Maude. If you don’t know what this movie is about you should pick up the Criterion restoration of this wickedly funny influential film, timeless with poignant storytelling and dark humor.
And somewhere amidst all that, Cat Stevens’ music fit in… quite perfectly. But oddly, his record label at the time never issued a proper soundtrack album. He’d written two new songs for Harold & Maude and it also featured key tracks from his two hit albums from the period. Those songs for the film songs have gone on to become fan favorites. They were eventually included in a greatest hits collection CD in the 1980s — if I’m not mistaken — but never on vinyl in any widespread manner.
On the most recent Record Store Day, a new vinyl collection was issued featuring pretty much exactly what we needed: a fairly complete soundtrack called The Songs From The Original Movie: Harold And Maude I say fairly complete because as I understand there have been some other collections issued in limited markets/distribution which were arguably a little bit more complete (more on that in a bit). But. for most of us, this new album has all the key songs you really need from the movie, especially “Don’t Be Shy” and “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out.”
The Songs From The Original Movie: Harold And Maude is fleshed out with tracks from Stevens’ 1970 release Mona Bone Jakon including “I Think I See The Light,” “Trouble” and “I Wish, I Wish,” it also includes tracks from his next smash hit album Tea For The Tillerman including “Where Do The Children Play?,” “Miles From Nowhere,” “On The Road To Find Out” and the title track.
On Record Store Day this year the soundtrack was put out on a lovely sunshine yellow opaque colored vinyl pressing (also available in orange). Manufactured in Germany, it is manufactured well, being both very quiet and well centered (mastered at Abbey Road Studios). The disc sounds very good. If I have any criticism it is that the album felt a bit bright sounding but I did get used to it after a few listens.
It is great to hear these songs in this particular sequence. The album reminds me of many of Neil Young’s recent archival releases of previously unreleased albums which had tracks that ended up on other collections back in the day. The Songs From The Original Movie: Harold And Maude thus becomes an alternate view of some of Cat Stevens best music, presenting it in a new light.
And.. we finally get “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out” on vinyl, so that is the big thing for many of us, bottom line.
Now, I have heard from friends that some completists are grumbling a bit out there on the Interwebs about this release. Apparently there was an earlier edition of this recording in a different cover and track listing in 2007 that was very limited in its availability. They are grumping because there were some bonus tracks there which are not on this new edition and the earlier version included a booklet.
That original album has become quite a collector’s piece, commanding prices upwards of $500 on Discogs (click here). Adding to the confusion, there was a different version issued in Japan in 1972 which has many of the tracks from the aforementioned Cat Stevens album (Mona Bone Jakon, Tea For The Tillerman) but not containing the two then-new songs made specifically for the film! This obvious cash-in is also something of a collector’s piece, but you’d really need to be a completist to need a copy (click here to see it on Discogs). Oh, and then there is the very limited edition picture disc that is now selling for upwards of $700 on Discogs! (click here).
So you can see all this Harold-And-Maude-Mania quickly descends into hardcore fan madness (and I say that in a lighthearted and loving way as I understand the fan mindset myself).
That said, all this should force you to hit the pause button and ask: Do I really need all of this? The answer to that depends on how big of a fan you are of Cat Stevens and the film. If you like his work on those first three or four albums, you probably should at minimum own this new and relatively affordable version of the soundtrack — The Songs From The Original Movie: Harold And Maude — on vinyl.
Fortunately, you can find the new Record Store Day edition for a much more reasonable price online (and probably in some of your favorite stores still if you call around), maxing out at under $50.
Personally, I’m quite happy with The Songs From The Original Movie: Harold And Maude. It is a nice spin which makes for a very happy companion to my cherished Criterion-restored Blu-ray of the movie.
Going back to my question in the headline at the start of this review: Is Cat Steven’s Harold & Maude Soundtrack A Missing Link In His Vinyl Catalog?
Yes, I think for some of us it really is…