Numbers is the ninth studio album, and the first concept album by singer/songwriter Cat Stevens released in November 1975.
The album Numbers, subtitled “A Pythagorean Theory Tale,” was based on a fictional planet in a far-off galaxy named Polygor. The album included a booklet with excerpts from a planned book of the same name written by Chris Bryant and Allan Scott. The booklet features pen-and-ink illustrations drawn by Stevens.
The concept of the album is a fantastic spiritual musical which is set on the planet Polygor. In the story there is a castle with a number machine. This machine exists to fulfill the sole purpose of the planet – to disperse numbers to the rest of the universe: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 (but notably not 0). The nine inhabitants of Polygor, the Polygons, are Monad, Dupey, Trezlar, Cubis, Qizlo, Hexidor, Septo, Octav, and Novim. As the last lines of the book say, they “followed a life of routine that had existed for as long as any could remember. … It was, therefore, all the more shocking when on an ordinary day things first started to go wrong.” The change takes the form of Jzero, who comes from nowhere as a slave and eventually confuses everybody with his simple truth.
Upon its initial release in late 1975 both fans and critics were confused by the concept and the lack of the sort of “catchy” music that they had been used to from Stevens, and although the album eventually achieved gold status, it sold far less than his previous four albums and was considered a critical failure. At one point A&M Records (his American record label) contemplated terminating his contract, but he still had two albums left to make for them. Stevens continued to be bitter about the process of fame and the pressures to make money for his label, and distanced himself from participating in promotion for the album.
Confronted with an ultimatum from the label along the lines of “make a pop record or else,” he set out to make one of the more expensive records of his career, 1977’s Izitso, which yielded several hits. The success of Izitso showed the label that he was still hit-worthy, but Stevens was now in process of embracing the faith of Islam, and after supplying the album Back to Earth, he opted out of the music business altogether, changed his name to Yusuf Islam, and devoted himself to the Islamic faith, education, and humanitarian work. But he would officially return to pop music with the release of An Other Cup in 2006. (by wikipedia)
Subtitled “A Pythagorean Theory Tale,” Numbers was a concept album relating to a faraway galaxy, a planet called Polygor, a palace, and its people, the Polygons. So one learned from the album’s accompanying booklet. The songs presumably told the tale, but as with so many concept albums, listening to Numbers was like hearing a Broadway cast album without having seen the show — something seemed to be going on, but it was hard to tell what. The setting did allow Cat Stevens to indulge his affection for Middle Ages madrigal music, and individual songs, notably the singles-chart entry “Banapple Gas,” were appealing. The lyrics were full of references to home, God, and “the truth,” which gave the whole a vaguely spiritual tone, though the key word here is “vague.” Stevens fans may have been somewhat put off by the fear that Numbers was a kind of musical math class — though it went gold, the album was the first in his last seven to peak below the Top Ten. (by William Ruhlmann)
Gerry Conway (drums, vocals)
Alun Davies (guitar, vocals)
Bruce Lynch (bass)
Jean Roussel (keyboards, synthesizer, vocals, vibraphone)
Cat Stevens (guitar, vocals, piano. synthesizer)
Chico Batera (percussion, waterphone)
Gordie Fleming (accordion)
Simon Nicol (guitar, percussion, waterphone)
David Sanborn (saxophone)
Barbara Massey – Carl Hall – Tasha Thomas – Art Garfunkel – Lewis Furey – Melba Joyce – Carmen Twillie – Brenda Russell – Vennette Gloud – Suzanne Lynch – Anna Peacock – Vincent Beck – vocals
Magic Children of Ottawa (background vocals)
01. Whistlestar 3.47
02. Novim’s Nightmare 3.53
03. Majik Of Majiks 4.32
04. Drywood 4.57
05. Banapple Gas 3.10
06. Land o’ Freelove & Goodbye 2.49
07. Jzero 3.48
08. Home 4.13
09. Monad’s Anthem 2.17
All songs written by Cat Stevens
And this is a waterphone: