New Masters is the second album by singer-songwriterCat Stevens. The album was released in December 1967 by Deram Records, a new subsidiary of Decca Records as a follow up to the highly successful debut album, Matthew and Son. The label was disappointed by his sophomore album's poor sales, given that the previous album made the UK Top Ten and produced several hit singles. New Masters generated little interest, failing to chart in either the U.K. or the United States. The single "Kitty"/"Blackness of the Night" languished at number 47, becoming Stevens' first single to miss the top 40. This was a sudden and steep commercial decline from the meteoric success Stevens enjoyed with his earlier recordings.
Stevens attributed at least some of the album's failings to producer Mike Hurst, who gave the coffee-house oriented songs elaborate baroque arrangements, a far cry from the stripped-down folk style that Stevens was eager to pursue. Even so, at least one song "The First Cut Is the Deepest" has become a minor classic through the years after having been covered by many other artists with far more success than Stevens' original. In the wake of the New Masters flop, Stevens ended up selling the song for £30 to P. P. Arnold (formerly of the Ike and Tina Turner Revue) which gave the former Ikette her first U.K. hit. In the decades to come it would also be a hit for Rod Stewart, Sheryl Crow, James Morrison and Keith Hampshire. Hampshire's version reached no.1 on the Canadian charts in 1973. Other versions have been rendered by singer Barbara Jones, Colm Wilkinson of Les Misérables and Jesus Christ Superstar fame, Duffy and the Jools Holland Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.