Tuesday, 17 July 2018
Cat Stevens - Tea For The Tillerman (1970)
Released November 1970
Recorded in London
This is a melodic and effortlessly appealing album from an artist who was about enter the best few years of his career. Stevens, as you would expect, from his later development, was beginning to express spirituality in his songs, but many of them were also simple tender, romantic and sensitive love songs. Stevens sung also of the conflict between young and old, the search for spiritual satisfaction and he expressed a dissatisfaction with a world he found increasingly soulless and at times abhorrent. However, at the same time as expressing all this angst that found so many eager listeners in student bedsits, Stevens never lost his skill in creating a perfect pop song, honed in the sixties. This was always with him. He had an ear for a melody, for sure.
“Where Do The Children Play?” questions technological progress and builds up slowly and acoustically, with razor sharp guitars reproduced in wonderful remastered sound quality and ends with a solid rock beat. Just as it starts to up its beat, it comes to an end. Enjoyable though. “Hard Headed Woman” is tender and sensitive, immaculately sung and played, and “Wild World” is the incredibly catchy hit single well known to many. Maxi Priest released a credible reggae cover of it, as also did Jimmy Cliff.
“Sad Lisa” has hints of Elton John’s “Sixty Years On”, full of sweeping string orchestration and a stark but melodious piano and a typical articulate, gentle vocal from Stevens. There is a darker side to the song, however, as it explores Lisa’s psychosis. “Miles From Nowhere” is pounding vibrant almost rock song with some stirring piano and drums and a vocal of power and conviction. “But I Might Die Tonight” explores the same generation gap/advice themes that occur later in “Father And Son”. “Longer Boats” is a lyrically incomprehensible mystery of a song, but it has a catchy refrain. Stevens said at the time it was about flying saucers. Yeah, ok Cat. “Into White” is quiet, introspective and folky. Nick Drake-ish. “On The Road To Find Out" is a lengthier song about setting out on a spiritual quest, all delivered very tunefully.
Then there is “Father And Son”. The original, so wise and sensitive. What a song. Maybe Cat Stevens’ finest song ever. It is uplifting, inspiring, heartbreaking and beautiful.
The title track ends this beguiling and interesting album with a minute’s worth of semi-song that breaks into a bit of gospel and then ends. You are left wanting more from that one, but not from the album as a whole. It is a good one, and so 1970-71.