Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Cat Stevens - Teaser And The Firecat (1971)


Released October 1971

Recorded in Los Angeles and London

Cat Stevens released a series of phenomenally good albums in the early seventies. This is possibly the best of them. Back then he had the image of a wandering minstrel/troubadour and delivered wise, soothsayer-style lyrics in that reassuring voice of his.


1. The Wind
2. Ruby Love
3. If I Laugh
4. Changes IV
5. How Can I Tell You
6. Tuesday's Dead
7. Morning Has Broken
8. Bitterblue
9. Moonshadow
10. Peace Train

“The Wind” is a beautiful, melodic acoustic opener. “Ruby Love” features the Greek string instrument, the bouzouki, and Stevens singing one verse in Greek (he was born to Greek parents). It is captivating, summery and lively. The Greek feeling makes it really evocative. “If I Laugh” has a lovely, deep and tuneful bass line and yet another wistful, haunting vocal from Stevens. Yet more crystal clear acoustic guitar and some mesmeric drum work introduces the staccato “Changes IV” which has Cat rocking out somewhat in his vocal in that stride, strong voice that he could use on such upbeat songs. There tend to be two types of Cat Stevens songs - gentle, tender softly-sung ballads and more aggressive, stop-start acoustic attached songs that usually include pounding drums. “Changes IV” is one of the latter. The next track, “How Can I Tell You” is one of the former. It has hints of Elton John’s “Elton John” album in its almost medieval keyboards. Lyrically, Stevens was either romantic in a child-like, starry-eyed and fascinated sort of way or else he was proselytising on the state of the world or else searching for spiritual fulfilment.

“Tuesday’s Dead” has an upbeat, calypso-style infectious rhythm that sounds very Paul Simon-ish. This album has far more livelier moments than the previous “Tea For The Tillerman” album, which was more reflective in feel. Cat rocks out a lot more on this album.

“Morning Has Broken” is maybe my favourite, inspirational hymn of all time. Against a beautiful piano (played by Rick Wakeman of Yes), Stevens delivers in a lovely, gentle, sincere voice that makes it clear just what a beautiful song this was/is. Simply heart-warming, but sad too, in many ways. Just when you are feeling a bit sad and emotional, one of those punchy numbers is back with the rocking “Bitterblue”. I have to say at this point that the remastered sound is superb on this latest edition.

“Moonshadow” is one of those almost nursery-rhyme songs that Cat did so damn well. It is just totally entrancing. For me, Cat Stevens’ recordings from the early seventies bring so much joy, so much innocence, yet so knowing and wise at the same time. “Peace Train” continues in that wise vein - it is upbeat, vigorous and uplifting, full of gospelly handclaps and a vocal full of passionate conviction. Cat tells it as it is. Fantastic stuff. It is probably my favourite album of his.


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