Cat Stevens

Tea for the Tillerman, and Teaser and the Firecat (A&M)

Phases & Stages

Cat Stevens

Tea for the Tillerman (Deluxe Edition) (A&M)

Cat Stevens

Teaser and the Firecat (Deluxe Edition) (A&M)

Van Morrison's "T.B. Sheets" precedes Cat Stevens' real-life ones by a year, but when Steven Demetre Georgiou contracted tuberculosis in 1968 at the age of 19, little did anyone imagine his musical trajectory would soon go astral. Released in 1970, produced by former Yardbirds bassist Paul Samwell-Smith, and illustrated by Stevens' whimsy, not to mention his English folk strum and hippie world-view, both Tea for the Tillerman and follow-up Teaser and the Firecat mined a "close-knit family of material I'd written post TB" reveals their author in the deluxe edition of the first title. Tillerman dreams of a better "day" ("Where Do the Children Play?" and "Wild World"), but dramatic piano ballad "Sad Lisa" trumps all. Teaser, "night," is better, the steel-string scratch of "If I Laugh" matching one of Stevens' most affecting vocals by ramping down, whereas "Changes IV" follows the singer's vocal fervor to the border of hysteria. "Tuesday's Dead" rocks, while keyboardist and Yes man Rick Wakeman guests on "Morning Has Broken," which accompanies the stardust of "Moonshadow," another track completed in a matter of hours. "Peace Train" blows its whistle at the close. Each album stitches together an alternate version of the LP with demos and era live tracks on a second disc, both marred by contemporary live material from Yusuf Islam – Stevens' Muslim identity after converting at the height of his fame in 1977. "My songs were probably most effective when the innocent, child-centered voice spoke loud above and against the clattering background of worldly demands."

(Tea for the Tillerman) ****

(Teaser and the Firecat) ****

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