September 18, 2020 Yusuf / Cat Stevens – Tea for the Tillerman² (Album Review)
In the summer of 2019, at La Fabrique Studios, near where Van Gogh painted many of his iconic masterpieces, another master created a different type of masterpiece in the form of music. His iconic name, Cat Stevens, also known as Yusuf.
Looking back, fifty years ago, a twenty-two-year-old genius named Cat Stevens came onto the music scene with an album like nothing ever heard before, Tea for The Tillerman. It went on to become a bold statement of a genre of music; an era that touched the soul with such beauty. Introspective, fifty years later, it it has been revisited in a whole new re-imagined album titled Tea for the Tillerman². Released on Friday, September 18, 2020 via UMe, for this new recording the mastermind uses different hues of color and different genres of sound. That in mind, it does not change the soulful intensity of the songs, but adds to them.
In truth, the relevance of these songs was obvious in 1970, and is still relevant today in 2020. Back then, it was a time when people were concerned about their world, their values and morals. Giving the music an even deeper look, it was in the late ’60s, around SoHo in New York City, that inspired the creation of Tea for the Tillerman. It was a hippie era where youth were convinced their parents were wrong about many things, and this was reflected in Yusuf / Cat Stevens’ lyrics.
Interestingly enough, the same lyrics still echo loudly with those youth who are now the parents and grandparents of our current woke youth. Tea for the Tillerman was a soundtrack to many aspects of lives in 1970 and it was expressed perfectly. At the time Yusuf / Cat Stevens was the poster boy for cool, and he manages to still be such at seventy-two years of age. His enlightenment done through his warm brush strokes painted on a canvas of love is truly something new and enticing. His guitar soothed and warned at the same time, but the revision of these songs changes nothing; they are still a masterpiece of art.
Adding to it all, a few persons on this album are from the original; namely Paul Samwell-Smith (producer), Alun Davies (guitar), and Bruce Lynch, who played bass in Yusuf / Cat Stevens’ band in the ’70s. These familiar faces join his new crew of Eric Appapoulay (guitar), Kwame Yaboah (multiple musical instruments/percussion and keys), Jim Cragen (guitar), and Peter Vettese (keys). As far the recordings of Tea for the Tillerman², it is somewhat hard to hear a song that many know so well and now experience it so differently. That said, the added tones and colors do not paint a different picture, but do paint it in a slightly different hue. The new versions have brighter, deeper contrasts and sometimes the colors all blend to form a strange but familiar masterpiece.
Something you should hang on your wall proudly, it is still a bit odd to hear the song “Where Do the Children Play” with its recognizable Country twang that was a reminder of Open Mic Monday at Joe’s Pub, but yet it still hits hard with meaning. Additionally, “Miles From Nowhere” follows this Country flare with a nice strong reverb going on, as well.
Then “Wild World,” a song which is still played frequently on many radio stations, is quite different with this revision sounding very French with a dominant keyboard and an accordion. It is given a Pink Panther feel to a song beloved by so many. This is while “Longer Boats” is still familiar, but with added spoken words. Adding a funk, it is somehow both cool and extremely odd at the same time. Then “Father and Son,” another all-time favorite of many back in the day, is revised into an introduction of Country, again. Thankfully, it quickly returns back into a remarkably familiar place.
It is odd to think how Yusuf / Cat Stevens is now the father or grandfather of the person that the son is speaking of, when, in 1970, he was the son. Something hard to fathom, right? Nonetheless, it was time for this album to happen. And although the original is still a masterpiece to listen to, this new offering is worth digging into, as well. That is why Cryptic Rock gives Tea for the Tillerman² 4 out of 5 stars.