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I discovered Cat Stevens at the ripe old age of 8. I was immediately taken with beautiful simplicity of his music, the raw emotion his voice, and the acoustic guitar, which he plays beautifully. He plays the piano beautifully as well, but my own love for the notes of the guitar, and memories of guitar player dear to me, meant it was the guitar which took my attention.This was my favourite album then, and it remains one of my favourites. It was first recorded in 1970 and expresses some of the youth rebellion of the time. Many of these songs capture the anguish of youth, and trying to find who you are. Music reviews are not at all my cup of tea, but I'll attempt to describe each song and my reaction to it.
1. Where Do The Children Play? This song seems more relevant today than 43 years ago. It is song about progress, but also what is lost with it, the loss of fresh green grass and places for the children to play. It goes beyond an environmental message speaking also of too much control in our lives " Will you make us laugh? Will you make us cry? Will you tell us when to live? Will you tell us when to die?" The only instrument I notice in this is a single acoustic guitar. Cat Steven's voice is clear and beautiful, starting gently and with the emotion building.
2. Hard Headed Woman: This has a very different feel to the song with instruments I do not recognise at first, giving this a different but magical atmosphere. It quickly moves into his trademark guitar playing along with clear strong vocals, but has other instruments as well - piano I believe. I always loved this one, it has a lovely beat, a message about false friends, and most of all, it says it told me growing up that it was OK to grow up strong willed. Not cruel or nasty but hard headed in sticking to what you believe in regardless of opposition.
3. Wild World begins with vocals singing lalalala and a softer guitar melody. The vocals are clearly dominant with the music as background. In this song the lyrics are saying goodbye to a loved one sorrowfully, but still showing more concern for the one he is losing than himself. If ever there was a song of true love this is it - but it could as easily be a parent saying goodbye to a child as a lover saying goodbye to the one they love.
4. Sad Lisa: In this song Cat is playing the piano with the same skill that he would play the guitar. This song is about a woman or girl, in grief walking alone, one of the lines is " I'll do what I can to show her the way-
-and maybe one day I will free her. Though I know no one can see her". This was my favourite at a certain age, when I felt very much that no one could see me - that there was no way to reach out to human being. This song gave me great comfort at the time. Even now this has a haunting quality to it.
5. Miles From Nowhere: This is another perfect song for youth, about a voyage of self discovery, but with very religious overtones " Lord My Body, has been a good friend - but I won't need it - when I reach the end". This one uses the piano as background to the lyrics.
6. But I Might Die Tonight: this could be the anthem of youth, not wanting to work in a job you hate, or worse have to grovel at some one else's command. He is given the advice to be wise and think of the future, to work for a better job but the spirit of youth cries out "But I Might Die Tonight!" I don't think any of envision ourselves growing old when we are young - there is a sense of why go through all of this now when I might die before I ever the reach the age where I can enjoy it? the drums are far more prominent here, beating in the points being driven into a young manas the piano goes from gentle to a more driving tune as well.
7. Longer Boats: This was another favourite of my mine with the lyrics "Longer boats are coming to win us, they're coming to win us - Hold on to the shore". I could close my eyes and imagine Viking Longships and desperate warriors trying to hold the shoreline. Just as easily I could imagine the same desperate resolve in modern life. My Mother did not like this song. She felt it was lewd. By todays standards it is quite tame but it has a line that says "Mary dropped her pants by the sand, let a parson come and take her hand". The rhythm to this song is brilliant, it conveys movement to me. I could imagine it being the rush of oars, the march of feet. This is played on the guitar, softly in the background as the vocals clearly take centre stage.
8. Into White: It took me a few years to appreciate this song. As a young child I often skipped it, but as an adult it is a beautiful song of tranquillity, longing for a peaceful life, and as such I feel it is much more mature than most of the songs. this is the song of an older person, who has perhaps already seen hell, looking instead for a place of calmness. There is a stringed instrument in this, as well as the piano, and a very gentle song overall.
9. On the Road To Find Out is another song of self discovery, and another with religious overtones. The singer tells of leaving a happy to home with so much to discover and a need to find out. It ends with the beautiful lyrics " I found my head one day, when I wasn't even trying " - "The answer lies within so why not take a look now kick out the devil sin pick up pick up the good book now". I take this to mean that the thing we all seek can not be found by wandering but only in our own heart, that said some of have to wander as well. My Mother wasn't as thrilled with this one either after Cat Stevens famous conversion to Islam, although Muslims would not see at as conversion. To the best of my knowledge, Muslims believe we are all born knowing God, and becoming a Muslim is just recognition of this. She worried that I had too much respect for the man's conversion, but respect for another's beliefs does not weaken you your own. To me, we sang out to the same God, it didn't matter what we called him. The melody conveys a gentleness and peace, along with longing, and finally exultation as he finds meaning to his life and the answer to his questions.
10. Father and Son: The way you view this song says a lot about your age. As a child I identified only with the voice of youth "How can I try to explain - when I do he urns away again" and of course "from the moment I could speak - I was ordered to listen", the desperation of keeping everything inside, and the feeling that to leave is the only way. As an adult I still can't understand the way children were ordered to listen, but times change. I hope and pray my sons will never feel the emotion in this song. But I also feel the Fathers side now, telling his son " Take your time - thinks a lot- you will still be here tomorrow but your dreams may not". The father only wants his son to stay near him, hang in to his dreams and live a settled life. The Father's voice is not that of a tyrant, simply another age. The guitar melody moves between the soft requests of age to the deep feelings of youth. I have always found it hard to believe that one voice could portray both characters so well. Cat Stevens takes on the deeper voice of a much older man for the Father's lines while the youth sings with raw emotion and you can also hear his heart breaking.
11. Tea for the Tillerman: The title song is one of the shortest, very simple but very light hearted. It speaks of the innocence of Childhood in a happy upbeat way.
After writing this I realise another reason I've never reviewed music. Music is a deep part of who we are and why. To explain our feelings can be to bare the soul. But this was the music of my soul in youth, the songs that gave voice to the anguish of youth and yet soothed my soul as well. This music was like a comforting touch, something I could always turn too, and helped me through many difficult times. It remains a refuge, a place of beauty for which I shall be forever grateful to the artist who created it.
If you're looking for a great singer/songwriter who oozes originality and feeling in every song then you won't find much better than this album by Cat Stevens.
Released in the 70's it is widely regarded as Stevens' best work and features various hits for which he has becaome known for. You will recognise the odd song from this CD, mainly from covers and re-releases, such as 'Wild World' and 'Father and Son', which are standout classics. All guitar/piano/bass and drum, each song somehow manages to present the feel of sadness and happiness, with some brilliant breakdown fills introducing the drums to the rhythm of the songs.
Even though the production of the album leaves a bit to be desired, the quality of music and the unique voice of Cat Stevens shines through. It may just be my criitical side but at certain points on the CD, the bass overpowers other instruments and changed the perception of the melody of the song.
The Booklet is nothing too special, just containing the lyrics for each song on a page with the colours and imagery of the front cover continuing throughout. I wouldn't have any direct connotations between the title/cover and the actual songs, however, this takes nothing away from the album.
Overall, a fantastic album which highlighted the talents of Cat Stevens and will continue to transfix the listener all the way through. I will personally find it very hard to over listen or get bored of this album.
Cat Stevens, now called Yusuf Islam after converting to Islam sometime in the late 70s. He was a British singer-songwriter in a time when Britain didn't really have a decent singer-songwriter (this album predates Elton John's good stuff by about eighteen months, for example). There are a couple of songs on this album that you might recognise from recent cover versions. Cat went onto record another four albums and his output has since been limited to "best ofs" and "collections" that usually surface every couple of years. At Christmas. Just do yourself a favour: don't get on a plane with him.
WHAT DOES HE SOUND LIKE?
Acoustic, thoughtful, introspective, intelligent, sparse, philosphical. He could be described as a British Bob Dylan at a stretch and his acoustic guitar has served him well, especially on this album.
*1. Where Do The Children Play?*
This track sets out the stall for the whole album. It starts quietly with an acoustic guitar before a twee, catchy keyboard melody comes in. Cat's vocals bounce between the whispered and shaky to deep and menacing, the latter especially evident when he manages to squeeze about 17 syllables out of the word "play". A lovely song overall that is heightenend by the arrival of some drums near the end.
*2. Hard Headed Woman*
More shaky verses and gut-wrenching choruses in this tale of triumph in the bra-burning liberation of the early 70's. It's the archetypal quite-loud-quiet aesthetic on the vocal front and when the drums kick in half way through you know you've got another immaculately performed track on your hands.
*3. Wild World*
So the Pet Shop Boys wrote and recorded a song called It's A Sin and Cat came out in the late 80's moaning that it melodically and rhythmically ripped off this track. Then, that little reggae shit stirrer recorded a version of this track and took it into the top 10. Who pocketed the royalties? Cat! What a great way to get people to record your material and thus earn money for nothing. This version's great, of course, but it sounds nothing like It's A Sin in my opinion.
*4. Sad Lisa*
This is a beautiful ballad with just Cat's voice and a piano. It's both endearing and powerful and perfectly embodies the less is more musical ethic that I believe in. Extra vocals, strings or a beat would have ruined it. Stirring.
*5. Miles From Nowhere*
More acousticness and gutsy warbling. This time with a bit of real feeling including drums and piano and echoey effects all over the place. It's best described as David Bowie meets Nina Simone with the production of Slade, but that's not as bad as it sounds. A great track breathing much need life into the album at the halfway mark.
*6. But I Might Die Tonight*
A sombre piano and thoughtful lyrics start this track. The drums come rolling in and the tempo is very typical of the 70s singer-songwriter style. Ghostly, echoed backing vocals soar away in the back and before you know it, at under two minutes long, the song's over!
*7. Longer Boats*
If the last two tracks had a bit of tempo-led life in them, this track slows things right down again. It's very folky with it's repeated, chanted chorus and really isn't cup of tea. Cat's voice goes quite low at one point and I'm so scared I press the skip button. A bit boring.
*8. Into White*
The acoustic intro sounds very similar to Stairway To Heaven. There are whispered vocals on this song and the slightest of beats can be heard in the background with a sole, weeping violin for company. Beautifully executed and another less is more triumph!
*9. On The Road To Find Out*
It's back to the shaky vocals for this track as Cat's voice stops and starts but ultimately builds up into a seventies MOR prototype. The verses are quiet and introspective and the chorus is generally speedier and more emotion-charged. You can tell by the intensity of the choruses and the controlled strummed aggression that this was a particularly issue-riddled time for Cat, something that comes out nicely in his music.
*10. Father And Son*
Like most people under 32 and a half, I only heard this song via Boyzone about ten years ago! Whereas the Irish nancys' version featured glittering production and a spangly video, this original is a sparse, pinned-back affair with plenty of emotion and that same lump in the throat last 30 seconds where everything is thrown at the song. A track with real emotion, rarely seen these days.
*11. Tea For The Tillerman*
With the exception of two tracks on this album, you just get the feeling that you really want just one track to be an all-out "rocker". Drums, guitars, the lot, but Cat Stevens wasn't about that, and this final track certainly won't change the pattern which is a shame because his voice, when emotive, would sound great fronting a couple of rocking riffs. However, more violins weep and the simple melody and lyrics err too close to folk for my liking.
Not likely to convert (get it?) many people to his style of music, and anyway, there's plenty of contemporary thoughtful strummers around now without digging up something from 30 years ago. Still, good stuff for those brave enough to give this a spin.
please skip this first bit to be able to read the review with capital letters intact. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens.
Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens. Born to central European parents, Cat Stevens was part Greek and part Swiss. This album (which I rate his best) was his second to be released in 1970. It came after serious illness had kept him from the music scene for two years. Several more albums - generally regarded as slowly losing interest were to follow and he gave up the music buisness when he converted to Islam. There has been a sudden renewed interest in the works of this prolific songwriter and distinctive singer of late. New cover versions of his own standards - and covers of cover versions from way back are receiving airplay. Indeed you will probably be surprised by the range of the titles presented here. Snatches of his tunes are appearing as advert music. A Greatest Hits anthology has been in the album charts in the last few months. All the songs were written by Cat Stevens who also played guitar and keyboards. His distinctive voice (already obvious on his debut album "Matthew And Son" from 1967) is in part the result of his medical condition but is particularly suitable to the songs presented here. There are several fine examples of his particular writing style - the quiet introduction with increasing tempo and presence throughout the song to a climactic crescendo. He was accompanied by Alun Davies (guitar), John Ryan (Bass), Harvey Burns (Drums), John Rostein (violin) 'Tillerman' was one of those seminal albums in my musical journey through life. Well I remember the juke box at the local hostelry outside Nottingham (in early 70s)
which featured among other things 'Wild World', 'Green Manalishi' - Fleetwood Mac and 'Lola' - The Kinks. I owned this album in the days of its first release on vinyl. This review is of the original CD release. The running order (and my marks out of five) follows: 1. Where Do The Children Play? ***** A reflective song accompanied by acoustic guitar. Ecologically it is as powerful a sentiment today as it was when first written. ("Well you roll on roads over fresh green grass for your lorry loads pumping petrol gas.") 2. Hard Headed Woman **** This composition starts off quietly enough but build progressively to a climax. The backing is again acoustic guitar with muted strings and chorus. The lyrics are of a man's yearning (could be you; probably was me) for the love of his life. 3. Wild World ***** By far superior to the hit single cover version by Joe South, Cat's voice has just the right amount of emotion, yearning and pathos that the words demand. 4. Sad Lisa **** A melancholic offering. The arrangement features keyboard and a haunting violin solo. 5. Miles From Nowhere ***** Another landmark Stevens song. This again starts quietly with accompanying guitar and keyboard. There are elements of the spiritual in this song which heads to a progressively upbeat rocking climax. 6. But I Might Die Tonight *** This track is attributed to the score of a film "Deep End". It is a relatively pedestrian composition. 7. Longer Boats **** More hints of spiritual mingling with Norse references. A gentle rocking beat pervades the track. 8. Into White ***** A gentle ballad accompanied by a solo violin. The lyrics are strongly influenced by the psychedelic undertones of the time. 9. On The Road To Find Out ***** Again the long climax with slowly i
ncreasing insistence in the accompanying melody and percussion. There are again undercurrents of life's journey and religious influences thereon. 10. Father And Son ***** A reflective and melancholic aspect on growing up and growing old. It is presented as a duet between Cat the father (low registers) and Cat the son (higher pitched voice). Great melody, great sentiments, good arrangement. Another beautiful song. This is attributed to the film "Revolussia" 11. Tea For The Tillerman ** Stevens' nursery rhyme - only 1 minute in length - brings the album to a close. The CD insert contains the lyrics of all the songs. On the back is a photograph of the artist looking as if he is auditioning for the part of Robin Hood deep in the forest. As was often the case Cat Stevens painted the illustration of the tillerman replete with his blue and white tea service for the album cover. Cat did release his own version of 'Wild World' as a single (coupled with 'Miles From Nowhere') in February 1971. It reached No.11 in the US but did not make a showing in the UK charts. After that, curiously, tracks from this album were used as 'B'-sides for the three single releases from his next album "Teaser and the Firecat". Amazon has a page dedicated to this album which includes playable excerpts from the first five tracks. The web address is: http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00004T9VY/qid=1071329232/sr=2-1/ref=sr_2 _11_1/202-7091794-7619833 This is an album that can be played and appreciated at many levels. It is light enough for superficial background listening. It will 'be there' for you but will not intrude. It will also repay concentrated attention. It is an album I have never grown tired of in over 30 years of acquaintance. TEA FOR THE TILLER MAN - Cat Stevens (1970). A&M CD-4280 £ 6.66 (The Tillerman apparently
is a character in Norse mythology or nursery story).