Cat Stevens
Tea for the Tillerman


5.0
classic

Review

by Thomas Bambaataa Ghidrah Towers USER (67 Reviews)
December 6th, 2005 | 52 replies


Release Date: 1970 | Tracklist


#206 on Rolling Stoneís 500 Greatest Albums of All Time

With all the boring, mushy, acoustic/piano artists these days, you know, the ones that write sappy generic ballads laced with supposed charm, but have as much appeal as rotting road kill, itís good to hear one of the original singer/songwriters that had that sort of image. Of course Cat Stevens wasnít your average Jack Johnson, John Mayer, James Blunt... ah Iím falling asleep just listing them, his unique lyrics and venturing into different musical ideas made him as an established pop artist, but also became one of the reasons for his decline in popularity. His popularity lasted throughout mostly the early to mid 70s, until his near death experience came where he had a revelation. Stevens released one more album then quit his music career forever, dedicating himself entirely to the Muslim faith and renamed himself Yusuf Islam (his original name was Stephen Demetre Georgiou). Tea for the Tillerman is undoubtedly his finest moment, though a short album clocking in 36 minutes, its excellently crafted to make one of the best Folk albums to date.

Cat Stevensí main arsenal for these mellow songs are the acoustic guitar and piano of course, which fits Stevensí child-like story telling song writing well. But Tea for the Tillerman wasnít a childrenís album, its lyrics questioned the busy, non-spiritual world people were living in. Where do the children play? asks Stevens as he strums peacefully in the opening track, criticizing the industrial world sweetly and innocently through a warm melody. On the Road to Find out is about finding oneís self through personal journeys and religion, a theme that runs abundantly through the album. Despite itís moral and ethical questioning, the album flows smoothly, perhaps showing that itís better to just feel good than to preach all the time. Whether someone agrees or not with Stevens, the album is equally enjoyable.

The piano plays a bigger role in the songs dealing with more personal things, most noticeably Sad Lisa. Sticking out like a sore thumb on the album, Sad Lisa projects in the music its sad theme, through the reverb packed haunted piano. Still a quiet song like most of the album, the songís lyrics about a girl lost spiritually to the point of depression are very moving, the musicís beautiful string arrangements embedded perfectly to fit the song. The album is sparse instrumentally, emphasizing its folksiness, but when the string arrangements make an appearance, they make it count. Like Simon & Garfunkel and other similar artists of the time, Stevensí music always has an undercurrent of melancholy. This shown more in his debut as a proper artist Mona Bone Jakon, which shows Stevenís interest in writing about death. But like this album, Jakon was still a peaceful, accessible album, though not as confident. Lyrics seem to be the dark side of Catís moon.

Tea for the Tillerman doesnít contain any filler, canít afford to either at its length, the songs are straightforward with excellent melodies, some even less than a minute. One of those really short songs is But I might Die Tonight, a classic example of the effectiveness of just Catís earnest voice and his guitar being the base of the song, its melody and climax leaving the listener wishing the song wasnít just 1:55. The album is intimate, the gospel-like backing vocal and chants make the tunes sound like campfire songs. Any fans of classic folk or acoustic 70s artists like James Taylor and Simon & Garfunkel or even fans of gloomier stuff like Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell should definitely pick this up. This album proves that Cat Stevens was always searching for answers spiritually, even before his near-death experience. And I have also been searching for answers- what the hell is a tillerman?



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Zebra
Moderator
December 6th 2005


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review, you described Cat Stevens and Tea for the Tillerman very well.

I really enjoy Cat Stevens but sometimes his songs get repetitive and boring. The first half of this album is pure excellence, but then it starts to fade off during the second half.

Just a quick question not really concerning the review. What is the Cat Stevens song that everybody is saying that the Flaming Lips ripped off with "Fight Test"?

robo2448
December 6th 2005


132 Comments


Great review. I want this album. I like the Cat Stevens songs that I've heard, especially Father and Son.

Iai
Emeritus
December 6th 2005


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Just a quick question not really concerning the review. What is the Cat Stevens song that everybody is saying that the Flaming Lips ripped off with "Fight Test"?


Father & Son.

pulseczar
December 6th 2005


2385 Comments


Yeah, he's recorded albums as Yusuf Islam. As for length, I tend to like my reviews somewhat short, but I can understand why you'd want more, seeing as how you write uber-beasts of reviews.


Oh, and it's Galapogos ;)

Jawaharal
December 7th 2005


1832 Comments


good review. Cat Stevens is one cool kat (uber-pun lolz)

Music_Is_My_Life
December 7th 2005


100 Comments


Nice review. I definately need this album.

masada
December 9th 2005


2733 Comments


Cat Stevens makes me a Sad Lisa.

pulseczar
April 5th 2006


2385 Comments


Just a quick question not really concerning the review. What is the Cat Stevens song that everybody is saying that the Flaming Lips ripped off with "Fight Test"?


Stevens is actually receiving royalties now for Fight Test.

Rocksta71
June 21st 2006


1023 Comments


Brillaint album, i coulsd just sit and listen to cat all day every day. he has such a powerful voice and his acoustic work is beautiful.

Two-Headed Boy
June 21st 2006


4527 Comments


Fight Test also sucks, especially when compared to F&S.

Nahh....can't be.

Sepstrup
August 4th 2006


1563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Father & Son is definitely a better song. I agree with Zebra, except that I think Father & Son is possibly the best song on the album.

Bladder
August 4th 2006


204 Comments


Father and son is my fav Cat song of all time.

Sepstrup
October 1st 2006


1563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Updated. Father & Son is no question the best song on the album and roughly 48 times as good as Fight Test.

CanonInD
October 1st 2006


359 Comments


father & son is awesome

Foodforthegods
March 22nd 2007


425 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Just discovered this record...Father and son and wild world are just perfect songs.

samthebassman
July 15th 2007


2164 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Brilliant album.

Kaleid
November 7th 2007


711 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Amazing album. Along with Father And Son, Where Do The Children Play? is immense

MrKite
November 26th 2007


5020 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This album is fucking good. Father and Son is the shit.

taylormemer
July 4th 2008


4917 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

One of the best albums of all time. Just excellent.

Anthracks
July 4th 2008


3764 Comments


I've been wanting to check this out for a long time, the title track is the closing theme for 'Extras'.

Digging: Radio Moscow - Magical Dirt



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