Review Summary: Gently, For I Will Always Love You, Son.
Cat Stevens was a legendary folk/rock artist will a soothing voice and a knack for writing toe tapping ditties on the acoustic guitar. Later in his life he became a Muslim, to which most fans responded by claiming he was selling out to organized religion. Tea For The Tillerman is the definitive Cat Stevens album, one that would more often than not be referred to as his masterpiece. But herein lies our dilemma, as we ask our selves "Cat Stevens' masterpiece of what?". This is not merely a folk album, not by a longshot. Neither is it a classic rock album in the vein of Thin Lizzy's "Jail Break". So what purpose does this collection of musical songs serve? Was it merely made so strung out hippies could recreate the songs on their acoustic guitars on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, Colorado?
To ask why Cat Stevens would compose such an album, one must first examine the character of Cat Stevens himself. What was it that made this man get out of bed in the mornings, fix his hair, and step foot out into the streets cloaked in that gentle smile that was so often on his lips? Was it heartbreak? One listen to the song "Wild World" would suggest so. Perhaps his lover left him in a fit of rage after a night of passion and never returned back to the funeral dirge that was their life together. Perhaps this life altering event left poor Cat so fragile and broken that he needed to let his pent up emotions flow out of him like the lava of a volcano in the motherland of Hawaii. Maybe instead of letting his lava flow into the sea, rapidly cooling and over thousands of years forming an inhabitable island, Cat chose instead to let the lava flow onto record where it began to take the shape of an album.
But why music? When creating a masterpiece of any kind the most important decision the artist of said masterpiece must make is which medium he shall choose to convey his eternal message. What was it that compelled Cat to pick up an acoustic guitar and spread his message of love an acceptance through song? Could it be that as a young boy he had developed a severe Oedipal complex and was carrying years of furious sexual desire for his own mother when he began to notice that the quickest way to a woman's heart is through song? We may never know, but this guess is as good as any.
So in the end, what does this album truly deliver to us that is so capable of soothing our souls whilst simultaneously leaving us gasping for air as the feeling of complete suffocation overwhelms us and leaves us trembling in the darkness of our own minds? Maybe it is the chilling delivery that Cat uses as his bearded face and starry eyes gaze into our soul and tell us "Everything will not be ok, but that is alright.", metaphorically speaking. Maybe it is because Stevens chooses to embrace the darkness that attaches itself to everything in life, from the joyful, to the mundane, to the terrifying. Perhaps, this man who called himself Cat Stevens had no message at all and no interest in what we felt, maybe it was all wash. But, even if it were true that the great Cat Stevens was playing an extravagantly cruel trick on us all along, does that make it any less significant. One listen to "Father and Son" should ease your troubled mind as you ponder that question, and let the darkness of the night engulf your mind as you sit starring lovingly into the fire.