Remember those childhood books we all loved? Bernstein Bears, Curious George, various psychedelic Dr. Seuss works, and so on. But one book never made it into our childhood memories, the story of a young boy Teaser and his clumsy pet, Firecat. Before Cat Stevensí best selling album (#87 on Rolling ďSold Out to the Man" Stone Magazineís Top 100 Selling Albums of the 1970s
) came Stevensí childrenís story book, ďTeaser and the Firecat". Thatís right, Madonna didnít
do it first. The story is about Teaser and the Firecat trying to put the moon back into the sky after it falls down onto a barn. Fortunately, the album has nothing to do with the story besides its name and album cover, because that would have been one crappy concept album. The [url=http://airship.home.mchsi.com/Teaser/Teaser.htm]book[/url] has been out of print for thirty years, but Teaser and the Firecat
is still hot hot hot!
Like its predecessor Tea for the Tillerman
, the majority of the songs are crafted with the acoustic guitar mingling of Cat and second guitarist Alun Davies, but the song moods and structures is where they differ. Though the soul seeking anthem The Wind
that opens the album may suggest a whimsical, introspective, serene album like Tea for the Tillerman
, Teaser and the Firecat
is more playful. The mood is more upfront, and less mysterious. This is where Cat Stevens seemingly decides to make a concise, focused album, as if he were ready to become a big superstar. Thereís more pop thrown into the mix of acoustic guitars, handclaps, and pseudo-hippiedom. Ironically, his monkeying around was his downfall in the future.
As said before, the album does have moments that are quiet, and full of folk, but arenít as magnetic as on previous albums. Most noticeably Morning has Broken
, a piano laden song adapted from a hymn. Itís a pretty song, with an A Day in the Life
quality in the piano, slowly bursting into the song with a sense of jubilation, but is mostly a forgettable song with a good piano hook. How Can I Tell You
has the same quality, while itís a pleasant, and earnest song, but itís much too long for its own good. The folksy songs that do shine are indeed the shorter, the afore mentioned The Wind
, and Moonshadow
, one of the best beaming melodies and lyrics Stevens has written.
The standouts on the album are on the jangly foot-tappers, like 80s REM in an unusually happy mood. Still employing some folk sensibilities, but mixed with campfire chants, claps, and sparingly employed drums. The buoyant feel of songs like Bitterblue
and Changes IV
is what makes this album so inherently popular. That and of course, the albumís closer, Peace Train
, which incorporates the bubbly, innocent tone, somewhat typical of Stevens at the time. Though most of the focus is on Stevens and the crisp, folk guitars, sparse, but warm string arrangements make their way into some of the songs. Stevensí lyrics are as optimistic and cheerleading as the song, but still retain a Zen-like quality that remained a characteristic in all his albums.
Teaser and the Firecat
may be the main reason why Cat Stevens is rolling around in piles of money today, but itís not why heís one cool cat. Thank albums like Mona Bone Jakon
, and Tea for the Tillerman
for that. Still, the album is cool enough, and is one to get for people wanting to check Cat in ďLetís sing cheerful campfire songs" mode. Stevensí interest in world music also keeps the variety and allurement, like the Greek tinged Rubylove
. The album is overrated in some ways, but still a great listen. Heís no Dr. Seuss, but Catís melodies are as memorable as any of those silly rhymes.
All aboard the peace train! Choo choo!