1970’s Tea For the Tillerman was the first of two back-to-back albums that made Cat Stevens a worldwide star. Its follow-up, Teaser and the Firecat, joined this album in going triple platinum in the U.S. while also charting in Europe and beyond.
Those are also the only two Cat Stevens albums I own, and for a minor fan, probably the only two you need.
The albums I’ve listed so far among my favorites of 1971 earned their spots on the strength of a few excellent songs. My #6 album, Cat Stevens’ Teaser and the Firecat, is excellent start to finish.
Sure, it has its highlight moments, including ‘The Wind,’ ‘Morning Has Broken,’ ‘Moonshadow,’ and ‘How Can I Tell You,’ one of the prettiest loves songs ever written. But ‘Rubylove,’ ‘If I Laugh,’ ‘Changes IV,’ ‘Tuesday’s Dead’ and ‘Peace Train’ are all worthy of high praise.
Best Albums of the 70s – #19
Teaser and the Firecat – Cat Stevens (1971)
Most of the artists on this 70s list have successfully released music in the decades since. Cat Stevens is an exception. Nine of the 11 albums he released under this name (setting aside his work as Yusuf in the 90s and 00s) came out in the 70s. He couldn’t really belong to any other decade.
When it comes to music in movies, it’s usually the songs I don’t know well that have the biggest impact on me. That way the music and images arrive all of a piece without prior associations. Sometimes when a song I know well is used in a movie it’s jarring and actually takes me out of the film.
One big exception was the use of Cat Stevens’ ‘The Wind’ in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore. I knew this song very well and loved it, having worn out my copy of Teaser and the Firecat during high school and college. So when the opening notes kicked in during the kite scene in Rushmore, it could easily have gone wrong.
This is the first tune that really hit me as a bona fide, lay it all on the line, love song love song. I heard it for the first time back in high school and was struck by how completely earnest it is. That’s actually a quality Cat Stevens brings to most of his work, but this song in particular.
I suppose these lyrics describe an unrequited love, or at least a long-distance relationship. In that sense it definitely has an aura of melancholy, which Alex should appreciate because she is always pointing out that I am drawn to the melancholy in music and film.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never known the specifics of Cat Stevens’ conversion to Islam and later controversies. I just did a quick read of his Wikipedia entry and, as I suspected, it’s not as extreme as I’d thought.
Back in high school, though, I remember hearing the most popular Cat Stevens story, that he supported the fatwa calling for the death of author Salman Rushdie, and being totally depressed by it. I had a couple Cat Stevens albums (Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat) and I just loved them. How could the ‘Peace Train’ guy support the death of another artist?