Thursday, 10 November 2016

"Tea For The Tillerman: Deluxe Edition" by CAT STEVENS (2008 Universal/Island 2CD Reissue - Ted Jensen Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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                                         "...Longer Boats Are Coming To Win Us..."


Some artists have a golden period - a stretch of albums that define them for decades to come.

CAT STEVENS had such a spell with Island Records in the Seventies - starting at the lovely and underrated "Mona Bone Jakon" LP in July 1970 - right through to November 1978's "Back To Earth" when the public had long since stopped listening. In-between this eight-year splurge - London's Steven Demetre Georgiou popped out a series of singer-songwriter albums that found their way into every bedsit and bedroom around the world (a girlfriend in collage had remarked that our Steven had eyes like a cat – hence the stage name).

After a pop start with Deram and Decca in the late Sixties - Cat Stevens switched to Island Records in early 1970 - acoustic-folk-souled his songwriting and the handsome troubadour and across the next five years in particular became huge with the public. Albums like 1972's "Catch Bull At Four", 1973's “Foreigner” and 1974's "Buddah And The Chocolate Box" are still remembered with real affection now in 2016 and charted big at the time – part of the James Taylor, Elton John and Carole King singer-songwriter movement sweeping the world in the early part of that fantastic decade. 

But it was the duo of 1970's "Tea For A Tillerman" and the 1971 follow-up "Teaser And The Firecat" (Island Records in the UK and A&M in the USA) that seared him into the hearts of millions. These two beautifully written and well-recorded albums have always been the jewels in his catalogue crown. It's therefore hardly surprising that both have become recipients of a 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' Remaster from Universal - "Tillerman" in November 2008 with "Teaser" following in May 2009. Here are the Longer Boats coming to win us...

UK released November 2008 - "Tea For The Tillerman: Deluxe Edition" by CAT STEVENS on Universal/Island 00602517870888 (Barcode 602517870888) is a 2CD Expanded and Newly Remastered 'Deluxe Edition' with Eleven Bonus Tracks and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (36:46 minutes):
1. Where Do The Children Play?
2. Hard Headed Woman
3. Wild World
4. Sad Lisa
5. Miles From Nowhere
6. But I Might Die Tonight
7. Longer Boats
8. Into White
9. On The Road To Find Out
10. Father And Son
11. Tea For The Tillerman
Tracks 1 to 11 are his fourth studio album "Tea For The Tillerman" - released November 1970 in the UK on Island Records ILPS 9135 and January 1971 in the USA on A&M Records SP-4280. Produced by PAUL SAMWELL-SMITH - it peaked at No. 20 in the UK and No. 8 in the USA.

Disc 2 (36:49 minutes):
1. Wild World (Demo Version, Recorded 1969)
2. Longer Boats (Live At The Troubadour, Recorded 1970)
3. Into White (Live At The Troubadour, Recorded 1970)
4. Miles From Nowhere (Demo Version, Recorded 1969)
5. Hard Headed Woman (Live in Japan, Recorded 1976)
6. Where Do The Children Play? (From the Majikat Earth Tour, Recorded 1976)
7. Sad Lisa (from the Majikat Earth Tour, Recorded 1976)
8. On The Road To Find Out (Live at KCET-TV, Recorded in Los Angeles, 1971)
9. Father And Son (from Yusef's Cafe, Recorded 2006)
10. Wild World (from Yusef's Cafe, Recorded 2006)
11. Tea For The Tillerman (Live At The BBC, Recorded 1970 for BBC Radio 1's "Sounds Of The Seventies" at the Playhouse Theatre)

This 'Deluxe Edition' had a plastic wrap (before Universal decided unwisely to ditch them) with 'Classic '70s Album Digitally Remastered...' sticker on the outside and a four-way foldout card digipak within - itself housed a beautifully laid-out 28-page oversized booklet. The inner gatefold photo of the original LP is spread across the flaps of the digipak with sepia photos adorning the other flaps (it's hardly great visually). The booklet is gorgeous. Page 3 has Cat's own ruminations on the album and its life/career changing effect on him - Pages 4 to 6 feature superb in-depth track-by-track explanations by original LP Producer PAUL SAMWELL-SMITH while principal band member and Guitarist ALUN DAVIES gives his eclectic take on the songs (Pages 8 and 9). The rest of the booklet reprints the lyrics alongside live photos and finally track-by-track breakdowns of the Bonus Material. The eleven-track Bonus Disc includes Previously Unreleased - two demos being the real prizes - almost as lovely as the finished articles. Songs from the 'Majikat' Tour have been released on an Eagle Vision DVD and the KCET Concert piece was out on a Weinerworld DVD "Tea For The Tillerman Live" - the rest are Previously Unreleased.

But the big news is a new June 2008 TED JENSEN Remaster done at Sterling Sound Studios in New York from the original two-track analogue master tapes - superseding the version he did on the May 2000 single disc Remaster series. This version is beautiful to listen too - a real Audio treat. Typically the bonus tracks are a mixture of the essential vs. the superfluous. His voice is gone on "Sad Lisa" while the Live At The BBC "Tea For The Tillerman" that ends the disc is less than a minute long and very hissy. The two live 'Yusef's Cafe' tracks are beautifully recorded and feature "Wild World" in both English and a different langue (original album player Alan Davies is part of the band for these sessions). But the real prize here for collectors and uber-fans is the two demos - both sweetly recorded and hugely impressive. There’s a warmth and magic coming off of them and you wish there was a whole album of these. The Troubadour live cuts are good too (just him and Alun Davies on guitars) - very clear and way better than say bootleg quality. As I write this (Thursday, 10 November 2016) - the Sci-Fi movie "Arrival" is opening today about twelve banana-shaped spaceships suddenly turning up on our capitol city lawns itching to communicate in squiggles. I mention this because in his first Troubadour song he announces that "Longer Boats" is about spaceships 'coming to win us' - 46 years before the film event! What a clever boy. But onto to the album...

"...Well I think it's fine building Jumbo planes...switch on Summer from a slot machine...but tell me...where do the children play?" Cat opens the album with an environmental plea and in his May 2008 liner notes he comments that those passionate cries are still falling on 'tone-deaf ears' and unfortunately all present day evidence proves him right. What's not in dispute is the 'Audio'. My 'Pink Island' label 1970 Vinyl LP original and subsequent 1970's  'Pink-Rim Palm Tree Label' reissues always had low audio on "Where Do The Children Play?" - but this CD Remaster has gorgeous clarity and that acoustic bottom end when it kicks in is impressive. The strings on "Hard Headed Woman" are clearer and Harvey Burn's drums are almost 'too' good - a beautiful transfer. That huge piano on "Sad Lisa" fills your room and you forget just how passionate his vocals could be until you re-hear "Miles From Nowhere". Side 2's "Longer Boats" and the anthemic "Father And Son" will leave many tingling - both musically and lyrically.

"...Mary dropped her pants by the sand...and let the parson...come and take her hand...
But the soul of nobody knows...where the parson goes..."
I don’t know where he’s gone either.

"Tea For A Tillerman" is a gorgeous album and the Audio on this 2008 'Deluxe Edition' Remaster has only hammered that home with knobs on. I don't how many times I'll return to Disc 2 in truth - but there are nuggets to be had there as well – period songs that fans will need and enjoy.

If you're not prepared to pay the extra - then simply plum for the May 2000 single CD remaster which has great audio too and can be found for less than three or four pounds in many places.

If however you're after the very best Audio and the fanboy in you wants that tasty presentation and those extras on Disc 2 (some of which are actually worth owning) - then this 2CD 'DE' version of Cat Stevens' "Tea For The Tillerman" is the Father and Son for you...

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