#204: Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens
Favorite Tracks: "Where Do the Children Play?" and "Hard-Headed Woman" and "Wild World" and "Sad Lisa" and "Miles From Nowhere" and "But I Might Die Tonight" and "Longer Boats" and "Into White" and "On the Road to Find Out" and "Father & Son" and "Tea for the Tillerman"
Thoughts: Listen. Do you hear that? It's the sound of me coming at you from your computer screen screaming "YES!" at the top of my lungs. Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens, Cat Stevens, Cat Stevens, Cat Stevens. This is the first album by the brilliant British troubadour we've seen on the list, and it damn well had better not be the last. My parents have this record (and now I have it) and it is sublime on LP. Oh baby, let's do this.
The album opens with the lovely, inviting "Where Do the Children Play?" Then shit gets real in "Hard-Headed Woman." The song rocks a bit harder, gets a bit darker. Here are a few of the effing awesome lyrics:
I'm looking for a hard-headed woman,
one who will take me for myself
I'm looking for a hard-headed woman
one who will make me do my best
and if I find my hard-headed woman
I know the rest of my life will be blessed
If you look up 'hard-headed' in the dictionary, it says "not easily moved or deceived...obstinate; stubborn; willful." Hell to the yes, Cat Stevens. HELL YES.
You know "Wild World" is coming when you hear those first "La-la-la-la"'s. Now, this song is a little less, uh, feminist than the last song, but it so wonderful to sing along to. It's one of the first Cat songs I ever knew. Love the piano.
The song "Sad Lisa" is, as you might imagine, quite sad. Lovely string arrangement with the piano. If my name was Lisa I would listen to this all. the. time. So if you're name is Lisa (and I know at least one Lisa reads this blog!), have at it. :)
"Miles From Nowhere" was featured in The Brothers Bloom (2008) which isn't that great of a movie. A great movie that does feature it (and "Where Do the Children Play?" and two more songs off this album) is of course, Harold and Maude (1971). And this song is tremendous, with an incredible build.
Side 2! "But I Might Die Tonight" has a wonderful message about not spending your life trying to get ahead or working all the time. "Longer Boats" starts out with a cute a capella sing-along, and moves into the song with ease and it keeps a kind of drinking or sailing song sort of vibe. "Into White" is a beautiful acoustic tune, with sweet lyrics about colors and creating a home. Good grief, this music just soothes the soul and spirit.
"On the Road to Find Out" is one of my favorite Cat Stevens songs. My dad plays it a lot, which is partly why. I listened to it a lot in college when I was changing my mind about many long-held beliefs and ways of looking at the world.
"Father & Son" is an appropriate song to follow "On the Road to Find Out", which is basically a conversation between a father and son about how the son should live his life and find his destiny, originally written for a musical about the Russian Revolution, it ended up reflecting the generational conflict going on in Stevens' modern day (and in most others too). It's an incredible song.
The last song is my very favorite! The title song, "Tea for the Tillerman." It's only a minute long, but it's perfect. The choir, the soft piano at the end. Plus, anyone who's watched Extras has that special attachment to it too. I love Ricky Gervais' 70s singer-songwriter songs at the end of his comedies--speaking my language. Here's Chris Martin's cover from an episode of the show (plus his duet of "Fix You" with 'Ray' one of Andy Millman's characters).
All in all, Cat Stevens is one of my top 20 artists of all time. Play me a Cat Stevens song, I'll love you forever.
Is This Better Than The River?: Oh baby, YES.