It’s crazy how a song or an album pops back into your life sometimes. In writing this series for the blog, I have been diving back into so many artists of my past and when one of Stevens’ songs popped up, my memories of these tracks flooded my brain bringing with them the joy and wonderment of each song. Today we discus his fifth Studio Album Teaser and the Firecat and why it is one of my Stand Out Albums.
Why This Album?
Everyone knows Cat Stevens for a handful of his songs, one specifically ,Wild World, has been covered and broadcast so many times it is almost impossible for the average person to have not heard it. So, there is every chance you have heard a Cat Stevens song even if you don’t know about the man himself.
Cat Stevens began his musical career with the release of Matthew & Son in 1967. While the album didn’t get as much notice it should have it would not be long before Stevens would become a name with several of his future albums going Gold and even triple platinum. Today’s album is one of those and for a good reason, it is possibly one of the tightest and most well produced albums of it’s time, showing not only Stevens’ range but also his ability to evoke such deep emotion with just a voice and a guitar.
The first track in of the album is a simple and short track entitled The Wind. With this track, Stevens sets the stage for what is to come. An album full of powerful emotions ranging from deep introspection to the sheer joy in his belief that peace is just around the corner. Through these emotional ups and downs, there is an underlying message in Teaser and the Firecat and it is one of hope. Throughout the album, even in the more solemn tunes, Yusuf/Stevens has a constant theme of hope weaved throughout every note and every sound. Even if the lyrics do not specifically call it out, there is still a genuine feeling of joy and positive emotion in his voice that forces listeners to feel inspired, even ever so slightly. It is this vibe of genuine love and joy permeating the album that makes it something rather special to listen to from start to finish.
Cat Stevens, or Yusuf as he is known now, was one of my father’s favorite songwriters from the seventies. He would occasionally lament that the Stevens’ quit music but still adored the albums that were there.A day didn’t go by that his music was not playing in our house and then, sometime in the 90’s…it stopped. At the time I really didn’t understand why and looking back I realized that this was one of the first cases of Islamophobia that I had encountered in my life. You see, in 1977 Stevens not only quit his music but also converted to Islam. At the time I don’t believe it was the conversion that hurt my father but the fact that he was losing one of his all time favorite musicians to a religion he did not quite understand.
Needless to say Yusuf returned to music in the mid nineties after some rather harsh and controversial statements regarding Salman Rushdie, in what was probably the last straw for my dad at the time. In what I could only describe as a feeling of betrayal from one of his favorite performers, and even though more music was forthcoming, Cat Stevens music stopped playing in our household. I distinctly remember some rather disparaging words towards Yusuf and I really didn’t understand why. Sadly, this feeling of Islamophobia has never abated in my parents minds, something I can not understand in the least. I won’t get into why, but let’s be honest. It is never fair to judge an entire people for the actions of a single group. We have seen the results of this horrible mind set over an over in history and it never ends well. Bottom line, we are a world filled with a plethora of wonderful and beautiful ideas and people, maybe we should embrace those instead of focusing on the negative, huh?
Overall, I love this album. It is one of the most joyful and inspiring albums I have ever run across and one that I am sure will inspire others for many years to come. Even if you are not a fan of his current works as Yusuf, do yourself a favor and put Teaser and the Firecat on. It is the perfect album for a day where you might need that little extra something to get you through it.
This is so very tough. This is one of those albums where you need to listen to it from start to finish. That being said, I do have some that hit me hardest, in a good way.
How Can I Tell You. Have you ever found yourself missing someone and seeing their face everywhere? Well this song is about that.
Morning Has Broken. Now I normally do not care for ‘Praise’ songs but this…wow….this is just something special. Regardless of your beliefs, it is pretty awesome.
The Wind. The opening track and, although short, it is all the more beautiful in it’s simplicity.
Ok, Where do I get it?
You can nab this album here for around $15 and trust me it is one that you will want a physical copy of. There is also a great deluxe edition that has some tremendous live and demo versions of these songs. That one is on Spotify and totally worth your time.
Interestingly there is also an animation based on this album. You can find it here.
Late to the Game 6/23/2020
Thanks for reading, If you would like to read more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and also check out some retro tv goodness with the ongoing series Retro TV Reviews here. You can also find a few of my other Music Reviews Here.
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