This legendary album contains at least four classics: Rubylove with its prominent bouzouki and verses sung in Greek is atmospheric and beautiful; Morning Has Broken sounds like a medieval hymn, a gentle lilting ballad with spiritual undertones; Moonshadow is a moving and melodic love song, while Peace Train, though less immediate, will grow on you. I don't know if Cat Stevens can be considered a "heavyweight" in the singer/songwriter genre, but he ceretainly reached a creative peak with these beautiful compositions. Never quite as melancholy as Nick Drake, nor as psychedelic as Donovan, Stevens touched all the right chords here with these simple but timeless songs, the sparse backing and his lovely vocals. This is definitely his best album and the music has stood the test of time very well.
on 3 September 2005
After a slew of personal problems, a false start as a 60's pop pin-up, and a near death experience, Cat Stevens began to find his song-writing feet with the wonderfully downbeat and introvert mini-masterpiece, Mona Bone Jakon. The songs were stripped down, emotional and delivered in a voice that would suggest some sort of re-birth... artistic or otherwise. This burgeoning skill for intuitive folk/pop would further progress with his follow up LP, the legendary Tea for the Tillerman, before finally reaching something of a peak with the album in question. Like Tillerman, Teaser and the Firecat finds Stevens once again in a sombre and reflective mood, as he lays down a series of songs that deal with love, loss, inner-peace and heartbreak.
As a result, Teaser takes on two different tones; there's the gentle and intimate songs in which Stevens sings of lost love and heartache, and then there's the songs that are more exuberant in style, mixing different world influences into the more characteristic Cat Stevens sound. Songs like The Wind, If I Laugh, How Can I Tell You, Morning Has Broken and Moonshadow belong to the first wave... with Stevens pouring his heartache and woe into songs with more minimal arrangements, often built around a gentle acoustic guitar, complimented by a dash of Rick Wakeman's understated piano or keyboards. The other songs, particularly Rubylove, Changes IV, Tuesday's Dead and the closing song, Peace Train, have a more band orientated sound that brings together the drums and bass, as well as instruments like the congas and bouzoukia, further complimented by some choral backing-vocals, handclaps and a hint of strings.
The range of different instrumental flourishes and creative music ideas here is vast and continually changing; from the sub-Dylan folk of opening track the Wind, to gentle ballads like How Can I tell You... there are the world-music touches as well, such as on the Greek themed rumination, Rubylove. This helps to build a mood that is both relaxing and ethereal... and if you were to perhaps read too much into the music, you could say that the overall mix of styles, ideas and lyrical subject matter suggest some far off time or other world in which love, peace and internal devotion win out over the feelings of longing and misery. This sense of innocence cut loose within the abyss of modern living is also reflected in Stevens' own illustrated cover art... the truest testament to the nocturnal sadness and childlike wonderment mirrored by the music.
The Wind establishes a tone for the album right away, with Stevens and guitarist Alun Davies indulging in a little dual finger-picking... creating a lovely little melody that encapsulated the sense innocence reflected in the lyrics. As a piece of music, it's as great as anything released by Leonard Cohen during his celebrated early period... only with lyrics that are more uplifting and less revelatory in the depiction of low-rent sleaze. The overall sentiment of the song is quite lovely, with Stevens intoning "I listen to my words, but they fall far bellow, I let my music take me where my heart wants to go... I swam upon the devil's lake, but never, never, never, never... I'll never make the same mistake, no never, n-ever, never!!", as the guitars gently pick away in the background.
It's really the kind of pop-music that doesn't exist any more... thoughtful and uplifting. Music today is all about aggression and making money; it's no wonder half the world is on ASBO's and the like!! Besides The Wind, other highlights for me include the two reflective songs that deal with unrequited love. The first, If I Laugh features, again, a gentle guitar melody, with a hint of backing instrumentation to give it a bit of weight. The lyrics are heartbreaking, with Cat sorrowfully singing "If I laugh, just a little bit, maybe I can forget the chance that I didn't have, to know you..." before going on to further the story of this young man consumed by thoughts of a love he'll never know. The same theme is continued in more detail on the lengthier, though no less beautiful, How I Can I Tell You.
This is one of my very favourite Stevens songs, standing alongside The Wind, Don't Be Shy, Father and Son and If You Want To Sing Out..., with the minimal instrumentation giving way to some heartbreaking lyrics that encapsulate the feelings of unrequited love better than any other song I can think of ("wherever I am girl, I'm always walking with you, I'm always walking with you, but I look and you're not there... whoever I'm with I'm always, always talking to you, I'm always talking to you, and I'm sad that you can't hear... it always ends up to one thing honey, when I look and you're not there"). Morning Has Broken and Moonshadow are both classics, if a little over-familiar form years of radio play, whilst Tuesday's Dead, Bitterblue and Peace Train offer the more up-tempo side of Stevens' character to help raise the spirits after the soul-searching reflection of some of the songs on what would have been the original LP's side one.
Teaser and the Firecat is a great album... as many have said elsewhere, it's perhaps Stevens's best studio album, continuing the themes and musical ideas he had developed previously on fine albums like Mona Bone Jakon and Tea For the Tillerman, both of which are essential if you appreciate the music found here.
Listening to Cat Stevens now after years of only hearing the odd track on the radio,
I`m struck by several things. He had a terrific voice, he wrote marvellous songs, he
had an urgency about his voice & music that is irresistible, and he wasn`t quite like anyone else around at the time (late 60s/early 70s).
This 1970 release seems to me his most immaculate, most rounded record, each song a carefully written expression of joy, grief, hope...
The Wind is a brief, perfect opener - lovely, and a foretaste of the lyrical and musical delights to come. It contains a favourite line of mine:
"I never wanted water once..."
The next four songs are quite beautiful. Rubylove features duel bouzukis - Cat had a Greek father, after all - and a memorable vocal, one verse sung in Greek. None of the songs here (or on any of his albums for that matter) outstay their welcome. He not only had an urgency in his soulful baritone voice, but a welcome respect for brevity.
If I Laugh is a song once heard never forgotten. I`ve rarely heard his voice so poignant, as if he`s dredging the words from his very soul.
"If I laugh, just a little bit
maybe I can recall the way
that I used to be before you
and sleep at night - and dream"
Seldom has a love lost sounded so sadly tender, the sound of a man tentatively
trying out life again after losing someone...
The gutsy Changes IV and gentle, mournful How Can I Tell You are equally unforgettable, while Tuesday`s Dead is Cat back in fierce-voiced mode, a rhythmic uptempo number that is another highlight of this impeccable album.
Morning Has Broken & Moonshadow will need little introduction to most people, and are good to hear again, bringing home to me what a genuinely fine singer he was, surely one of the best of his era. His voice has such a tough, soulful timbre, heard to advantage on both the `rockier` songs and the delicate ballads.
I`d never heard Bitterblue before. My loss. It`s gorgeous.
That this career-best album should bow out with the great song Peace Train is almost too good to be true. Talk about urgency - a great performance of a great song. (Dolly Parton does a superb version on one of her live albums.)
From Mona Bone Jakon through Tea For The Tillerman to Catch Bull At Four, Cat Stevens made four imperishable collections of songs that will be listened to as long as life lasts. I admit I`d forgotten how well-crafted his compositions are, and what an individual voice he was.
By a whisker this is, to my mind, his very best set of songs.
This legendary album contains at least four classics: Rubylove with its prominent bouzouki and verses sung in Greek is atmospheric and beautiful; Morning Has Broken sounds like a medieval hymn, a gentle lilting ballad with spiritual undertones; Moonshadow is a moving and melodic love song, while Peace Train, though less immediate, will grow on you. I don’t know if Cat Stevens can be considered a “heavyweight” in the singer/songwriter genre, but he certainly reached a creative peak with these beautiful compositions. Never quite as melancholy as Nick Drake, nor as psychedelic as Donovan, Stevens touched all the right chords here with these simple but timeless songs, the sparse backing and his lovely vocals. This is definitely his best album and the music has stood the test of time very well.
on 16 July 2000
The quality of the sound, and the writing genius of a man some 30 years ago shows how much they could do, that modern artists very rarely can do. Cat Stevens was years ahead of his time, and his music is so full of talent, meaning, and so very genuine, in a modern world full of electronic equipment, it's so good to hear songs with the 'real' instruments for a change. All you performers out there, can learn lessons from this artist. The only reason I gave this 4 stars out of 5 is because there weren't enough songs on it, as there weren't on the original L.P. So there are good things to be said about C.D.'s nowadays! What a talented man, what a genius. If you liked Cat, then buy it, you'll enjoy.