By AVA LIVERSIDGE
Yusuf/Cat Stevens has reimagined his defining album, Tea for the Tillerman, for a timely reintroduction of themes that have transcended decades.
Since 1970, TFTT has articulated profound ideas of our relationships, the natural world, and a broken society that has easily translated into our current world, with perhaps even more pertinence than before. These are the matters that have characterized the elusive Yusuf/Cat Stevens, and it seems as though we are all ready to be swept away again into his stream of consciousness for a dose of sage advice and guidance.
In this revamped vision, Yusuf/Cat Stevens has tried to craft a new work with old partners who have a close understanding of his vision for the 1970 album as he rejoins producer Paul Samewell Smith for round two. This return to the past, reliving both pain and production, is not usually a trip people yearn to take, but he was certainly willing to sacrifice a lot of self-reflection to reground and regroup his followers and, hopefully, reach greater pools of people.
Yusuf/Cat Stevens exemplifies espousing a set of beliefs, and, then, shockingly, solidifying them with actions. Whether it be giving up his guitar and pop music in protest of governmental bigotry or surrendering a life of fame for one of serious religious reflection, Yusuf lives his word, leaving his followers in the wake of inspiration and willingness to act. Tea for the Tillerman 2 acts as a reminder to his followers that were once left in awe of his devoutness and need to be reinvigorated and saved from our easily influenced nature.
Yusuf/Cat Stevens teaches us to be wary of the assumed and open to the radical. Lyrics like “Well you’ve cracked the sky / Scrapers fill the air / But will you keep on building higher / ‘Til there’s no more room up there?” on “Where Do The Children Play?” paired with the candid lyrics of “Father and Son” and “But I Might Die Tonight” uphold and preach the values of resistance across the institutions that define our relationships, our world, and our expectations.
The majority of the eleven tracks on TFTT 2 have similar sounds and compositions of their 1970 counterparts with an exception of Yusuf’s aged voice that adds a throaty rawness, uncharacteristic of the pop genre, to the tracks that were previously lacking. However, a standout amongst the eleven is the acclaimed “Wild World” that now adopts a jazzier piano sound that brightens up the sorrowful lyrics.
The striking impact of the eleven songs has now come again in waves of hope for a tumultuous reawakening of the importance of the everlasting search for the truth. There’s an urgency to this release in its contemporary context, at such an opportune period of crisis. A prophecy lives in the lines of this album that perfectly applied to the worldly aching for 1970 and now offers deliverance in 2020. The message is lying before us — now it’s our job to recognize it and manifest it.