Maybe it was a reaction to being a social misfit during my school days, but while my contemporaries were falling underneath the spell of various grunge and hip hop acts back in the early 90s, I had started to pay more and more attention to my parents’ album collection. As teenagers during the 70s, they had in their joint collection, many of the acts that I still hold dear today, particularly when it came to loud, guitar driven rock. I must have mined that rich seam of rock and roll thrills for months, if not years I mined this rich seam of heavy rock, however, as I matured, I realised that although I loved the loud guitars and dynamic sounds, I was also starting to yearn for something gentler and more considered. When I first heard Cat Stevens’ Tea For The Tillerman I realised that I had found what I was looking for.
Looking back, Cat Stevens was probably the first singer songwriter that I really enjoyed, as I listened endlessly to tape copies of Tea For The Tillerman as I walked our dogs around the local woodland. I remember not only being impressed with Steven’s singing, but his strangely percussive guitar technique as well. While having all this exciting loud rock music in my life was great, Tea For The Tillerman pulled me in with a different approach, something which seemed more mature, something more calming. It was eleven tracks of music which I found utterly compelling, yet sounded so effortless, as if Cat Stevens wasn’t really trying to impress, which if anything made me even more interested in what he was playing.
It’s almost impossible for me to pick favourite songs from Tea For The Tillerman , as each of the eleven tracks is vital to the album. If forced to choose I would opt for “Where Do The Children Play?”, “Wild World”, “Father And Son” (I may never forgive Boyzone for their desecration of this beautiful song) and “Sad Lisa”. However, that means overlooking the brilliant “Hard headed Woman” which is one of my all time favourites. As is “But I Might Die Tonight”. You get the picture.
Almost quarter of a century after first discovering it, Tea For The Tillerman is still one of my favourite albums. Who knows how many times I listened to it back in the 90s, but I must have gone through at least half a dozen copies on cassette as I continually walked the three miles through the woodlands while my our cross labrador, cross poodle / lurcher and springer spaniel spent their time tearing around the woods like lunatics. While all three of those dogs have long gone to play in that big woodland in the sky, Tea For The Tillerman still evoked powerful memories.