Yusuf/Cat Stevens revisits one of his career high points with the UMe release of Tea for the Tillerman², on which he recasts the 11 songs from the landmark 1970 LP for a new age. The album, out now, has been widely praised in the UK and international press, with Uncut describing it as “impassioned” and American Songwriter observing that “the songs seem as fresh as ever.”
Fifty years ago, the original Tea For The Tillerman was the record that made the London-born artist an international star and a definitive figure of the first singer-songwriter era. With half a century of experiences since the LP appeared, Tea for the Tillerman² marks a dramatic and magical reunion with these unforgettable songs, which included such enduring compositions as “Where Do The Children Play,” “Wild World” and “Father and Son.”
The cover art for Tea for the Tillerman² echoes the original illustration and design, but 50 years on, the Tillerman “has returned from an expedition to outer space only to discover a world that has become decidedly darker.” The two children, Grady and Timmy, are still playing next to him, but now they are streaming the latest music and gaming on their mobile phones.
Reunited with Paul Samwell-Smith
The new album came to life when Yusuf was discussing with his son how to mark the 50th anniversary of the original. The idea to reimagine and re-record the songs was born, and the artist contacted the producer of Tea For The Tillerman and so much of Stevens’ classic work, Paul Samwell-Smith.
They booked a week at La Fabrique Studios in the south of France last summer, situated close to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where Van Gogh painted some of his masters. The studio was once a factory for dyeing the jackets of Napoleon’s famous Hussars, and also houses one of the largest collections of classic French cinema and vinyl records.
Yusuf was also reunited for the sessions with original guitarist Alun Davies, with Bruce Lynch, a member of Yusuf’s band from the mid-1970s, on bass. Guitarist Eric Appapoulay and multi-instrumentalist Kwame Yeboah on percussion and keyboards come from his current live band, augmented by two further notables, Jim Cregan on guitar and Peter Vettese on keys. The sessions were engineered by David Hefti, who’s contributed to Yusuf’s sound on stage and in the studio for nearly ten years. The whole studio experience was also filmed.
Songs from a lifetime ago
Most of the material on the 1970 release were written by a 22-year-old Stevens in and around Soho in London, where he was born. Now they are invested with a lifetime of introspection, personal development and the perspective of an older artist.
Says Yusuf/Cat Stevens: “Though my songwriting adventures were never limited to Tillerman, the songs on that album certainly defined me and pointed the way for my mysterious life’s journey. Since those originative sessions in Morgan Studios, Willesden, in 1970, Tillerman has grown and developed its own gravitas and influence on music history and as the soundtrack to so many people’s lives. Like it was destiny waiting to happen, T4TT² feels like the timing of its message has arrived again.”
In all his work, and throughout the experiences and new directions that his life has brought since the first album, the central humanity of Yusuf’s message has remained steadfast, as he strives to foster peace and understanding between peoples. He continues such altruistic endeavours as his ongoing Peace Train project.
Tea for the Tillerman² is out now. Scroll down for the tracklisting, and buy it here.
“Where Do The Children Play?”
“Hard Headed Woman”
“Miles From Nowhere”
“But I Might Die Tonight”
“On The Road To Find Out”
“Father And Son”
“Tea For The Tillerman”