Following the 50th anniversaries of the era-defining albums ‘Tea for the Tillerman’ and ‘Mona Bone Jakon’ in 2020, Yusuf / Cat Stevens celebrates the succeeding album that immortalised his status as a forerunner in the singer-songwriter movement. The 1971 multi-platinum selling landmark record ‘Teaser and the Firecat’ is celebrated with a new 50th anniversary Super Deluxe Edition box set, available now via UMC / Island Records.
To mark the release a new music video for “Morning Has Broken” is now available. Created under Yusuf’s direction, the video brings together contemporaneous images of Cat Stevens in 1971, included in the new Super Deluxe Edition box set.
“Morning Has Broken” was adapted from a traditional hymn with words by British author Eleanor Farjeon. The song’s message beautifully reflected Cat’s growing spiritual awareness in the early 1970s; a sense of wonderment, awe and gratitude for the miracle of creation is expressed through praise for the coming of the new day. Cat arranged the song, giving it his own inimical sense of style and passion and invited Rick Wakeman of YES to record the now legendary piano part.
“Morning Has Broken” has now been streamed hundreds of millions of times across streaming platforms, with the Teaser and the Firecat album now clocking up a total of over a billion streams. The album was the biggest selling in Australia in 1972, and was also awarded the first Gold Cassette in the country.
Cat Stevens achieved phenomenal success with his early work, but it was ‘Teaser and the Firecat’, his third LP with Island Records, that propelled Cat Stevens into superstardom, spawning some of his most unforgettable hits including “Moonshadow”, “Peace Train” and “Morning Has Broken”; songs by a youthful spiritual seeker, wise beyond his years that would lay the pretext for a poignant new wave of soulful troubadours and poets. Later, “The Wind” would see ‘Teaser and the Firecat’ celebrated anew, rising to prominence following the song’s use in Wes Anderson’s much celebrated film ‘Rushmore’ as well as the Oscar-winning Cameron Crowe film, ‘Almost Famous’. Through his spell-binding gift for songwriting and his introspective vision, Cat delivered a universal sense of hope and peace in ‘Teaser and the Firecat’ that still resonates profoundly to this day.
‘Teaser and the Firecat’ walked tall in what was a year of classic albums and events that would echo down the decades. The 12 months of 1971 was a transitional year in pop culture in which the album joined John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, David Bowie’s ‘Hunky Dory’, Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’, Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’, The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sticky Fingers’ and Led Zeppelin ‘IV’ as the soundtrack to the momentous 500,000 strong anti-Vietnam war March on Washington D.C., the largest demonstration against US war in history, and the “Fight of the Century” at Madison Square Garden, New York City which saw Joe Frazer hand Muhammad Ali his first ever defeat. With the ‘60s now in the rear-view mirror – The Beatles gone, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin having already passed on, and Jim Morrison tragically joining their number in July ’71 – there was a distinct mood of change in the air. Along with burgeoning heavy rock and the socially-conscious R&B of Funkadelic and Sly And The Family Stone, it was the era of the poetical singer-songwriter. As well as being part of this latter movement, Cat Stevens was himself inspired by it.
Half a century later, ‘Teaser and the Firecat’ has been given the ultimate treatment in a brand new Super Deluxe Edition set; the most in-depth and definite version of the album possible. Presented in a remastering of of Yusuf’s original artwork, the release includes: 41 previously unreleased audio tracks and 21 live video performances on disc for the first time, amongst an entire CD and LP of studio demos and alternate mixes; a stunning 44-page, 12” soft cover replica of the original ‘Teaser and the Firecat’ book, hand written and illustrated by Yusuf in 1972, and now featuring text in 10 languages; and a 108 page hard-cover 12” essay book, alongside a host of other rarities across 4CDs, Blu-Ray, 2 LPs and 7” vinyl. The set is presented in a rigid clamshell box and is the latest in a series of boxsets – so far consisting of ‘Back To Earth’, ‘Mona Bone Jakon’ and Tea for the Tillerman’ – that celebrate the albums in full depth with the direct involvement and direction of Yusuf and his son Yoriyos, who curates and designs each boxset.
Also available is a slimmed down version of the Super Deluxe Edition, including the 108 page book in a soft cover format, along with the 4CDs and Blu-ray, housed in a rigid slipcase. Other 50th Anniversary reissue formats include a 2CD Deluxe Edition, plus 1CD and 1LP Remasters.
The 50th anniversary remaster of the album was mixed by David Hefti on CD and LP, the Super Deluxe Edition also includes a CD of previously unreleased studio material and bonus tracks, an alternate version of the album on LP, as well as a third and fourth CD featuring 23 live performances from 1971. The 50th Anniversary remaster was completed at Abbey Road Studios, and was overseen by original album producer, Paul Samwell-Smith.
The set includes a remastered 7” single of “Moonshadow”, backed with a previously unreleased Spike Milligan narration of the track from the 1977 ‘Teaser and the Firecat’ animated video. The 50th anniversary edition also includes an exclusive vinyl LP, tracklisted with 5 live performances at Montreux in 1971 and six BBC Recordings, as well as a Blu-Ray disc featuring a restored version of the 1977 animated video for “Moonshadow”, a live performance of “The Wind” from 2020, plus 21 live TV performances.
Also featured in the collection is “Bitterblue²”, a newly recorded version of the classic ‘Teaser’ album track. Yusuf’s rich vocal, sung a full octave lower than the original, imparts a new sense of experience and gravity to the song whose lyrics seem to resonate with a whole new level of meaning: “I’ve been waiting a long time/To be back beyond.”
Alongside the 50th anniversary ‘Teaser and the Firecat’ celebrations, 2021 has seen Yusuf / Cat Stevens partner with New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds to produce Peace Train, a children’s book celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the iconic song’s original release. Featuring joyful illustrations and the timeless lyrics of the much-loved peace anthem, this hopeful picture book – now a New York Times bestseller itself – continues Yusuf’s commitment to children’s education and shared love for people of all cultures and identities.
Elsewhere, July 2021 saw a special Record Store Day release of the 1971 ‘Harold And Maude’ soundtrack, featuring iconic songs from ‘Tea for the Tillerman’ and ‘Mona Bone Jakon’ and, ‘If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out’ and ‘Don’t Be Shy’.
50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Editions of ‘Teaser and the Firecat’ are available now via UMC / Island.