ALBUMS: This Cat Is On Fire

The generous Teaser And The Firecat box set tells the complete tale of the classic Cat Stevens album

Illustration from Teaser and the Firecat (Image: UMe)

Perhaps more than anyone else in the ‘70s, Cat Stevens defines “acoustic rock”. 

It’s almost as if he slept with that guitar, and perhaps he had!  Teaser And The Firecat is arguably his best album of the decade, and it’s also an interesting one in that the hits/best songs on it are near the end, not that much of the rest of the album isn’t also filled with gems. This superdeluxe box re-examines the album, containing a remaster on CD and LP, a disc of alternates/demos, another of BBC sessions, a live show from Montreux, Switzerland,a Blu-Ray containing a new surround mix among other goodies, a lavish book, and, best of all for collectors, a reprint of the very rare Teaser And The Firecat children’s book Stevens had written, for which the album was named.


Artist: Cat Stevens

Album: Teaser And The Firecat: Super Deluxe Edition

Label: Universal 

★★★★1/2 (4.5/5 stars) 


Teaser And The Firecat was the liveliest album Stevens had done to date, during the “A&M” years; it certainly had its share of somber tunes like “The Wind”, “If I Laugh” and “How Can I Tell You”, but those were more than counterbalanced by the sprightly “Rubylove”, “Changes IV”, and “Tuesday’s Dead”. After those, the album really kicks into high gear with the hits “Morning Has Broken” and the iconic “Peace Train”, as well as its most played album track, “Bitter Blue” (Top 40 New York radio station WABC had it in its rotation for a short time in the beginning of 1972), along with the childlike “Moonshadow”.  The remaster on disc 1 is really sharp, amplifying most of the instruments, particularly the acoustic, which practically rings out in celebration.

 

 

Disc 2 contains an interesting selection of demos and outtakes. Those of tracks which made the album are fine, but it’s the ones which didn’t that are noteworthy, like the delightful “Fisherman Song” and more childlike echoes such as “I Want To Live In A Wigwam” and “The Day They Make Me Tsar”, but the highlight is certainly a recent reinvention of “Bitter Blue”, which is barely recognizable as Stevens’ sings it in a lower octave and changes the cadence; revelatory! 

The next disc is filled with BBC sessions, many of which took place several months before Teaser was released, and therefore feature songs like “Hard Headed Woman” and “Father & Son”, which had been on previous albums. But those which took place around the album’s release are pretty darn close to the album versions, something which Stevens was able to accomplish because of the album’s spare production.

Cat Stevens Teaser And The Firecat, A&M 1971

Disc 4 is made up of selections from a concert Stevens did on May 2, 1971 in Montreux, Switzerland, which combines tracks from Teaser and his previous A&M albums, Mona Bone Jakon and Tea For The Tillerman, in which Stevens shows off his skills as an (acoustic) axe man. The crowd is most familiar with the earlier tunes, and it’s cool to hear their engagement on those such as “Lady D’Arbanville” and “Where Do The Children Play”. It’s a fun shapshot of a time when such things happened much more regularly.

The blu-ray disc has quite a lot: a fine sounding HD remaster of the album, a couple of videos, and several of the tracks culled from the various bonus CDs.

As mentioned earlier, one of the best features of this super deluxe set is the lovely reprint of Stevens’ Teaser And The Firecat children’s book. It’s not surprising he named the album after the book, as it has a palpable childlike quality to it without any blatant children’s songs therein.

Inside the Teaser And The Firecat box set (Image: UMe)

The original book was written in three languages, but this reprint is in ten, including Hebrew, Arabic, and Malay, and is gorgeously illustrated! There’s also a coffee table book which, while not containing much text, features some gorgeous photographs from the time! 

But wait, there’s more: two LPs, one featuring an “alternate version” of the album, with tracks cherry picked from Disc 2 of the CD, and a second LP of selected tracks from the Montreux concert and the BBC. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a 7” single of “Moonshadow”, in a nice picture sleeve!

Yes, the Teaser and The Firecat super 0deluxe edition is expensive, usually going for somewhere in the mid-to-high two hundreds, but with all you get it’s well worth the price!


VIDEO: Teaser And The Firecat unboxing

 

 

 

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David Bash

David Bash is the founder of the pop music festival International Pop Overthrow and a contributing writer for RockandRollGlobe.com.

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