What a treat it is to listen to Cat Stevens again. I’m sorry, but his departure from music is missed by a lot of us. This is not the place to discuss his change in identity to Yusuf Islam - because it is irrelevant here. But the new SACD release of his classic Tea For The Tillerman was something I found irresistible, for a couple of reasons. Number one was the fact that I just happen to love this album. Number two may seem a bit odd, but it is nontheless true. After being shocked at hearing just how incredible the SACD version of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here sounded - I honestly wondered how this process could improve such a delicate, acoustic recording as Tea For The Tillerman.
The answer is that it feels like you are right in the studio with him. Most Stevens’ fans consider this to be his finest album - I know I certainly do. Tillerman contains the hit single “Wild World” but there are many who would argue that there are even better tracks contained on this 11-song collection. The opening song “Where Do The Children Play?” is one. “Hard Headed Woman” did receive quite a bit of airplay back in the seventies. Try “Miles From Nowhere,” and “Father And Son” for a couple more fantastic tunes.
My curiosity was what more the SACD format could add to an acoustic recording like this. It was surprising. With an album like Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, one could pretty well figure out that the various sound effects they used would benefit from the process. Yet with such a straightforward acoustic recording as Tillerman, I really wondered what could be added.
The re-mastered edition of Miles Davis’ classic Kind Of Blue was the template for me. I had come to know the original LP pressing of that album so well by the time it came out on CD, I was very excited to hear it in a re-mastered context. Originally, they did nothing but transfer the LP to CD. What a disappointment. Then somebody got a clue, and actually went back to the masters and pulled out all of that awful tape hiss that had been there from the beginning. As previously mentioned in this review, it was like you were actually in the studio with the sextet while they were recording.