Genre – Rock – Hippie Folk Rock

Tea for the Tillerman Is an Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

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TEA FOR THE TILLERMAN is an album we admit to being obsessed with — just look at the number of commentaries we’ve written about it.

We love the album and we hope you do too. If you have some time on your hands — maybe a bit too much time on your hands — please feel free to check out our commentaries. 

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Where Do the Children Play?

Hard Headed Woman

This is a song that has evolved dramatically over the last 20 years. If you’ve been making regular upgrades to your equipment and taking advantage of all the new technologies available at the front end, such as: vibration control, electromagnetic stabilization, better arms, better cartridges, better phono stages, better motors, fly wheels, Synchronous Drive Systems, better power cords, better power conditioning, to name just a few, you are no doubt able to reproduce this song much better than you were in the old days. I used to think that Cat’s voice got hard and harsh when he got loud on the passage that starts with “I know…many fine feathered friends…”. Now he gets even louder, the drums are much more powerful, and yet he still sounds like a real person, not an overdriven recording of one.

Modern front ends, properly tweaked and set up, can handle the kind of energy found on this song in a way that wasn’t possible before. I like to say that if your turntable is more than 5 years old and you haven’t done much to your front end since then, you are living in the vinyl stone age. There have been a number of revolutions in the area of LP playback, not the least of which are the cleaning fluids we tout so obsessively, all of which have allowed us to reproduce familiar records in a startlingly realistic way never before possible.

Wild World
Sad Lisa
Miles from Nowhere

Side Two

But I Might Die Tonight
Longer Boats

Into White

With this song, you hear into the music on the best copies as if you were seeing the live musicians before you. The violinist is also a key element. He’s very far back in the studio. When he’s back where he should be, but the sound of the wood of his violin and the rosin on the strings is still clearly audible, without any brightness or edginess to artificially create those details, you know you are hearing the real thing.

On the Road to Find Out
Father and Son
Tea for the Tillerman

AMG Review

Tea for the Tillerman was the story of a young man’s search for spiritual meaning in a soulless class society he found abhorrent. He hadn’t yet reached his destination, but he was confident he was going in the right direction, traveling at his own, unhurried pace. The album’s rejection of contemporary life and its yearning for something more struck a chord with listeners in an era in which traditional verities had been shaken. It didn’t hurt, of course, that Stevens had lost none of his ability to craft a catchy pop melody; the album may have been full of angst, but it wasn’t hard to sing along to. As a result, Tea for the Tillerman became a big seller and, for the second time in four years, its creator became a pop star.

America’s Wonderful Debut from 1971

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  • An outstanding early pressing with superb Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish 
  • One of our favorite Hippie Folk Rock albums – the instruments and voices seem to be right in your listening room
  • The Tubey Magical acoustic guitars on this record are a true test of stereo reproduction – thanks Ken Scott!
  • “America’s debut album is a folk-pop classic, a stellar collection of memorable songs that would prove influential on such acts as the Eagles and Dan Fogelberg…”

This is clearly America’s best album, and on some of the better pressings like this one the sound is worthy of Demo Disc status. You’ll find the kind of immediacy, richness and harmonic texture that not many records (and even fewer CDs) are capable of reproducing.

The guitars on this record are a true test of stereo reproduction. As it says down below, most of the pressings of this record do not get the guitars to sound right. On many copies they will sound veiled and dull, and on a copy with a bit too much up top, they will have an unfortunate hi-fi-ish sparkle.

A Clear Picture

The best copies are of course wonderfully transparent; they just seem to give you a clearer picture of all the instruments in the soundfield. They’re also better defined and localized in space. The bass on the better copies is more note-like and less blurry. These Hot Stamper qualities are simply the result of higher resolution pressing and mastering, for people who appreciate the higher resolution of analog.  (more…)

Teaser & The Firecat on Dreadful 25th Anniversary Island Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing.

I remember years ago (1986 to be exact) when Acoustic Sounds was selling the then in-print 25th Anniversary Island pressing (10U, as I recall) for $15, claiming that it was a TAS List Super Disc. If you’ve ever heard that pressing, you know it has no business going anywhere near a Super Disc List. It’s mediocre at best and has virtually none of the magic of the good original pressings. I refused to sell it back in those days, for no other reason than it’s far from a Better Record. I don’t like misrepresenting records and I don’t like ripping off my customers. That pressing was a fraud and I was having none of it. (more…)

This Is Your Idea of Analog?

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Cat Stevens – 200 Grams of Tea for the Tillerman

Dear Record Loving Audiophiles of Earth,

I’m afraid we have some bad news. [This was written back in 2011 when the record came out so it’s hard to imagine that what I am about to say is news to anyone at this stage of the game.] Regrettably we must inform you that the 2011 edition of Tea for the Tillerman pressed by Analogue Productions on Heavy Vinyl doesn’t sound very good. We know you were all hoping for the best. We also know that you must be very disappointed to hear this unwelcome news.

But the record is what it is, and what it is is not very good. Its specific shortcomings are many and will be considered in at length in our review below.
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Cat Stevens Asks: Light, Medium or Heavy on the Congas?

Teaser and the Firecat

 

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During the shootout for this record a while back we made a very important discovery, a seemingly obvious one but one that nevertheless had eluded us for the past twenty plus years (so how obvious could it have been?). It became clear, for the first time, what accounts for the wide disparity in ENERGY and DRIVE from one copy to the next. We can sum it up for you in one five letter word, and that word is conga.

The congas are what drive the high-energy songs, songs like Tuesday’s Dead and Changes IV. Here is how we stumbled upon their critically important contribution.

We were listening to one of the better copies during a recent shootout. The first track on side one, The Wind, was especially gorgeous; Cat and his acoustic guitar were right there in the room with us. The transparency, tonal neutrality, presence and all the rest were just superb. Then came time to move to the other test track on side one, which is Changes IV, one of the higher energy songs we like to play.

But the energy we expected to hear was nowhere to be found. The powerful rhythmic drive of the best copies of the album just wasn’t happening. The more we listened the more it became clear that the congas were not doing what they normally do. The midbass to lower midrange area of the LP lacked energy, weight and power, and this prevented the song from coming to LIFE the way the truly Hot Stampers can and do.

Big Speakers

For twenty years Tuesday’s Dead has been one of my favorite tracks for demonstrating what The Big Speaker Sound is all about. Now I think I better understand why. Big speakers are the only way to reproduce the physical size and tremendous energy of the congas (and other drums of course) that play such a big part in driving the rhythmic energy of the song.
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Listening in Depth to Brewer & Shipley – Tarkio

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Listening in Depth

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This Bay Area Hippie Folk Rock has a lot in common with The Grateful Dead circa Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty (the latter recorded by the same engineer, Stephen Barncard), and like those superbly well-recorded albums, it lives or dies by the reproduction of its acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies.

Analog richness, sweetness and Tubey Magic are elements absolutely indispensable to the sound of these recordings. Without them you might as well be playing a CD. (Some of the reissue pressings actually do sound like CDs and are not part of the shootouts for this album anymore. Who wants a record that sounds like a CD? They may be pressed on vinyl but they’re no less an embarrassment to analog for it. As you can imagine we feel the same way about most of the Heavy Vinyl records being made today. They’re just embarrassing.)
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Listening in Depth to Cat Stevens – Catch Bull at Four

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Listening in Depth

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If you’re familiar with what the best Hot Stamper pressings of Tea for the Tillerman, Teaser and the Firecat or Mona Bone Jakon can sound like — amazing is the word that comes to mind — then you should easily be able to imagine how good this killer copy of Catch Bull at Four sounds.

All the ingredients for a Classic Cat Stevens album were in place for this release which came out in 1972, about a year after Teaser and the Firecat. His amazing guitar player Alun Davies is still in the band, and Paul Samwell-Smith is still producing as brilliantly as ever.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Sitting

This track often sounds a bit flat and midrangy, and it sounds that way on most domestic pressings and the “wrong” imports.

The best imports and domestic pressings are the only ones with the sweeter, tubier Midrange Magic that we’ve come to associate with the best Cat Stevens recordings. (more…)

Traveling Back in Time with Cat Stevens on MoFi


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to Hear It on Vintage Equipment

Our good customer Roger wrote us a letter years ago about his MoFi TEA FOR THE TILLERMAN, in which he remarked, “Sometimes I wish I kept my old crappy stereo to see if I could now tell what it was that made these audiophile pressings so attractive then.”

It got me to thinking. Yes, that would be fun, and better yet, it could be done. There are actually plenty of those Old School systems still around. Just look at what many of the forum posters — god bless ’em — are running. They’ve got some awesome ’70s Japanese turntables, some Monster Cable and some vintage tube gear and speakers going all the way back to the ’50s.

With this stuff you could in effect travel back in time, virtually erasing all the audio progress of the last 30 years. Then you could hear your MoFi Tea for the Tillerman sound the way it used to when you could actually stand to be in the same room with it.
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Just Up Today: a White Hot Teaser & The Firecat

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  • STUNNING Demo Quality sound on both sides, and relatively quiet to boot — copies like this are TOUGH to come by
  • This British pressing knocked us out with a Triple Plus (A+++) side two and a Double to Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one
  • One of the absolute dynamos of the whole Hot Stamper world — a record that will BLOW YOU AWAY
  • Allmusic 5 Stars: “Musically more interesting than ever…”

See all of our Cat Stevens albums in stock

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Cat Stevens Teaser Testimonial

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… So Much More Alive and Dynamic …

Our good customer Roger here likes doing his own shootouts, having acquired many of the so-called audiophile recommended pressings over the years. Like us, he knows firsthand that those recommended records have little hope of standing up to the real thing, the real thing of course being an old record we charged him a lot of money for, or, to put it another way, a Super Hot Stamper. Can it possibly be worth the three hundred clams it cost him? Let’s hear from Roger on that subject.

Hi Tom:
Just the usual note to let you know of my latest LP shootout: Cat Stevens Teaser and the Firecat. Since you recommend this recording so highly, I was looking forward to comparing your Super Hot Stamper (SHS) to a British Sunray pressing I had and my Mobile Fidelity Anadisq. Since I had previously found, as you have, that the MFSLversion was thin and bright, I bought a UK pressing, finding it much more full, warm, and dynamic, and my recent comparison confirmed that. The MoFi is hideously bright and edgy, making guitars sound like zithers and Cat’s voice thin and reedy, like he had a head cold. Yep, that about sums it up, Cat Stevens and His Zither Band. It makes me wonder whether the ear-damaged MFSL engineers ever heard a good pressing of this record–even the UK was leagues better.
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