Nick Benson

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Music: Tea for the Tillerman² by Yusuf/Cat Stevens

Legendary British singer-songwriter Yusuf/Cat Stevens gives fans a glimpse into his forthcoming project; a new and re-recorded 50th anniversary version of his acclaimed album Tea For The Tillerman, writes Nick Benson.

Fifty years on from the release of his era-defining album Tea For The Tillerman, Yusuf/Cat Stevens will “bring new life” to its songs, which he says are “very relevant” to today’s world.

Born Steven Demetre Georgiou in London in 1948, Stevens released the iconic multi-platinum selling album in 1970, when he was only 22 years old. His fourth studio album release, it shot him to worldwide fame and many of its tracks, including Father And Son, Wild World and Where Do The Children Play?, continue to receive airtime on many mainstream radio stations and remain a large part of popular culture to this day.

To mark the album’s 50th anniversary, Stevens, who converted to Islam in 1977 and later adopted the name Yusuf Islam, reimagined its 11 tracks during recording sessions at La Fabrique Studios in the south of France during summer 2019 and they will be released later this year on the follow-up album, Tea for the Tillerman².

“Part of the wisdom of this is that when you look back usually you see what you did wrong,” Yusuf, 71, told the PA news agency.

“In this case, I saw what I did right and tried to make it relative to myself today.

“When I go touring, of course that has been called off now, a lot of people want to hear these songs.

“I have to make it real for me today.

“I wanted to bring new life to these songs.

“That’s one of the reasons why I have gone back in the studio and done that again, but it’s also a challenge.

“I love a challenge.

“The album itself stands as an iconic moment in the melodious 70s when we had marvellous music and a marvellous time for people to enjoy the spirit of the time.

“But today things are different.

“These songs are very relevant to what is happening today.”

Yusuf recently gave fans a glimpse of the new record with the release of the album’s lead single, a re-vamped version of his ecological anthem Where Do The Children Play?

The album cover for Tea for the Tillerman² illustrates the same picturesque ‘tea-time’ scene from the original album, but this time the Tillerman has returned from an expedition to outer space to discover the world has become a darker place.

The two toddlers, Grady and Timmy, are also still there, playing beside him but now they are streaming the latest music and playing games on their mobile phones.

The concept was spawned by a conversation between Stevens and his son about how to celebrate the album’s 50th anniversary.

“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,” said Yusuf. “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, Tea for the Tillerman² feels like the timing of its message has arrived again.”

Tea for the Tillerman² by Yusuf/Cat Stevens is available from 18th September on UMC.
• Lead single Where Do The Children Play? by Yusuf/Cat Stevens is out now.

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