Thursday, November 08, 2007

My favorite songs in the world: Some Tea and Sympathy

Beth at Cup of Coffey was thoughtful enough to add The Plimsouls “Million Miles Away” to her Mix Tape Friday’s” post for which I am grateful, but she also included Cat Stevens “I Think I See the Light” inspired after seeing Harold & Maude recently. As I left a comment for her, I began to feel a post coming on. Many folks may not dig him, but I love Cat Stevens for two reasons and they are as follows…

My mother was a huge Cat fan from back in the day. While I was oblivious as to why at the time, my mom played records a great deal when my dad was away, especially when he was hardship stationed (w/out family for non-military folks) to Korea in 1973 and the rest of us waited the year out in San Jose, California. My mom is an excellent musician and on those lonely nights when she was missing my dad so much she thought her heart would give out, she played records (loudly!) and accompanied them on the piano late into the night. Sometimes we kids would be awaken by her big voice and piano, but I can never recall any of us ever complaining about it, in fact we loved it, at least I did. Now I know that her love of music was what got her through those rough times as it has done for me on so many occasions throughout my life. There was no avoiding familiarity with the Cat Stevens catalog based on this. Now I spin these records and accompany them at night sometimes.

The other reason I enjoy Cat’s music relates more to understanding what a lot of his music is about. On those early records the guy is obviously searching for answers and his soul is quite unsatisfied. I’ve known a few guys in my life who have shared this desire to have all the questions answered and are generally restless and unhappy spiritually. Some find their way to religion as a result, others to mystics, authors, philosophers, etc… I’ve traveled this road a bit myself, and have felt the impatience with wanting to know. The only real conclusion I’ve come to so far is that many people jump too quickly.

We all know Cat found his answers in Islam and practices a strict form of the faith that considers song an affront to Allah of some sort. That is regretful. All the gossip surrounding him lately in no way diminishes what I think is a very well crafted and sincere catalog of songs. They vividly convey his torment in a way I can relate to. Perhaps he’ll one day recognize that he was closer than he thought to finding answers when he was writing and playing music.

I again failed to narrow down to a single song so I’ve picked four. I commented on Beth’s blog that I thought the “Mona Bone Jakon” album was a better listen overall than “Tea for the Tillerman”, but I happened to catch ‘Harold and Maude’ on HBO Thursday night myself and it made me reconsider this as absolute.

“Miles from Nowhere” from Tea for the Tillerman - This track has such great dynamics it’s like three songs in one. Love the lyrics, love the peaks and valleys, love the loud boisterous verses.

“Trouble” from Mona Bone Jakon – I got peaked about this song as a result of seeing Harold and Maude for the first time. The director’s use of it was perfect in my opinion.

“Katmandu” from Mona Bone Jakon - If I had to pick between them all, I’d have to go with this one as my fav. It’s got Peter Gabriel playing the haunting flute part and the lyrics are simply sublime. It always reminds me of the feeling you get when you come home from college or something.

“Tea for the Tillerman” – I was so excited to hear this as outro music to Ricky Gervis’s HBO series “Extras”. How can anyone NOT like this little song?

Bring tea for the Tillerman, steak for the sun
Wine for the women who made the rain come
Seagulls sing your hearts away
‘Cause while the sinners sin, the children play
Oh lord how the play and pray for that happy day
For that happy day!

As always, click the player to hear the tracks and let me know what you think.


At 4:10 PM, November 09, 2007, Blogger Ken said...

Good post. I love Cat Stevens. I have Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat. I listen to Tillerman often and Firecat almost never. I guess I'll have to pick up Mona Bone Jakon. Harold and Maude is also one of my all time favorite movies. I have a Cat show from somewhere around 1972 that was a "liberated bootleg" on BitTorrent called Tour of the Cat that I can put up if you want it. It's really good.

At 6:37 PM, November 09, 2007, Blogger Bobby said...

I like Cat Stevens as well, but can't seem to get past that whole fundamentalist Islam thing. It seems his "Peace Train" has been derailed by Jihad.

At 12:50 AM, November 13, 2007, Blogger Jackson said...

Cat, shit, I'd say Cat is pretty much the quinessential 70's rock artist.

Great beard, now and then.

I'd say the only thing harder to handle than fame is fame after converting to Islam - ask Ali.

At 2:50 AM, November 13, 2007, Blogger Beth said...

Brilliant post. I love Cat Stevens, too. I'm glad he's getting attention again. He's as much a star of Harold and Maude as Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon. I don't think that film would be as magical without his soundtrack.

At 9:56 AM, November 13, 2007, Blogger Mother Goldstein said...

Great post, I'm a big fan as well.

I have a co-worker who has the "another cup" record he released last year, and it's not bad at all - his voice is still as great as ever.

Apparently he is going to traveling to nashville to record with some country artists - probably not Toby Keith.

You have inspired me to listen to some Cat today.


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