Cat Stevens - Tea for the Tillerman (1970), 7/10

I see this record as a more cohesive Teaser and the Firecat, a maturation from Cat Stevens after Mona Bone Jakon that resulted in some of his best work. There is a consistency here that is certainly not always the case with Cat Stevens or songwriters from the era in general, and a consistent, effective narrative. It also has his inarguably biggest hit in "Wild World" and standout single, but the rest of the album is equally full of expert songwriting and an outstanding use of dynamics. This can be a bit over-dramatic at times but considering the strength of songwriting, usually works to the album’s benefit in combination with the simplicity of his compositions and arrangements. He is also at his absolute peak as far as pure performance and Paul Samwell-Smith's production elevates the whole record beyond where previous efforts could have been. It opens with unbridled energy, and sways perfectly between raw passion and pastoral charm. The catchy "Miles From Nowhere" boasts some wonderful sounds along with a bellowing vocal performance. The poetic "Father And Son" shows Cat Stevens' masterful approach to storytelling at perhaps its peak, and has one of the most satisfying payoffs in pop folk music. Certain tracks such as “Sad Lisa”, “Longer Boats” and “Into White” lack this inherent drive that make the others great and result in a somewhat jagged album trajectory. Some songs are fantastic and deserve a place among the pop-folk greats, some serve as filler to an album that honestly does not need it and would work better as a collection of outstanding singles style compositions. As a fun fact: Stevens, an amateur artist, created the illustration on the album cover.