Cat Stevens - Teaser and the Firecat (1971), 7/10

Lives in the shadow of its older brother Tea for the Tillerman, but contains some of Cat's best, most beautifully written and performed songs. We get a calm but wonderful opener in "The Wind" that satisfies just about any fan of folk music with its innocent and playful melody. You can hear an even further matured artist in “If I Laugh” who has transcended simple dynamic manipulation of the preceding album. This is still present in moments, but strengthened by a newfound strength in structural composition that doesn’t lean on this as a vital foundation. An example being “Changes IV” that still uses these shifts in intensity but has its own individual narrative that opens and closes to greater effect than much of his other songwriting. The softer, more dramatic and even spiritual arrangements are where Teaser and the Firecat shines, however, with songs like “How Can I Tell You” displaying a longing yet sonically uplifting ballad. There's also the nice little ballad in "Moonshadow" that has quite a pleasant accompanying music video featuring Stevens’ visual art for anyone interested. The closer “Peace Train” is a perfectly driving single to close out an emotionally powerful record such as this, serving as a palette cleanser of sorts. The lyrics can be hit or miss, mostly dealing with Cat Stevens’ commonly used themes such as world peace yet a surprising foray into innocent and even youthful storytelling. I assume its divisiveness stems from the change in direction after Tea for the Tillerman, but its result is more consistent and even more interesting for most of its duration. While at the end of the day Teaser and the Firecat is mostly consisting of simple singer-songwriter music, it has enough charged and genuinely moving emotional moments to make it among the best of its genre.