There was something special going on in the music scene in 1970, a certain alchemy that resulted in countless perfect albums that continue to stop listeners in their tracks. Two such albums - Cat Stevens' Tea For the Tillerman and Dave Mason's Alone Together - are among those that remain fresh all these years later.
So imagine the surprise when Mason and the artist now known as Yusuf each announced they'd be revisiting their classics with Tea For the Tillerman 2 and Alone Together Again, respectively. Tea For the Tillerman 2 is set to arrive September 18 while Alone Together Again will ship out July 27.
Now, unlike some re-recordings, the reimagined versions aren't a ploy to land a sync deal or to bury the classics we've come to love. Rather, these talented artists are drawing on a fifty-year vantage point with new experiences and perspectives to inform their compelling interpretations. Both Yusuf and Mason seek to build on their legacies with new performances that complement the original albums rather than replace them. Arriving as they do at a time when we're truly alone together again, living in a wild world that's tackling many of the same questions from 50 years ago, the words remain pertinent to our current times, while the performances remain spirited.
As Dave Mason reflects in a statement, "I've played these songs for the better part of 50 years because I love them. I re-recorded the whole album because I still feel inspired by the music. This makes Alone Together Again a true labor of love. Some things I know for sure; music is relationship and love is best when shared. That is the whole conceptual play of Alone Together." Here, he performs the album in its original sequence with members of his touring band and special guests such as Jonathan McEuen, Gretchen Rhodes, and Doobie Brothers multi-instrumentalist John McFee.
Yusuf, meanwhile, was inspired to revisit his landmark album after a conversation with his son. The project finds the musician paired up once again with guitarist Alun Davies and producer Paul Samwell-Smith, both of whom made up part of the sonic fingerprint of the original. The results are pretty stunning. Just check out Yusuf's recasting of his ecological anthem "Where Do the Children Play?" released just last week.
Featuring a relaxed accompaniment, subtle backing chorus, and with a voice somehow unaffected by the passage of time, Yusuf ruminates on that ongoing question: what do we sacrifice for our supposed technological advancements? In the years since listeners first heard the song, we've continued to build up higher, to take rides into the cosmos, and to get all we think we want. Has it been worth it? The weariness in Yusuf's delivery shows a narrator who's resigned to the fact that we've gone too far, yet there's a certain hopefulness to the arrangement - as if maybe it's not too late to find that balance between man and nature.
Equally timeless as the music of Alone Together and Tea For the Tillerman was the accompanying artwork. The latter featured a portrait of the tillerman and two toddlers, while Alone Together included a tri-fold die-cut design and what might be the first example of marbled color vinyl on a mass scale. Thankfully, these visual elements remain in their reimagined versions. The tillerman in the new edition has returned from a space expedition while the children enjoy music through headphones and gaming on a cell phone. As for Alone Together Again, the CD includes that familiar multicolored design and is enclosed in a tri-fold jacket with an updated die-cut image of Dave Mason against what Dave says could very well be the same rock structure.
In all, both Yusuf and Mason have sought to recapture the spirit of their classic recordings, reappraising their work for a world in changes informed by fifty years of wisdom and change. It's a bold move, but one that each artist promises is rewarding to fans. You can pre-order Alone Together Again on Dave Mason's online store through his Barham Productions label (also available as a digital download.) Tea For the Tillerman will be available through A&M and Cat-O-Log in an array of formats and bundles, including CD, LP, and limited edition blue vinyl. You can find all the details below!
Dave Mason, Alone Together Again (Barham Productions, 2020) (CD and digital configurations available at DaveMasonMusic.com)
- Only You Know and I Know
- Can't Stop Worrying, Can't Stop Loving
- Watin' On You
- Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave
- World in Changes
- Sad and Deep As You
- Just A Song
- Look At You, Look At Me
Yusuf/Cat Stevens, Tea For the Tillerman 2 (A&M/Cat-O-Log, 2020)
CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada / Your Local Record Shop
LP + poster: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada / Your Local Record Shop
Blue vinyl LP + poster: Yusuf/Cat Stevens Online Shop
Merchandise + media bundles: Yusuf/CatStevens Online Shop
- Where Do the Children Play?
- Hard Headed Woman
- Wild World
- Sad Lisa
- Miles From Nowhere
- But I Might Die Tonight
- Longer Boars
- Into White
- On the Road to Find Out
- Father and Son
- Tea For the Tillerman