Pop-tinged folk rock doesn't get better than this
Martin Leitch
11:50 25th November 2021

Cat Stevens—now known as Yusuf /Cat Stevens—was on a roll by 1971. Having distanced himself from the orchestrated pop of his early work with 1970's Mona Bone Jakon, he constructed a bona fide classic in the same year's revered Tea For The Tillerman.

Evidently keen to strike whilst the iron remained hot, Teaser And The Firecat was issued less than a year later. A victory lap of sorts in the wake of its two highly successful predecessors, this remarkable set represents its author at his most focused and acutely engaged. There's nothing approaching a weak moment at any point across the album's ten songs; and a good thing too—as, at just half an hour in length, this collection epitomises the quality over quantity approach that he wisely opted for during the height of his creative powers.

Indeed, Teaser And The Firecat is the kind of exceptionally satisfying, intricately constructed album that precious few songwriters ever find the wherewithal to produce and, though his subsequent output never quite recaptured the lightning-in-a-bottle frisson of this particular set, his charms as a songwriter endure. Ultimately, though, this remarkably affecting and immediately compelling collection of songs would've been enough in itself to secure its author's legacy for decades to come. Pop-tinged folk rock doesn't get better than this.

Considering the rare esteem in which Teaser And The Firecat is justifiably held, it's perhaps unsurprising that its fiftieth anniversary has been marked with the release of an extravagant Super Deluxe Edition, in addition to a standalone reissue of the original album. Both releases boast a fresh remaster of the original recordings—commissioned specifically for these new reissues—in addition to a veritable smorgasbord of bonus materials in the case of the Super Deluxe Edition. We'll be looking at both editions in this Vinyl Revue article, starting with the standard single LP 50th Anniversary reissue of the original album.

Pressed onto a hearty slab of heavyweight black wax by Germany's Optimal Media, this standalone reissue impresses in every regard. The new remastering lends this already impressively recorded album a fresh lick of auditory paint, revealing sonic subtleties and deftly highlighting auditory details that even long-term listeners may have missed. Indeed, the soundstage positively glistens—and, coupled with a high-quality vinyl pressing, that is enough to set this out as a highly commendable rerelease. Packaged and presented in a handsome gatefold sleeve that closely reproduces the aesthetics of Teaser And The Firecat's original 1971 release, this single LP reissue presents the album's charming artwork in fine fashion, boasting sharp print quality and accurate colouring. The cardstock itself is also impressive, lending the cover a certain solidity. On top of that, the disc is sleeved in a high-quality polylined inner entirely fit to keep the record in optimal condition.

Based on the precedent set by Teaser And The Firecat's single LP reissue, it's clear that a high-quality presentation was of the utmost importance to those responsible for commemorating the album's 50th anniversary. It should be of no surprise, therefore, that the Super Deluxe Edition boxset release is presented with a frankly stunning degree of care and consideration. That only seems appropriate, however, considering that it comprises four CDs, a Blu-ray disc, two vinyl LPs and a 7" single, as well as a pair of books.

Packaged in a gorgeous—and considerably sizeable—presentation box, the Super Deluxe Edition's generous contents have certainly been presented with a degree of style entirely befitting the album's classic status. The box set is held shut by magnets built into its opening lip—a smart touch which only cements the evident care with which this edition has been constructed. The box set's considerable assortment of multi-media discs have been sleeved in three separate LP-style covers; the first of the set's two LPs—entitled Teaser And The Firecat Alternative Versions—has been packaged in a charming inversion of the original album's gatefold cover; its main colour motif is blue rather than beige and the tableaux of the titular characters is a subtle reworking of the original release's artwork. It, like the 50th anniversary vinyl reissue of the original album, has been sleeved in a high-quality polylined inner and the cardstock used to manufacture the gatefold cover is of a similarly high quality to the original album's standalone reissue.

The other LP included in the Super Deluxe Edition, entitled Live 1971, is packaged in a non-gatefold cover of standard width but the record itself is again found in a polylined inner. It should be noted here that the 50th anniversary remaster of the original album is included in the Super Deluxe Edition exclusively on CD; those wishing to acquire the album's new remaster on wax will need to purchase the standalone vinyl edition. A 7" single—featuring the classic Moonshadow on one side and a spoken-word narration on the other—is also included in the Super Deluxe set as a collector-pleasing bonus. As with the standalone single LP reissue of the original Teaser And The Firecat album, the records included in this Super Deluxe Edition are of excellent quality, having been pressed by Optimal Media to their usual high standards.

There are also four CDs included in this rerelease; the 50th Anniversary remaster of the original album comprises the content of the first disc, whilst a generous selection of demos, alternative versions and bonus tracks can be found on the second. Various live performances are included on the third and fourth CDs, whilst the Blu-Ray disc includes a sizeable amount of content in the format's usual high quality. Teaser And The Firecat's 50th anniversary remaster is again included in this set on the Blu-Ray disc—this time being available in 24bit/48kHz HD Audio—but, for our money, it's the sizeable selection of live performance videos from 1971 that are the real treat with this particular disc. 

But that isn't all; the CDs, Blu-Ray and 7" have been packaged in a tri-fold LP-style cover that looks great and offers those discs the classy presentation they deserve; it's also worth noting that each of those discs has also been slipped into its own separate card sleeve for extra protection. Two LP-sized books are also included in the set, both of which are of a level of quality consistent with the rest of the Super Deluxe Edition's premium presentation. A charming multi-lingual adaption of the 1977 animated short film Moonshadow is included as a softback book, whilst a sizeable hardback book gives plentiful context to the period and climate in which Teaser And The Firecat was recorded. Rounding off the Super Deluxe Edition's luxuriant presentation is a wraparound paper sleeve, detailing the full contents of the boxset and including machine numbering out of 5000 copies.

A triumph of focused songcraft, Teaser And The Firecat is a landmark of early '70s folk-pop. Its achievements—commemorated, as they have been, in both the single LP and Super Deluxe configurations of its 50th anniversary reissue—remain as impressive today as they must surely have been a half-century ago and, in these impeccably-presented reissues, the songs take on a vital second wind.


Photo: Press