Yusuf / Cat Stevens' Classic Albums 'Mona Bone Jakon' & 'Tea for the Tillerman' Celebrated With 50th Anniversary

Article Contributed by Universal Musi… | Published on Saturday, October 24, 2020

Following the widely acclaimed release of Tea for the Tillerman², December 2020 will see Yusuf / Cat Stevens celebrate the two albums that first established him as his generation’s premier acoustic troubadour and then fired him into international superstardom. Released only seven months apart in 1970, Mona Bone Jakon and Tea for the Tillerman will be celebrated as 50th anniversary Super Deluxe Collector’s Edition box sets. Mona Bone Jakon will include 24 previously unreleased songs, and Tea for the Tillerman will feature a further 21 unreleased tracks alongside a host of other rarities. Both are due for release December 4 via A&M/UMe.

Pre-order Tea for the Tillerman: CatStevens.lnk.to/TFTTBoxset

Pre-order Mona Bone Jakon: CatStevens.lnk.to/MBJBoxset

Before Tea for the Tillerman, a musical masterpiece widely lauded as one of the greatest albums of all time, a new deal with Island Records – A&M in the U.S. – saw the April 1970 release of Mona Bone Jakon. The album represents one of the most profound artistic metamorphoses of the 20th Century: the cleanly shaven Carnaby Street pop-star incarnation of Cat Stevens, who brought us “I Love My Dog” and “Matthew & Son,” fades into the mist of a bygone era, emerging from the shadows as a new man, musician, and authentic lyrical master of metaphor, whose songs would help define a new genre for a generation of music lovers, and pave the way for a poignant new wave of soulful singer-songwriters.

Inspired by a near-fatal battle with TB and extended period of convalescence during which he studied classical music, metaphysical literature and meditative self-reflection, Mona Bone Jakon is equal parts painful torment, self-referential humor and spiritual awakening. It is deeply revealing of the man he was becoming and the journey he was embarking on that would last a lifetime. Through its stunning and often overlooked crop of songs we encounter an artist who has discovered himself but is unsure of whether the world will accept what he has become. The album has a deeply personal, almost vulnerable quality that, arguably, makes it the most compelling and human of all of Yusuf / Cat Stevens’ work.

Marking the start of a long-running creative partnership with producer (and former Yardbird) Paul Samwell-Smith, the album includes the deeply Romantic “Lady D’Arbanville,” the spiritually uplifting “I Think I See The Light,” the tongue-in-cheek “Pop Star” and the heart-rendering “Trouble” - which has connected with many a tormented soul including Elliott Smith, Chris Cornell and John Frusciante.

50 years on, the songs on Mona Bone Jakon still sound as fresh as the day they were recorded. Presented here in a new 2020 remastered version on CD, and a new 2020 Mix by David Hefti on CD and LP, the Super Deluxe Edition also includes an exclusive third CD of previously unreleased demos, and a fourth CD featuring 18 live performances from 1970/71. The 2020 remaster was completed at Abbey Road Studios, and was overseen by original album producer, Paul Samwell-Smith.

This 50th anniversary set is completed with a live 12” etched vinyl EP of the rare audience recording of “Live At Plumpton Jazz & Blues Festival” from August, 1970, and with a Blu-ray disc featuring the original promo video of “Lady D’Arbanville,” plus eight live TV performances, and the HD audio of the new Mona Bone Jakon 2020 Mix. There’s also a selection of memorabilia including the Island Records press kit, two Island press photos, a replica 1970 Plumpton Jazz and Blues flyer, a Cat Stevens tour sticker and “dustbin” greetings card and pop art print in a card envelope.

Tillerman followed Mona Bone Jakon only seven months later that same year, confirming the sensational rebirth of Cat Stevens as a spiritual seeker capable of drawing from a seemingly bottomless well of imaginative inspiration. Here, his new-found gentle and folk-oriented style was artfully weaved with urgent, morally demanding questions beneath bewitching melodies. This soul-searching masterpiece felt simultaneously like a deliberate reaction to what Cat saw in the world as well as his own struggle for answers, and would continue to resonate through countless generations to come.

The Tea for the Tillerman Super Deluxe box set features a new 2020 remaster, also completed at Abbey Road Studios and overseen by original album producer Paul Samwell-Smith, and mix, of the original 1970 Island Records multitrack master tape, overseen by Yusuf and engineer David Hefti. The 2020 Mix also appears on the 1LP format which is exclusive to this box set. CD3 features the newly released Tea for the Tillerman² – Yusuf has chosen to include it here in order to present the most complete edition of the original album, showing how these songs are as pertinent today as they were when written over 50 years ago. CD4 includes demos, outtakes and alternate versions, including two previously unreleased tracks (“Can This Be Love?,” “It’s So Good,” “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out,” and “Don’t Be Shy”), while CD5 features 25 live performances - 5 previously unreleased tracks recorded Live At The Troubadour, 4 previously unreleased live performances from the December 8, 1970 show at Fillmore East, and 6 previously unreleased live from British, French and German TV performances over 1970/71. The box set also includes the previously unreleased “Can This Be Love?;” originally scheduled to appear on the album, the song was written by Cat along with “Father and Son” for a proposed musical project “Revolussia” in 1969.

The Super Deluxe box set is rounded out with a Blu-ray featuring HD 24bit/96khz audio of the 2020 Mix, as well as 8 previously unreleased live TV performances, 7 tracks performed live at KCNET studios, Los Angeles, and the official “Father and Son” video. Also housed in a card envelope within the box is a “Pick Up A Good Book” bookmark, a Yusuf / Cat Stevens designed “Miles From Nowhere” print, a reproduction handwritten lyric sheet for “Miles From Nowhere,” a fold-out “Live From The Troubadour 1970” poster, and a Tea for the Tillerman sticker.

With Mona Bone Jakon and Tea for the Tillerman Yusuf / Cat Stevens asserted himself both lyrically and musically as a true artist in the most profound sense. His work during this period would go on to transcend its own era and stay relevant for generations to come. By looking inward with eyes wide open he discovered truths that he was able to present to the world with compelling sincerity through his unique and spellbinding gift for songwriting. These two albums truly stand as a rite of passage for all songwriters seeking to learn how to present their intimate experiences to the external world, and essential listening to all lovers of great music.

50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Editions of Mona Bone Jakon and Tea for the Tillerman will be released on December 4th via A&M/UMe.