Tears for Fears - The Seeds of Love (Super Deluxe Edition) Music Album Reviews

Tears for Fears - The Seeds of Love (Super Deluxe Edition) Music Album Reviews
A 4xCD/Blu-ray box set unpacks the bombast behind the UK band’s sprawling 1989 hybrid of soul and neo-psychedelia, recorded over four years and hundreds of hours of experimentation.

To transform from a bedsit synth-pop outfit with a thing for prim diction to a global phenomenon projecting miserabilist pensées at arena scale must have ground Tears for Fears into a fine powder. Relaxing in a Kansas City hotel bar while promoting 1985’s quintuple-platinum Songs from the Big Chair, singer-guitarist-songwriter Roland Orzabal and singer-bassist Curt Smith were entranced by Oleta Adams, the Seattle-born R&B singer at the piano. Something went off in Orzabal’s mind. A couple years later, deep into recording their third album, he contacted Adams with a request: would she join their sessions?
What became The Seeds of Love resulted from hundreds of hours of peripatetic experimentation, and, when the sessions stretched almost four years, probably just seemed pathetic to their dismayed label. By this time even Phil Collins and fretless bass wonder Pino Palladino had been enlisted alongside Adams. Released in 1989 to cautious reviews, The Seeds of Love dropped at a time when formerly obscure acts like The Cure and Depeche Mode were earning Top 10 singles. “Sowing the Seeds of Love” peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in October, and, for the sake of Fontana/Mercury’s promo department, it better have. But The Seeds of Love had trouble keeping its audience. UMe’s fulsome box set, packed with jam sessions, discarded mixes, okay B-sides, and a remaster of the original, hopes to find a new one. The Seeds of Love remains a not-great album, but Orzabal finding the Little Feat in Songs from the Big Chair’s bombast has a seductive pull.

The Seeds of Love marks the culmination of the neo-psychedelic soul hybrid that Orzabal had not stopped Rubik’s Cubing well into the summer of 1989. The allusive, Thatcher-baiting “Sowing the Seeds of Love” (“Kick out the style, bring back the Jam,” indeed) still thunders like the most tuneful of anomalies. Several sections grafted together, stitches showing, unfurl in Orzabal and Smith’s Beatles revue: trumpet solos, the lilting callback to “I Am the Walrus,” the love-power ridiculousness of the thing. It still sounds fabulous—the next chapter in Songs From the Big Chair’s “The Working Hour.”

The other singles are better, if that’s possible. Skip the radio mixes of “Woman in Chains,” and “Advice for the Young at Heart”; luxuriate in the longer album versions, on which Orzabal, Smith (on occasion), and their players make silence as loud as six guitar solos. Neither Talk Talk nor Peter Gabriel could have come up with “Woman in Chains,” impressive in the specificity (and prescience) with which Orzabal examines his masculinity. It also plays like a gospel song interrogating itself, notably when the full band joins them for a “Hey, Jude” singalong finale whose prayer (“So free her!”) forgets God and looks Man straight in the eye. Earlier, as Adams takes over for the second verse, her plummy contralto hovers in its own space, somewhere between Palladino’s discreet plucks, Collins’ superhumanly steady rimshots, and an eerie sampled flute from Orzabal’s Fairlight; unlike the title character, who “calls her man the great white hope,” she’s asserted herself. The creamy, assured “Advice for the Young at Heart” boasts Smith’s only lead vocal; his falsetto suits what is in essence Tears for Fears’ sophisti-pop track, in which bongos and Nicky Holland’s piano add the lightest of jazz colorings.

The album tracks don’t proffer such immediate pleasures; the band must have agreed, for the set includes no less than five versions of “Badman’s Song,” a boogie track fussy and ungainly in its original form but crisp in the so-called Townhouse jam sessions in which Tears for Fears rehearsed the material. Although the organ line perilously evokes Steve Winwood, Adams and Orzabal duet with such congruity that the discrete parts meld. (On the other hand, a version from discarded sessions with Alan Langer and Clive Winstanley has horn parts so zealous that the rhythm section sounds pinned against the wall.) “Year of the Knife,” which Tears for Fears never got quite right either (seven versions here, not counting remasters), lurches from a “Head Over Heels/Broken”-styled raver to a mix for Canadian radio that features a programmed dance rhythm with Madchester overtones.

After debuting at No. 1 in the UK, once “Sowing the Seeds of Love” failed to dethrone Janet Jackson’s “Miss You Much” in America, The Seeds of Love sank, a victim of record company jitters. They wanted another “Shout,” another “Head Over Heels”—they might even have settled for another “Mother’s Talk.” In a year when baby boomer musical icons turned persistence into platinum—the year of Lou Reed and Neil Young comebacks, sure, but also Donny Osmond and the Doobie Brothers—Tears for Fears could’ve exploited pop culture’s obsession with the ’60s, reified and reformatted into Richard Marx readymades. Study the busy album sleeve: Sgt. Pepper with hints of a Benetton ad. Hell, months earlier XTC released Oranges and Lemons, a college radio hit awash in received 1968-isms.

The stretch from 1989 to 1990 turned out to be the year of the knife for Tears for Fears. Tired and sidelined, Smith jumped ship after the tour. Orzabal, a devotee of their brand, released two enervated follow-ups under the band’s name. But the seeds he’d planted for Adams didn’t lie fallow: Her decent Orzabal-produced debut Circle of One included Brenda Russell’s “Get Here,” a Top 5 smash in 1991 and reality TV mainstay for years, and “Rhythm of Life,” found here in its Tears for Fears demo. At a friend’s funeral last March, her version of “Everything Must Change” devastated my fellow mourners. Smith rejoined Orzabal for 2004’s Everybody Loves a Happy Ending.

To absorb The Seeds of Love box set is to admire it anew as a culmination, not an aberration. Thanks to this set, we can hear Orzabal assembling “Sowing the Seeds of Love” from blocks into its unwieldy, epic final form. In the call-and-response moments of the Townhouse sessions we can appreciate why Adams entranced two Arthur Janov-influenced Englishmen; noting how well Orzabal and Adams harmonized is a delightful surprise. And the still, sparkling “Famous Last Words” remains a forest pond of sound. “As the day hits the night/We will sit by candlelight/We will laugh/We will sing/When the saints go marching in,” Orzabal sings in the voice of a comforting pal. Four years of tumult to end here, from the mouth of the guy who sang, “Time to eat all your words.”
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Tears for Fears - The Seeds of Love (Super Deluxe Edition) Music Album Reviews Tears for Fears - The Seeds of Love (Super Deluxe Edition) Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Saturday, October 17, 2020 Rating:

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