New box set from Tears for Fears

By Tom Von Malder | Oct 16, 2020
Photo by: UMe/Virgin Records The cover of the new Tears for Fears box set.

Owls Head — Tears for Fears: The Seeds of Love: Blu-ray Super Deluxe Edition (UMe/Virgin, 4 CDs, 3:06:33, + Blu-ray). This is the third box set from Tears for Fears, following expanded editions of “The Hurting” (2013) and “Songs from the Big Chair” (2014). The spacing in time is somewhat appropriate as, after issuing their first two albums in 1983 and 1985, the duo of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith took four years to record this, their third album, which would also be their last together until “Everyone Loves a Happy Ending” in 2004. After an acrimonious split in 1991, Orzabal released “Elemental” (1993) and “Raoul and the Kings of Spain” (1995) as solo projects under the Tears for Fears name.

“The Seeds of Love” was that third album that took so long to record and at a cost of more than one million pounds. Keyboardist Nicky Holland plays on seven of the eight tracks and co-wrote five of the songs with Orzabal. The album yielded two huge hits in “Sowing the Seeds of Love” and “Woman in Chains,” a duet with Oleta Adams, while “Advice for the Young at Heart,” the only track with Smith on lead vocal, was not far behind, making the UK Top 40. “Year of the Knife” should have been released as a single.

This box set includes the original album a second disc with 16 tracks from singles and B-sides, a third disc with 14 radio edits and early mixes and a fourth disc with five demos, an instrumental and six jams, with the jams being early attempts at the songs. The fifth, Blu-ray disc contains three different mixes of the original album: a new Steven Wilson 5.1 mix; the original Bud Ludwig 1989 mastering; and the 2015 Andrew Walters remastering.

The use of Adams’ voice as a duet with Orzabal on the opening “Woman in Chains” makes the track stunning. She also is featured on “Badman’s Song,” a bluesy rocker with a jazzy start in its piano and bass. Orzabal and Smith had seen Adams perform in the bar of the Hyatt Regency hotel in Kansas City, while touring in 1985. She joined the recording sessions in early 1988, along with drummer Manu Katche and bassist Pino Palladino. Disc four here contains about 30 minutes of these sessions, boiled down from more than 24 hours of live-in-the-studio recordings. These so-called “jams” include very different versions of “Woman in Chains,” “Badman’s Song,” “Standing on the Corner of the Third World” and “Rhythm of Life.”

‘Sowing the Seeds of Love,” which reached No. 2 of the Billboard Hot 100, has a bright horn fanfare, dense layered vocals and an organ passage. The song’s debt to The Beatles can be heard even more clearly in the alternate version presented on the third disc. The song’s lyrics, which Orzabal has said were his most political, reflect the reelection of Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party to a third term governing Great Britain. As the song goes, “Politician granny with your high ideals / Have you no idea how the majority feels?” Another song with political lyrics, but which did not make the final album, is “Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams,” four attempts at which are included on the second disc and which features a female rap.

There is a lighter jazz influence on “Advice for the Young at Heart,” which is sung by Orzabal instead of Smith on one of the bonus tracks. Also rare is their version of the non-album “Rhythm of Life,” which was given to Adams for her “Circle of One” album, which Orzabal co-produced. The rocking “Year of the Knife” has a propulsive chorus and only is more attractive in the four other versions spread throughout the set. These include an instrumental version and a Canadian single edit. There even is a mini-overture version.

Other famous musicians who worked on the album included Phil Collins, who plays drums on the second half of “Woman in Chains,” drummer Simon Phillips (later Toto, The Who) on four tracks, and guitarist Robbie McIntosh (The Pretenders) on “Badman’s Song” and “Year of the Knife.”

Of the singles B-sides, “Tears Roll Down” has an island rhythm to its drums, but weird vocals, and “Always in the Past” is unremarkable. Elsewhere, there is a nice instrumental version of “Woman in Chains,” but “My Life in the Suicide Ranks” does not have much more to its lyrics than its title and some tortured female vocalizing.

The set has 22 unreleased tracks in all. It comes with a 36-page booklet of photos, an introduction by Paul Sinclair, new interviews with Orzabal and Smith, conducted by Sinclair, Wilson discussing his 5.1 remix, and album and bonus discs credits. Finally, there is a 24-page booklet of color photos and mini-musician bios. Grade: original album A-, box set B+

Ronnie Wood: Somebody Up There Likes Me (Eagle Vision, Blu-ray or standard DVD, NR, 102 min.). Originally released as a virtual cinema event in September, this 71-minute documentary by director/interviewer Mike Figgis covers Wood’s 50-year career, which has included notable time spent performing as part of The Jeff Beck Group, The Faces and, currently, The Rolling Stones, as bassist with Beck and guitarist thereafter. This often intimate and candid look at the musician also highlights his accomplishments as an artist, working in drawing and paint, and even as an author. In fact, the documentary opens with Wood sketching.

The title comes from an early conversation with Wood about surviving his chronic smoking habit. “When they operated on my cancer, they took away my emphysema. They said my lungs were as if I’d never smoked. I thought: ‘How’s that for a Get Out of Jail Free card?’ Somebody up there likes me, and somebody down here likes me to,” says Wood, who also is very candid about his battles with alcohol and drug use.

Wood also states, when asked if he would change anything, says no and adds, but, “I’d do it with my eyes open a bit more.”

Wood actually started on the drums, then played covers of songs on guitar, some bits of which he plays during the interview. His first band was The Birds, of which a live video clip is shown. That was 1964. By 1967, he was in The Jeff Beck Group, along with singer Rod Stewart, playing bass. A bit later, Wood turned down an offer to be part of the New Yardbirds, who famously evolved into Led Zeppelin. By 1971, Wood was in The Faces, after Steve Marriott left the Small Faces to form Humble Pie. Wood helped bring Rod Stewart into the band, which shortened the name to The Faces. A clip is shown of them performing “Stay with Me.” We see today’s Wood performing “Ooh La La,” one of the few Faces song that he sang lead on.

As you can see, performances bits, short or long, are spread throughout the documentary. Early on Ronnie Wood & Friends, featuring Imelda May, perform the bluesy “Wee Wee Hours.” There also is an old clip of Woody & Friends, featuring Stewart and guitarist Keith Richards, who stayed five months at Wood’s place. That, of course, leads to Wood’s next, and still continuing gig, as guitarist for The Rolling Stones. All three other Stones – vocalist Mick Jagger, guitarist Richards and drummer Charlie Watts -- are briefly interviewed. A video clip has the band performing “When the Whip Comes Down.”

Both Wood and his wife, Sally, talk about his struggles with sobriety, how alcohol misuse was prevalent in his family and his use of drugs. The most fascinating parts of the documentary for me is when Wood talks about his painting and we see him at work in his studio. Of the 28:51 of extras, the most interesting is seeing Wood in his studio, discussing painting, including a guitar drawing to which he affixed wood chips from a renovation at his house and the set lists that he illustrates. Another extra shows the delivery of a bronze sculpture of a half-man and half-horse, made from his clay version. There also are live performances of “Wee Wee Hours,” “Johnny B. Goode” and the instrumental “Blue Feeling,” all recorded live at the Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne. Grade: B+

Rodney Rice: SAME SHIrT, DIFFERENT DAY (Moody Spring Music CD.). A native of West Virginia’s coal-mining region, Rice reflects that in the track “Company Town” on this, his second album, following 2014’s “Empty Pockets and a Troubled Mind.” Rice, who wrote all the songs, while collaborating with Adam Webster on “Hard Life,” is very much a troubadour, with his lyrics, which include healthy doses of self-deprecation, stronger than the music for the most part. The songs often talk about bigger things such as the current president and global warming, but he always manages to bring the songs back down to a personal level.

The lead track is “Ain’t Got a Dollar,” in which Rice holds up a working-class mirror to society. His particular target is one who is current fighting for his political life and possibly failing. The lyrics go: “A man from the TV and now he’s President, the Bible Belt thinks he’s heaven sent / Because he’s made lots of money, he’s gonna take our troubles away, by the sound of that, my troubles are here to stay.”

In a press release, Rice expands the thought, saying the song “gives the middle finger to the current administration. Not having money to play the game is nothing new, regardless of who is in charge. Poor folks still go to war and still get shafted when they come home. I didn’t serve the country, but I have family and friends that did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, so I kind of sing it from that point of view. I wanted that song to be first on the album and I wanted to put it out there to say if you’re offended there, then you probably don’t need to listen to the rest.”

In another pull-no-punches song, Rice talks about his own job performance review while employed in a corporate position in “Middle Managed Blues.” He sings, “The boss man gave me my review and said here is what I think of you, before I rip you apart, just know I never liked you right from the start.” The aforementioned “Company Town” is a stinging indictment of Massey Energy, the coal extracting company at the center of the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, in which 29 men lost their lives.

In many ways, the songs here recall John Prine, Billy Joe Shaver and Guy Clark. In addition to the working man songs, there are confessional love songs, about situations that did not go particularly well. “Right to Be Wrong” is a break-up song, while “Free at Last” is a jaunty, two-step country song about post-divorce. There is also a country sound in the lament of “Can’t Get Over Her.” The political messaging returns in “Pillage and Plunder,” which talks about the ice caps melting and other effects of global warming, as well as lead in drinking water. It features a Hammond B3 organ.

Both “Walk Across Texas” and “Memories of Our Youth” feature vocals by Bonnie Whitmore. The former, which uses a fiddle, is very funny, as Rice sings: “I’d swim across the ocean for a woman like you, I’d swim across the ocean blue / But on my own, I’d sink like a stone, I can’t swim a lick, it’s true babe, I’d walk across the bottom for you.” Grade: B

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