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Category:    Home > Reviews > Rock > New Wave > Pop > British > Tears For Fears - Chronicles (3 CD Set)

Tears For Fears – Chronicles (3 CD set)


Sound: B     Music: A-



One of the great duos in all of music history, Tears For Fears came in as the very different but successful Daryl Hall & John Oates were peaking with their H20 album in 1982, which ran through 1983.  It was the end of a run of three great albums, something duos seem to rack up when they get on a roll.  1983 was also the year of The Hurting, a stunning debut album that was more New Wave, experimental and fresh than almost anything radio was playing at the time.  So much so in fact that the album did not become a huge hit and yielded no big hit singles.  It is the first of the three great albums Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal made under the act’s name (before Smith left for a while in 1992) collected in the new Chronicles long box CD set.


All are remastered, which really helps The Hurting, with a previous CD edition that was sonically unacceptable.  In 2001, that album gained a new generation of interest when a remake of the remarkable Mad World surfaced in the now-classic Richard Kelly film Donnie Darko (reviewed in three versions elsewhere on this site).  However, The Hurting is a masterwork of composition, lyrics, resonance, deep thought, deep emotions, musicianship and empathetic singing.  The tracks here include:


1)     The Hurting

2)     Mad World

3)     Pale Shelter

4)     Ideas As Opiates

5)     Memories Fade

6)     Suffer The Children

7)     Watch Me Bleed

8)     Change

9)     The Prisoner

10)  Start Of The Breakdown

11)  Pale Shelter (long version)

12)  The Way You Are (extended)

13)  Mad World (world mix)

14)  Change (extended version)



Right away, the vocals are on target, with range and depth that are not held back by the electronic side of the song.  The faster pace of the performance does not negate any of the emotion or meaning of the song or any other track here, something new Wave music has been accused of.  The Mad World remake is slower-paced, but the idea was that the singers in the genre were so emotionally advanced against the technology (Depeche Mode singing Enjoy The Silence for instance) that the music was about moving ahead and fans got that, even subconsciously.  Like Elton John without his wild costumes, the music has more than endured decades later and will continue to gain it proper reputation and place as some of the most important music of its time.


That is minimalism for a different effect as the truer-than-ever Ideas As Opiates demonstrates.  They were working on a higher level than most writers of their time and people are still catching up to their work.  Pale Shelter is a great example of their remarkable lyrics, their ability to communicate with lyrical economy, yet has an amazing impact.  The music creates different sonic landscapes without fancy, show-off surrounds that mean something.  Memories Fade is an exceptionally mature work, while Watch Me Bleed is about The Reality Principle killing the soul.  Change deals with someone closing themselves off to another, while The Prisoner is spare and imaginative.  The remixes are a plus, especially since the CD has the room to include them.


To day the duo broke the sophomore curse with Songs From The Big Chair in 1985 is a huge understatement.  Instead, the album was a tremendous hit and yielded several all-time pop classics.  Yes, it was more accessible than its predecessor, but it was no less a great album.  The tracks include:


1)     Shout

2)     The Working Hour

3)     Everybody Wants To Rule The World

4)     Mothers Talk

5)     I Believe

6)     Broken

7)     Head Over Heals/Broken

8)     Listen

9)     The Big Chair

10)  Empire Building

11)  The Marauders

12)  Broken Revisited

13)  The Conflict

14)  Mother’s Talk (U.S. remix)

15)  Shout (U.S. remix, issued previously on a foreign CD-V)



Besides extremely popular Music Videos by Nigel Dick that further pushed Shout, Everybody Wants To Rule The World and the exemplary clip for Head Over Heals onto the charts, Everybody Wants To Rule The World was used as the end credit music for Martha Coolidge’s Real Genius in the Summer of ’85.  A spoof of Shout with its lyrics altered for the laundry detergent it shares the same name with surfaced as well.  Most important, though, the album sold like crazy and put their talents on the map for good.  Everybody Wants To Rule The World and Shout were chart toppers worldwide.


Of the other songs, Broken is a companion to Head Over Heals, so it could almost be thought as a sort of flipside, while Listen was often played as an extension of the hit.  The underrated Mothers Talk was the 4th U.S. single and should have been bigger than Top 30, but is no less a great record about finding one’s way.  I Believe is also a strong song, reflecting on coming to terms with possibly being a lost soul.  Some great instrumentals and remixes are also on this remaster.  Songs From The Big Chair not only proved Tears For Fears could have hits, but that they were not a one-trick pony, but one of the most formidable music acts in the business.


After a four-year break, the duo released The Seeds Of Love in 1989.  It’s title song and Music Video that accompanied it suggested a very Sgt. Pepper’s psychedelia, though the album is not as challenging, but was a Top Ten million-seller.  The tracks include:


1)     Woman In Chains

2)     Badman’s Song

3)     Sowing The Seeds Of Love

4)     Advice For The Young At Heart

5)     Standing On The Corner Of The Third World

6)     Swords & Knives

7)     Year Of The Knife

8)     Famous Last Words

9)     Tears Roll Down

10)  Always In The Past

11)  Music For Tables

12)  Johnny Panic & The Bible Of Dreams



The title song was a bigger hit than many may remember, while Woman In Chains was actually a duet with Oleta Adams that featured the monotonous drumming of Phil Collins and barely made the top 40.  This was not a great record and set the album and group back in profound ways.  That was the end of the hit singles, while the music was even more standardized than the difference between their first two albums.  The idea of the R&B emphasis was a strange turn and Adams joins the band again on Badman’s Song, which is a risk to take, but one that puts the band out of its element.  Sowing The Seeds Of Love is so Beatlesque that it is too bad they were not bold enough to go full force into that direction, because this track works and is more of what fans would have expected.


In addition, the likes of Advice For The Young At Heart sounds like a Jimmy Webb song with its pop whimsy, and is not bad.  Swing Out Sister tried the same thing around the same time, so both acts may have felt New Wave was fading.  Year Of The Knife is a live track, while the rest of the music is about layered sound and the most accessible of the three albums.  At this point, one can see why Smith moved on.  Fortunately, he returned and Orzabal kept the name alive in the 1990s.


The PCM 2.0 16Bit/44.1kHz sound is not bad from being remastered, even with the usual resolution limits of the format.  We were hoping for SACDs or DVD-Audios of these albums, but they have not surfaced to date, nor have any DualDiscs.  Besides several DVD-Videos with the band, the original Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs did issue a 24-karat Gold CD of Songs From The Big Chair in the early 1990s and it makes for an interesting comparison to this new aluminum remaster.  The MoFi version is more refined and the gold holds the sound better to some extent, but the remaster has some more depth, space and sounds like it was transferred at a higher volume.  That does not make it a replacement for the MoFi version, but both have their ups and downs, with the MoFi version sounding a bit more compressed than expected.


There are no extras in this long box, but there is a section for the text booklets that would normally come with the CD cases.  Otherwise, you get three of the best, most ambitious and most interesting albums from the 1980s and from one of its most underrated acts.  Orzabal continued the band on his own with the 1992 release Elemental, followed by Raoul & The Kings Of Spain in 1995 which marks the only time the band did not record with a Universal Music label.  By 2004, Smith returned for Everybody Loves A Happy Ending, the first album the original duo had cut in 15 years.  Be sure to look for those titles and much more on the band elsewhere on this site, now and to come.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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