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Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

The Hurting would have been a daring debut for a pop-oriented band in any era, but it was an unexpected success in England in 1983, mostly by virtue of its makers' ability to package an unpleasant subject -- the psychologically wretched family histories of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith -- in an attractive and sellable musical format. Not that there weren't a few predecessors, most obviously John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band album -- which was also, not coincidentally, inspired by the work of primal scream pioneer Arthur Janov. (But Lennon had the advantage of being an ex-Beatle when that meant the equivalent to having a box next to God's in the great arena of life, where Tears for Fears were just starting out.) Decades later, "Pale Shelter," "Ideas as Opiates," "Memories Fade," "Suffer the Children," "Watch Me Bleed," "Change," and "Start of the Breakdown" are powerful pieces of music, beautifully executed in an almost minimalist style. "Memories Fade" offers emotional resonances reminiscent of "Working Class Hero," while "Pale Shelter" functions on a wholly different level, an exquisite sonic painting sweeping the listener up in layers of pulsing synthesizers, acoustic guitar arpeggios, and sheets of electronic sound (and anticipating the sonic texture, if not the precise sound of their international breakthrough pop hit "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"). The work is sometimes uncomfortably personal, but musically compelling enough to bring it back across the decades. © Bruce Eder /TiVo

Pop - Released September 25, 1989 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Along with the mega-platinum Songs from the Big Chair, The Seeds of Love rendered Tears for Fears one of the '80s most successful pop groups. The album was created during a profound period of catharsis. Curt Smith was going through a divorce while Roland Orzabal was in primal therapy. Musically, it's their most sophisticated outing, and it should be: It took four years, four producers, and over a million pounds to complete. The duo sought to distance themselves from the synth pop of their earlier records in favor of a more organic approach using live musicians. Included in this all-star cast are Kate St. John, Jon Hassell, Robbie Macintosh, and Ian Stanley. Orzabal began writing in 1985 with touring keyboardist Nicky Holland and continued in London in 1986. Their collaboration netted half the album's tracks, including "Bad Man's Song." Due to outside pressures, Smith's only co-writing credit is the soaring title track, though he played, sang, and advised on all charts and mixes. The album's Muse is American vocalist/pianist Oleta Adams. Orzabal caught her set in a hotel bar in 1985 and asked her two years later to duet on the transcendent album-opener "Woman in Chains." It set the tone for the entire proceeding. (The glorious drumming on the cut is by Phil Collins.) Adams also contributed gospel vocals to "Bad Man's Song," which features a Holland piano intro strongly suggestive of Weather Report's "Birdland." The presence of drummer Manu Katche and bassist Pino Palladino underscores it. The production chart for "Sowing the Seeds of Love" borrows heavily from the Beatles' "I Am the Walrus," but ends up as a spiritual, sociopolitical anthem in its own sonic universe. Smith's devastatingly beautiful refrain and the brief, seemingly errant entrance of an operatic soprano and a choir, frame the panoramic horns, strings, and Fairlight orchestrations, resulting in one of the duo's most enduring songs. On "Advice for the Young at Heart," Smith's and Holland's vocals entwine in a melody grounded in blue-eyed soul, jazz, and elegant pop that recalls the Style Council. Hassell's fourth world trumpet introduces the lithe "Standing on the Corner of the Third World," clearing the way for a melody that melds Bacharach-esque pop to folk, rock, and chamber jazz, with riveting singing from Smith and Orzabal. "Swords and Knives" melds squalling prog rock guitar (a la Robert Fripp) to Afro-Latin polyrhythms and orchestral arrangements woven through psych-pop overtones. The rave-up rocker "Year of the Knife" is loaded with effects. Its siren-like strings provide ballast for ripping, multi-tracked guitars, samples, atmospherics, punchy drums, and a soul revue chorus. Closer "Famous Last Words" opens with ambient sounds and a lone piano as Orzabal delivers a love song about mortality. Simon Phillips' drumming propels wafting strings and a chorale, before they're stripped away at close. Thanks to the duo's uncompromising stubbornness, expansive creative vision, and Dave Bascombe's final production, The Seeds of Love has dated better than either of its predecessors and is inarguably Tears for Fears' masterpiece. © Thom Jurek /TiVo

Pop - Released September 25, 1989 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)