Fontana Records, released 25th September 1989
Bought: Oxfam, Notting Hill Gate
Tears For Fears’ second album Songs From The Big Chair did the business. A relatively cheap record to make, it sold millions and elevated the Bath boys into the big league.
Early ‘80s technology, boy-band looks and some great hooks had carried TFF through the first two albums but now they felt they had to deliver a polished, ‘musicians’ album’ to match their heroes. Big mistake…
The Seeds Of Love was the result, and with it they tragically o’erreached themselves in the search to emulate their heroes Gabriel, Ferry and Sylvian. Four producers. Nine studios. Over a million pounds in studio costs. Broken marriages. Dozens of session musicians.
A famous Q article outlined the painful, sometimes embarrassing lengths the two protagonists Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith went to to complete Seeds.
Orzabal has said he wanted to make something musicians would love, something ‘world-class’. This over-egged curio shows what happened when pop stars tried to buy credibility in the late-‘80s, undeniably under a fair amount of record company pressure to follow up a monster.
The intro of ‘Woman In Chains’ still retains some Blue Nile-ish power before being obliterated by Phil Collins’ sledgehammer drums and overblown AOR guitars; Gabriel/Joni/Sting drummer Manu Katche plays a blinder on ‘Badman’s Song’ but the melodies barely register.
‘Sowing The Seeds Of Love’ still stands up though as a decent Beatles tribute complete with some lovely woozy drums from Big Chair producer and ex-Ant Chris Hughes and a very cool chord sequence.
‘Standing On The Corner Of The Third World’ is initially very attractive complete with Jon Hassell’s ethno-trumpet and some typically slinky fretless playing from Pino Palladino, but its grand atmosphere and ambience can’t obscure the lack of structure and good ideas.
Swords And Knives’ starts with an interesting piano/voice melody but quickly gets mired in a succession of annoying guitar solos and grandiloquent key changes.
‘Year Of The Knife’ (these boys are really interested in knives…) is a pretty ugly collision of gospel vocals and a sub-‘Broken Wings’ groove. Again, the song runs out of stream after two minutes and tries to cover it up with a fiddly string arrangement and weird avant-metal guitars. Even uber-drummer Simon Phillips sounds uninspired.
Orzabal almost achieves a Sylvian-ish level of sophistication on the closing ‘Famous Last Words’ but once again blows it, neglecting to supply a B section or cogent lyrics. Quiet/loud dynamics alone do not a good song make.
The album was a hit, going straight to number one in the UK and selling well in Europe and the States, but was it worth all the effort? Orzabal and Smith were barely on speaking terms and didn’t record together for over a decade after Seeds‘ completion. It was certainly a big and bold farewell to the ’80s from one of the decade’s success stories.
13 thoughts on “How Not To Follow Up A Hit Album #2: Tears For Fears’ The Seeds Of Love”
Gosh, that’s a boring “hit”, but you make it sound good!
Other than Seeds Of Love I’ve not heard much from this. love The Hurting, like Big Chair a lot (I think it’s dated pretty poorly, actually, but the songs remain top notch!), so I had high hopes for this one. I also hear it’s rated VERY HIGHLY amongst fans, but I’ll take your word and pass.
Thanks for dropping in, Ian, it’s worth a listen or two… It’s so over-the-top, with beautiful production and sounds, very influenced by Trevor Horn, but they forgot to add the pop hooks. Definitely a good one for testing out a new music system though…
“The Seeds of Love” is a masterpiece. Pure beauty from beginning to end.
Best album ever
What, better than Songs From The Big Chair?!
Hard to objectively disagree with this verdict, but I still love this album to bits. It sounds magnificent on a decent system, and if you’re in the right mood (ie the non-songs on Side 2 don’t spoil the effect for you), it’s pretty amazing.
Songs From The Big Chair is, of course, the perfect album. By TFF, by anyone.
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Good to hear from you. You can definitely hear the ‘money’ – great production and good for testing out new speakers – but for me there’s a real dearth of memorable material after the title track.
Have you ever noticed how the chord sequence in Swords and Knives is pretty much identical to the outro of Lying Still by Level 42?
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Good call! Absolutely right. The chords are in a different order, but, unless my ears deceive me, both have Cmaj7 and Gmin…
Seeds of Love one of the best sounding albums of all time. It’s a masterpiece. Get the new Super Deluxe (Oct 2020) just for the sound improvement and extended time on songs. As close to sound perfection as I’ve heard and via Hi-Res on audiophile grade system it is heaven.
Definitely seems to be a favourite album for audiophiles.