Author: Bruce Jenkins  Date Posted:19 April 2024 


Six years after The Hurting, their brooding synth-pop debut, Tears For Fears released their third album, The Seeds Of Love. What that transition from hurt to love doesn’t tell you is that in the intervening years they came close to ruling the world with Songs From The Big Chair, a multi-million selling record that topped album charts around the globe.

The four years it took Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith to craft The Seeds Of Love almost brought their record company to tears. Orzabal was determined to ring some changes while Smith reported their goal was "to do something more colourful, something that sounded big and warm." So how did they go? Let’s start with the lead single.

"Sowing the seeds of love" is a triumph of Beatle-inspired wonder. Sections mesh and dance, the arrangement soars through layers of sound straight out of a Magical Mystery Tour. At over six minutes, it’s long, yet the glorious sing-along chorus doesn’t wear out its welcome one jot. Jumping back to the beginning ("Sowing the seeds" is placed third on side one), the LP opens with "Woman in chains". This sumptuous, soaring duet between Orzabal and Oleta Adams both laments and cracks the chains of an oppressive patriarchy. With drumming by Manu Katché (Peter Gabriel band) and Phil Collins, this anthemic song is powerful and uplifting. It was the second single from the LP.

The mood is jazzy and upbeat for the opening of "Badman’s Song". It slows down into a bluesy shuffle, with Oleta Adams again adding vocal richness. Guitar contributions from Robbie McIntosh (The Pretenders, Paul McCartney) add some zing to the latter part of this long (8’30") song. The album’s third single, "Advice for the young at heart", completes the first side. It offers Curt Smith’s only lead vocal on the record and a less dense sonic palette than the preceding songs. The understatement is welcome, relaxing almost. Some might carp that it’s a bit Hall and Oates, but there’s nothing wrong with a slice of melodic pop, is there?

The moody, atmospheric "Standing on the corner of the third world" features avant-garde jazz trumpeter Jon Hassell (who, in passing, is a brilliant instrumental composer well worth checking out) and superb bass playing by Pino Palladino. There are welcome shades of Talk Talk here. In fact, the variety of moods is a pleasantly surprising feature of The Seeds Of Love. Although often big and soulful—almost over the top at times—it is also subtle and reflective (note the sax and oboe parts on "Swords and knives", played by Kate St John). Final track "Famous last words" opens with piano and deft atmospherics as Orzabal sings of love and mortality in a vocally rich closing statement.

Released in September 1989, Tears for Fears third album was a success, despite not approaching the stellar sales of the previous album. What is more, its thoughtful, highly polished psychedelic soul holds up very well across three-and-a-half decades. The richness of production, complementary cover art, and a strong sense of commitment throughout, endow the album with a timeless quality that feels freshly sown. These seeds are flourishing.



Thrills, Adrian (1990) Tears For Fears - The Seeds of Love. Virgin Books, London.

Wikipedia (accessed 17 April 2024) The Seeds of Love.


© Bruce Jenkins−April 2024

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