Songs from the Big Chair: 2014 Super Deluxe Edition

It’s been a while, but we here at FilmJerk get the chance to catch up on things happening around the music world. Sometimes we miss out on some exciting new things, such as the opportunity to introduce people to Fitz and the Tantrums before breaking big, but when given the chance to revisit one of the best albums of the 1980s by one of the best bands from the 1980s, we drop everything to give it a listen.

In February 1985, the band Tears for Fears dropped their second full-length album, “Songs from the Big Chair.” Tears for Fears were one of the more exciting bands to have come out of the United Kingdom in the first part of the 1980s, and their songs were far deeper than those about finding the next party or the next guy or gal. They wrote songs about the pain of life, and finding joy within that pain. Songs like “The Hurting,” “Mad World,” “Pale Shelter” and “Suffer the Children,” touching on themes of emotional distress and Primal Scream therapy, may have been depressing in the hands of lesser artists, but band co-leaders Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, along with producers Chris Hughes and Ross Cullum, gave these songs a wondrous joyfulness that made them listenable time and time again.

After a short time off after touring in support of “The Hurting,” Tears for Fears entered the studio to start working on their next album. Now, here is one of the magnificent things about the music industry that just does not happen anymore… between the release of their first and second album, Tears for Fears released three singles, including one A-side that never ended up on any non-compilation album (“The Way You Are”) and two A-sides that would eventually end up on this album albeit in longer versions (“Mothers Talk” and “Shout”), as well as three B-sides that would also never be featured on a non-compilation album (“The Marauders,” “Empire Building” and “The Big Chair”). All six of these songs, as well as the non-album B-sides of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” (“Pharoahs”), “Head over Heels” (“When in Love with a Blind Man”) and “I Believe” (“Sea Song”), are included here. And did you know they also released an altered version of this album’s biggest song for Bob Geldof’s Sports Aid charity? Yep, and you get both versions of “Everybody Wants to Run the World,” the regular version and the “Running” version, here.

With these types of Super Deluxe Editions, you’re bound to get some what some might consider “superfluous” versions of songs. One might ask if listeners really need nine different versions of, say, “Mothers Talk”? Along with the original 1984 single (3:55) and 1985 album (5:06) cuts, we also have a U.S. remix version (4:15), the Video version (4:47), the “Extended” version (6:17), the Beat of the Drum mix version (8:57), the U.S. alternate remix (4:13), the Early Instrumental mix (4:40) and a live version from Massey Hall in Toronto (4:05). What I love about this type of completionism is that we get to sonically travel back in time and discover all the work that went in to creating different versions for different regions of the world. And when you have a song like “Mothers Talk.” All nine tracks are good to great versions, and it was truly a pleasure to really hear the Peter Gabriel influences in the Early Instrumental version that I either always missed over the vocals or were more pronounced in this version over the final releases. And never having the chance to see Tears for Fears live back in the day, the clarity of the sound from the live version was appreciated (as well as the five other songs from this album included from the same concert), even though we really don’t go to concerts for rigorous sonic intelligibility as much as the overall experience.

I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to “Songs form the Big Chair” over the past twenty-nine years, but these songs still sound as fresh and vibrant today as they did in our younger days. When Roland sings “I believe that when the hurting and the pain has gone, We will be strong, Oh yes we will be strong,” it means more after all this time than when it was fresh. The power of tracks like “Shout” and the “Broken”/”Head Over Heels” mini-suite still lift your spirit as they squeeze your heart. There has never been a false note on this album, and its power continues to grow as time marches on.

If there were any complaints, and there truly aren’t, is that there were a few repeats from the 2013’s Anniversary Edition of “The Hurting” that don’t really belong here. “The Conflict,” was a B-side to the “Change” single, and rightfully included in last year’s set, as were both “The Way You Are” and its B-side “The Marauders.” There is also the strange inclusion of a “clean intro” version of “Listen” that is the exact same song outside of there being no live cheering continuing from the end of “Head Over Heels/Broken (Live).” Was that ever necessary?

Also included in this set is a 30-page replica “Songs from the Big Chair” tour program, which includes wonderful trivia tidbits like Roland’s favorite drink (a Puligny Montrachet) and Curt’s favorite fetish (standing with one foot in a bucket of paint, switching the light on and off), a 32-page booklet which the band members talk about the making of the songs and the album plus a guide and the history of all the bonus tracks, and two DVDs, one which includes a 2012 documentary about the band and a number of their music videos and television appearance from 1985. The other DVD, which will be exciting for music fans with the right equipment, includes a new 5.1 mix of the album by Porcupine Tree founder Steven Wilson.

While we did not have the opportunity to preview either of the DVDs that are included in this Super Deluxe Edition, we are comfortable in stating this set, as well as last year’s “Hurting” Anniversary set, set a new benchmark in how these types of deluxe editions should be curated. My source at Universal Music has not heard of any future plans for a deluxe version of Tears For Fears’ 1989 masterwork “The Seeds of Love,” but one can only hope that sometime during or after Tears For Fears complete their currently-recording new album, they will work with their record company on providing this much-needed final chapter to the first phase of their career.

Rating: A+