Wednesday, January 13, 2010

For a Song: Woman in Chains

Tears for Fears: Woman in Chains


Like so many people, I loved Tears for Fears’ song Everybody Wants to Rule the World, and the album it came from, Songs Form the Big Chair. So in 1989, when the follow up album The Seeds of Love came out, I grabbed it. The band lost many of their fans with this album. Tears for Fears did not even try to repeat themselves. Instead, they expanded their sound, embracing psychedelic music. The songs were longer, the sound richer and more textured, and the lyrics more ambiguous. I loved it. And I was knocked out by the inclusion of a female singer I had never heard of before, Oleta Adams.

But, when I go back to much of the music from that time, I wonder what I was thinking. The 80s production tricks jump out at me, and I realize that there was not much substance there. So, when I thought of doing Woman in Chains this week, those were my concerns.

I needn’t have worried. Woman in Chains sounds every bit as good to me now as it did then. I was surprised to discover that the drummer on this track is Phil Collins. Bass player Pino Palladino was one of my favorites in the 80s, and I am reminded of why. He had a way of making the bass sing by playing these wonderful fluid lines. So Tears for Fears went from basically being a guitar and synth duo to getting the sound of a full band. The synth became more fully integrated into the overall sound. And Adams’ vocals still sound great to me.

So what became of Oleta Adams? I remember at the time wishing that she would do a solo album, but keep this amazing sound. That album was rumored, but didn’t show up for a long time. What was finally released from her saddened me. It was cookie-cutter R&B. What had made her special had been bleached out. So, does anyone know what happened to her career after that? Did she ever release an album that capitalized on that early promise? If you know, please leave a comment.