No I am not going mad, and slipping back in time to the 80’s to review the second album from Tears for Fears. This is a review of the 2014 six-disc deluxe edition.
It’s amazing that what was initially an 8 song release back in 1985, can justify a 6 disc release in 2014. Songs from The Big Chair threw up so many remixes, edits and alt-takes, and this new box-set collects just about everything you would want to see (and hear) from this part of Tears for Fears history.
Disc one is the original album, with what sounds like the same remaster as the 2006 (2 disc) re-issue. After the 8 songs from the original album, disc one contains some of the key “b sides” from the era, including the Fairlight showcasing The Big Chair and one of my favourite Tears for Fears b-sides, Pharaohs.
Disc two is titled Edited Songs From The Big Chair and opens with non-album single The Way You Are, which surprisingly the band are not keen on. My favourite Tears for Fears song, Mothers Talk, with its driving, hard synth riffs, gets plenty of representation on this box-set, and the single mix is a shortened, to the point take of the song.
Everybody Wants To Run The World, the Sport Aid version of the song from 1986, with it’s amended lyrics and added instrumentation is a welcome addition to the box-set, as is the “Running Version”, a mostly instrumental take. Mothers Talk (video version) has a piano intro verse that doesn’t appear on any other versions of the song.
Disc three, Remixed Songs From The Big Chair – well it’s obvious what you will find on this disc! Standout tracks for me include the wonderful Mothers Talk [Extended Version]. I’ve always loved the delayed bass on the outro to this mix. Broken / Head Over Heels / Broken (Preacher Mix) is notable for having a studio version of the end section (the main album outro section is a live cut).
Everybody Wants To Rule The World [Urban Mix] has a radically different middle section, plus a Simple Minds Waterfront sounding bass riff. This remains one of my favourite Tears for Fears remixes.
Disc four in the set contains Unreleased Songs From The Big Chair. Opening with three Richard Skinner sessions, the highlight of which is a wonderful performance of Head Over Heels (the keyboards sound great on this session cut). Next up are six tracks recorded in Toronto, including The Hurting’s Memories Fade.
An early (vocal-less) mix of Mothers Talk – with some great Shaft like rhythm guitar is a revelation. The Way You Are [Early Mix] is the other highlight on this disc.
Disc five – ahh disc five. This is the highlight of the collection. This disc contains a brand new 2014 5.1 surround sound mix of Songs From The Big Chair by Steven Wilson. If you know Wilson’s solo work, or his recordings with Porcupine Tree and no-man, you will be aware that his productions always sound amazing. He has recently remixed albums by Yes and XTC into 5.1 surround sound, and Songs From The Big Chair is another 5.1 success.
Its a revelation hearing the separation on these tracks – bass lines, keyboard layers and guitar riffs jump out of the speakers like never before. As with other Wilson recordings, the album is presented as a flat transfer with no additional mastering. I hate the current trend for brickwall mastering, so this pleases me greatly. This does mean that there are noticeable differences in volume during sections of the songs, so you really notice the performances. It’s a wonderful listening experience, and it’s like hearing a new version of an old favourite.
My only criticism of this box set is that the Steven Wilson stereo mix is not presented in CD format – so if you want to put these 2014 mixes onto your digital device, you are not in luck.
The final disc in the box-set contains a mix of promotional videos, BBC TV appearances and the Scenes from The Big Chair documentary. You also get a replica tour programme and extensive, enlightening notes written by Paul Sinclair from SuperDeluxeEdition, with contributions from the band and key collaborators, plus notes from Steven Wilson about the 5.1 surround mix.
This is the definitive version of an 80’s classic, and a great example of how to put together a value-added re-issue package. Now EMI, how about a Steven Wilson 5.1 surround mix of Kate Bush‘s The Dreaming and Hounds of Love?
Buy the box-set
Songs From The Big Chair – box-set on Amazon