"Roland Orzabal has been immersing himself in near-Freudian analysis of familial relationships for over ten years. His band's harrowing debut, The Hurting, caught people's attention, but it was the poppier, less personal Songs from the Big Chair and the orchestrated, Beatlesque Seeds of Love that placed Tears For Fears firmly in the spotlight. Now, without Curt Smith [for the second time around], Orzabal continues on his journey to understanding the human condition. Raoul and the Kings of Spain is perched on the branches of familial dissatisfaction" (half.ebay.com).
This "is the second release since the well-publicized split with original member, Curt Smith” (Marshall) and it sometimes “finds Roland Orzabal treading water (and self-consciously deep water at that)” (Demalon). “Long removed from the simple, melodic melancholy of the band's early work and abandoning the mid-period Beatles-influenced pop, Raoul and the Kings of Spain often borders on progressive rock" (Demalon).
“Several of the tracks were written and performed live on the band's last tour. Orzabal said Raoul was ‘a very easy album to make’ and that they were able to lay down tracks ‘after just three or four takes’" (Marshall). Alan Griffiths and Tim Palmer return as co-producers.
"Originally slated for release in July, Tears For Fears leader Roland Orzabal took advantage of an option in his contract with Mercury and moved…Raoul and the Kings of Spain to Epic/Sony Music. The label change prompted the addition of two new songs – ‘Humdrum and Humble’ and ‘I Choose You’" (Marshall), making for a different album than the “already issued advance promotional copies of the album with…'Queen of Compromise'" (Marshall). Roland said of the change: “I lived with the album for many months and although I have nothing against the track ‘QOC’, I felt that the running order meant that the end wasn't as dynamic as the beginning. Inserting the two new tracks has made me extremely happy with the end product” (MemoriesFade.com).
The title track, which was the first single and album opener, "asks, ‘Did you know all mothers are from heaven/Did you know all fathers are from hell,’ and the sense of generations growing old, asking the same questions pours off the album. Orzabal's overwhelmed monologues – particularly, one of a man who can't read the news anymore (‘What's the matter with your life?/Did the man come and shoot your wife/Just like you paid him’) – are frighteningly familiar to our over-saturated post-modern existence" (half.ebay.com).
"From Falling Down…to the raucous Don't Drink the Water, this is a CD that gets better with each listen" (Marshall). With "the lilting hesitance of the piano" (half.ebay.com), the former "sounds remarkably like ‘What Goes Up’ from The Alan Parsons Project's Pyramid album" (Marshall).
"There's some genuinely pretty, if unexciting, music like the piano-driven ballad Secrets, with it's soaring guitar line" (Demalon), but there’s also “plenty to keep the listener's interest” (Marshall). “The gentle b>Sketches of Pain” (Demalon), “the title being a twist on Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain…with its flourishes of flamenco guitar, is one of the many highlights" (Marshall).
"Throughout, Orzabal's dynamic musical phrasing [such as with] slashing guitar on Sorry…brings Raoul and the Kings of Spain to a head" (half.ebay.com).
"Another high point…is the return of Oleta Adams, who contributes vocals on Me and My Big Ideas. Originally discovered by Orzabal in a Kansas City nightclub during the recording of The Seeds of Love, Adams' soulful vocals were sorely missing from the band's last album, Elemental…She adds an incredible warmth to the band's music" (Marshall).
"Raoul and the Kings of Spain is a fine effort, one of the best from the band. If this CD is any indication of things to come, we can look forward to a long and fruitful musical career from Orzabal and Tears For Fears" (Marshall).