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Music Review: Linda Lewis – A Tear and a Smile [Remastered]

In the 1970s, singer-songwriter Linda Lewis gained recognition for her unique style of folk-infused soul. Her prowess on guitar and keys gave her an edge, as evidenced by compositions such as “So Many Mysteries to Find” and “Light Years Away.” By the dawning of the ’80s, however, popular music had become more commercialized than ever, and Lewis had gone through several record label changes. 1983′s A Tear and a Smile was her first recorded output of the decade.

Although Tear is musically very far removed from the live arrangements and reflective melodies of 1975′s “I Do My Best to Impress” or “(Remember the Days of) The Old Schoolyard,” it still bears Lewis’ signature, effervescent vocal style. The album opens with “Destination Love,” an early Diane Warren composition. The uptempo tune’s first line, “Tonight, put your heart next to mine/We’ll take flight and leave the world behind,” is set into positive motion with producer Bert De Coteaux’s feel-good arrangement. Followed by the jazzy synth-funk strains of The Quick-helmed “I Am What I Am,” these groove-driven offerings aptly display Lewis’ ability to deliver with conviction in each genre she explores.

Several soul-deep ballads also grace A Tear and a Smile. “(Close the Door) Take Your Heart,” a candidly afflictive piece written by Allee Willis and David Lasley, was first recorded by Maxine Nightingale in 1980. Though the synth-heavy production is at moments a bit overpowering, there’s no question that Lewis’s emotionally charged, octave-spanning performance is the most powerful rendering of the song. In a far more understated manner, she delicately unveils the uncertainty that can come with happiness on “Sweet Heartache.”

Big Break Records’ CD reissue of Tear includes several rare Lewis singles and B-sides as bonus tracks—most notably, the insanely addictive boogie number “Class/Style (I’ve Got It)” and the melancholy “I Can Take It.”

About Justin Kantor

Justin Kantor is a music journalist with a passion for in-depth artist interviews and reviews. Most of his interviews for Blogcritics can be heard on his Blog Talk Radio program, "Rhythmic Talk." Justin's work has been published in Wax Poetics, The All-Music Guide, and SoulMusic.com. A graduate of Berklee College of Music's Music Business and Management program, he honed his writing chops as a teenager—publishing "The Hip Key" magazine from 1992-1996. The publication, which was created out of his childhood home in Virginia Beach, reached a circulation of 10,000 by the time he was 16. At Berklee, Justin continued to perfect his craft with a series of 'Underrated Soul' features for The Groove from 1997-2003. This led to a companion TV show on Manhattan Neighborhood Network in 2002, as well as writing for the national Dance Music Authority (DMA). A self-described "obscure pop, dance, and R&B junkie," Justin also has penned liner notes for reissue labels such as Edsel Records and FunkyTownGrooves. He's excited to be a part of the BlogCritics team and indulge his musical fancies even further. Connect with him at his Facebook page, or via krystolfan@gmail.com.