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.”