Traditionally around late Autumn time the waft of ‘Greatest Hits’ and ‘Best Of ‘ Albums start to flood into record stores in anticipation of a Christmas stampede and hopefully bringing a welcome boost of yearly sales and revenue to the fat cat music industry bosses. British Pop pairing ‘Erasure‘ are no strangers to the release of such collections having previously offered 1992’s ‘Pop! – The First 20 Hits‘, 2003’s ‘Hits! – The Very Best of Erasure‘ and 2009’s ‘Total Pop! The First 40 Hits‘ along with ‘Pop2! The Second 20 Hits‘ shortly after. When the duo’s 30 year anniversary loomed their army of adoring fans yearned for something new, created uniquely, or even a B-side compilation album to mark this monumental achievement, so the record company duly obliged and came up with a truly exclusive and exciting new release to appease the Synth pop masses, …………wait for it!!…………….’Always! – The Very Best of Erasure!‘.
Sarcasm aside, this appears to be another Hits album contrived for the casual listener and not the die hard fan although a further 30th Anniversary Anthology Box release is destined for next year that claims to be more “Fan friendly” along with a batch of Vinyl re-releases, so all hope is not lost for exclusive and unheard material emerging from the vaults, “AND” the music businesses corporate juggernaut can carry on benefiting from the goodwill of the fan base and maintain the Champagne and Cigar lifestyle their executives are accustomed to. The flat “Always” 1Cd release itself is a 20 track journey from 1985’s Western tinged ‘Who Needs Love Like That‘ to David Wrench’s rebooted 2015 mix of ‘Sometimes‘.
It carries some of the most memorable pieces of Andy Bell and Vince Clarke’s early career to last years up-tempo club styled ‘Elevation‘, but predominantly spends most of the time in the first 4 years of the duo’s existence. To be fair this era was when ‘Erasure‘,the darling boys of electro pop were at their most prolific and could do no wrong, scooping the 1989 Brit award for Best British band, deservedly so, but as with all artists that reach the dizzy heights their prolific early years tend to slow down and from tracks 12-20 it shows an output of approximately 3 years on average per new album release. All the Albums are represented on the first CD, bar ‘Loveboat‘, which produced no big hitting singles but embodied some of the bands most reflective work to date. ‘The Circus‘ and ‘The Innocents‘ are the most heavily represented out of all the bands Long Players boasting three tracks apiece, with ‘Chorus‘ and ‘Wonderland‘ donning two each. Hits like ‘Sometimes‘, ‘A Little Respect‘, ‘Stop‘, ‘Blue Savannah‘ and ‘Love to Hate You‘ are a must in any Erasure compilation, with fan favourite ‘Always‘ and the polished ‘Fingers and Thumbs‘ helping make up the proceeding tracks.
The concluding ‘2015 mix’ of ‘Sometimes’ is a subtle affair that doesn’t detour from the original enormously except for a crisper drum line and some added electronics supporting the chiming main riff, that has mixed the fan base from “What is the point in this mix” to “ Its brought it into 2015”. It certainly hasn’t detracted from the original albeit not the transformation that may be expected from a modern day reinterpretation, staying very true to the original release and still highly enjoyable because of its subtleties. The Deluxe Book Pack which contains 3 CDs and 43 tracks is the real standard of the project as it contains the first ‘Very Best of’ CD along with two further discs , encompassing various tracks from the ‘Erasure‘ catalogue remixed. The remixes are predominately taken from the bands Ltd Edition 12” single catalogue but there are the inclusion of 4 brand new mixes from artists such as BBE, GRN and Vince Clarke himself along with a few popular reinterpretations from existing material.
The Beauty of these further CD’s is that some of the material only existed to this point on vinyl or on Singles box set that wasn’t readily available to all fans due to the limited run of records or box sets, and for a period of time certain mixes such as 1985’s ‘Who needs love like that (Mexican mix)’ was so sought after it due to its low chart positioning and relative unknown exposure, it commanded prices of £100+ for the limited edition Vinyl. The first of the new mixes comes by way of ‘The Circus’ (Eternal Eraser Mix)‘ by Grumbling Fur. Truth be told, the sooner Erased the better. The mix is a busy affair to the point where it sounds like there are two windows opened on YouTube and they are playing different songs at the same time, 2 seconds apart each. Extremely hard to related to and not great by any stretch, it is followed by the fantastic ‘Big Train Mix’ of ‘A Little Respect‘ steam engine chugs galore and then Vince Clarkes ‘Stop‘ remix from 2009’s ‘Pop Remixed EP‘. The ‘Funky Drummer’ meets ‘Kraftwerk’ Is next up with the woeful ‘Blue Savannah (Der Deutshe MixII)‘ and the run of Ltd Edition remixes carries through Mark Saunders epic’ Love to Hate You'( L.F.O Modulated Filter Mix)‘ and on to the (GRN’ Anticipated 12” Re-mix) of ‘Breathe‘, which emerges as the second new mix on this compilation. Interestingly true to the single release but replacing the dirging Bassline and with an added beat, this mix is both melodic and sparse yet carries all the qualities of the original and adds further hooks that have threaded into the mix perfectly. CD2 culminates with the (BT Remix) of ‘The Violet Flame’s‘ introductory Single ‘Elevation‘ which enchants as a a progressive Trance affair full of euphoric electro energy.
Moving onto CD3 with the hyper ‘Victim Of Love’ (Vixen Vitesse Mix)‘ by Rico Conning, now paving the way for a further batch of refashioned classics enhanced by another debut mix of the 1988 classic ‘Chains of Love‘. Fully remodelled by Mr Vincent Clarke himself and sounding oh so familiar to anyone who attended their ‘Violet Flame Tour‘ in 2014 this is for me the highlight of the set. A classic Erasure track in its own right Mr Clarke has adjusted the vast majority (if not all) of the elements to update ‘Chains’ into the most recent Erasure EDM style without ripping out the warmth and heart from the retro dance floor filling original. Bob Krushaaer’s solid interpretation of ‘Drama‘ follows before the rocked up Mark Saunders version of ‘You Surround Me‘ explodes onto the scene with further familiarity to the version exhibited throughout last years live shows. ‘Wild’s’ tribal beat laden ‘Star‘ gets the ‘William Orbit’ treatment before ‘Dave Ball’ of Soft Cell fame turns the Yule Tide ballad ‘Am I Right‘ into something akin to an aboriginal tune with the (Grid Mix). As strange as that may sound by the way, it takes nothing from the track and it is an extremely well produced mid tempo remix. 90’s cheese ensues with the (Beatmasters Galactic Remix) of ‘Run to the Sun‘ then the ultra safe (BBE Remix) of ‘In My Arms‘ completes the fourth unreleased mix featured on this package. Extremely pedestrian with its stringed synth accompaniments and tip,tapped percussion, this mix turns a perfectly quotidian Erasure song into mundane, everyday, anybody song that barring Andy Bell’s angelic voice could have been recorded by any number of artists.
‘Loveboats’ lead single ‘Freedom‘ is granted some Andalusian emotion with the remarkable (Mark Pichiotti Strumapella Remix) which takes the frivolity from the original mundane offering and enhances the song with some strummed Spanish guitar into a resounding success and one which stood out when initially released on ‘Pop Remixed‘. ‘Starshapes‘ offer their version of ‘Be With You‘ next in a mellow dance version which isn’t the most intricate remix of the title track, but one that offers diversity to the remix genres on show within the compilation and detracts from the typical Clarke sound that can sometimes be associated with their post ‘Chorus‘ releases. Finally the magnificent ‘Two Ring Circus‘ version of ‘Sometimes‘ fills our remix extravaganza and its easy to forget how brilliant this version as interpreted by long time associate ‘Mark (Flood) Ellis’ and Erasure themselves sounds, because its relayed on an album format and not a standalone 12” so is more than likely ingrained into the majority of Erasure’s only album buying fans, heads. Basically it is a spectacular remix that holds true to the track that launched Erasure onto the British Public and leads this current project by the hand.
‘Always! – The Very Best Of Erasure‘ is not the most ground breaking release ever to hit the shops but what it carries is a quality that has seen the forefront of British Electro Pop for now Three decades. Re-mixer’s and DJ’s alike were commissioned to reproduce mixes of Andy Bell and Vince Clarke’s work in their budding careers and they themselves are now world renowned Artists and Producers in their own right. Songs that stand the test of time are in abundance within this collection and even today both men are held in the highest regard in the music industry, Andy Bell immanently due to release new material with American Producer Dave Aude and Vince Clarke set to feature on the Jean-Michel Jarre release ‘Electronica 1: The Time Machine’ , not withstanding his previous collaborations with Depeche Modes Martin Gore and Human Leagues Martin Ware and his own remix portfolio, that include’s the fantastic ‘Behind the Wheel’ by Depeche Mode, ‘Wrote for Luck‘ by Shaun Ryders Happy Mondays, his reunification with Alison ‘Alf’ Moyet on ‘Whipering Your Name‘ and my personal favourite, the fantastic ‘Ascend’ by then Mute Records label mates ‘Nitzer Ebb’.
Greatest Hits Albums and Best of Albums are 10 a penny to be fair but occasionally a group looks slightly wider than the norm and doesn’t just try to target the casual fan and brings out a release that may appeal to an audience that is slightly more involved in what they do and this release is a pretty fair representation of just that. Not just a remix album alone but an option of either Hits for the causal journeyman or little bit extra for the keen but not obsessed. As for the rest, you can only judge whether four new mixes is worth the outlay……..My guess is there will be plenty snap those exclusives mixes up.