Other People's Songs
Erasure held dance floors in sway 15 years ago with its singles "Sometimes," "Chains of Love" and "A Little Respect," but the British techno-soul duo's last album, Loveboat, failed to even reach these shores upon its initial release last year.
Its latest CD goes back to a formula that worked well for it a decade ago with its ABBA-Esque EP — covering "other people's songs."
Erasure's 10th studio album adds Vince Clarke's spartan, but potent, electronic backbeats and keyboard loops and Vince Bell's always silkily-rich vocal renderings to songs from Elvis Presley, the Righteous Brothers, Buddy Holly and Peter Gabriel, among others.
The disc leads off with a warmly oscillating, electronic revamp of Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill," before launching into a celebration of classic '60s hits such as the Ronette's "Walking in the Rain," the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin,'" and cool disco updates of '70s hits "When Will I See You Again" (originally by Three Degrees) and "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)" (a minor 1976 hit by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel).
One of the album's only disappointments is the cover of the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star." Given that the 1979 original is already a classic techno song, Erasure really needed to bring something drastically new to it to warrant a re-recording. If anything, its version loses some of the punch and power of the original. That aside, most of the album can't help but put a smile on the most jaded listener's face, especially when the "oooh-ahhhs" of the pure-disco throb of "When Will I See You Again" kick in.
It's worth mentioning that the album's two extended maxi-CD singles actually hold a couple of tracks that are stronger than any of the material on the album itself. The single for "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)" includes a true rarity for Erasure — Andy Bell offers a version of Presley's "Can't Help Falling In Love" performed without any electronics at all — he's backed by just an acoustic guitar. Bell offers one of his most immediate and vulnerable performances here. The single also features a computer video of live performance footage for "Solsbury Hill."
The CD single for "Solsbury Hill," while including four different versions of that song (the best is the beat-heavy "Manhattan Clique Extended Mix"), doesn't include the "Solsbury" video, but instead offers a goofy home video short film by Vince Clarke — "Dr. Jeckyll and Mistress Hyde." This kitschy "silent" film, with occasional sound effects, is for fans and family only. It features a deadly transvestite whose killing spree is cut short by a man in nun drag.
More interesting is the new original Clarke/Bell composition "Tell It to Me," which has more classic galloping Erasure energy than most of the cover songs on the new album. The "Solsbury" single also includes a sparsely orchestrated, but effective rendering, of Bach's "Ave Maria."
Over the past 25 years, songwriter Billy Falcon has released solo albums on a number of labels, and has even collaborated with Jon Bon Jovi. But his most successful creative output may be in the form of his daughter, 18-year-old Rose.
Rose Falcon began writing songs with her father when she was 13, the duo penning its first collaboration in the acidic teen anthem of "Pretty Thing," which turns up in the midst of Rose's debut album a handful of years later. The song takes a knowing look at how some girls get places based solely on their looks ("isn't she a pretty thing?/so lucky looks are everything.")
The album opens with a declaration of lifelong intent in "Fun:"
"This is gonna be fun
this is gonna be real
from my feet to my fingers
I'm gonna feel
this is gonna be real fun."
"Fun" sets the upbeat tone for the first half of the short eight-song album, which reaches its zenith on the pure bubblegum pop of "Up, Up, Up," potentially the best roll-down-the-windows and head-to-the-beach song of this summer.
Rose Falcon ranges from the driving drums and chewy guitars of "Up, Up, Up" to the quiet solemnity of "Breakable," the album's delicate closing track. In between is an easy-going mix of songs about love, loss and friendship.