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Rock - Released May 15, 1988 | Rhino - Warner Records

Having built up a strong fan base and back catalogue in just a couple of years, Erasure turned into a full-blown pop phenomenon thanks to The Innocents, winning the British equivalent of the Grammy for album of the year and spawning a big American hit single, "Chains of Love." Stephen Hague took over as producer from Flood, perhaps smoothing out some points for a more general mainstream appeal but otherwise letting the strengths of the songs speak for themselves. It begins with another single and stone-cold classic, "A Little Respect," with a charging beat/acoustic guitar/synth arrangement and a flat-out fantastic performance from Bell, especially on the ascending chorus. Guest performances help flesh out a number of songs quite well. Wheeler and others reappear on "Yahoo!," a gospel-touched (musically and lyrically) number, while noted session performers the Kick Horns add just that to the "please come back" punch of "Heart of Stone." On their own, though, the duo continues in the same general vein of earlier releases while the Erasure formula of dance/synth/soul was now clearly established through and through, thankfully the combination of slight variety and overall performance prevents the album from dragging. The Innocents' ballads are perhaps a touch prettier than the lyrics would make them out to be, but if the sheen of songs like "Hallowed Ground" cuts away from the sometimes blunt images of poverty and hopelessness Bell calls up, the music still has a solid power. The CD version adds a fine original, "When I Needed You," and a fun cover of the Phil Spector/Ike and Tina Turner classic "River Deep, Mountain High." ~ Ned Raggett
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Pop - Released June 17, 2014 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop - Released September 23, 2014 | Mute

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Following a holiday album (2013's Snow Globe) with this "return to form" album means veteran duo Erasure are now on the cliched career revival path for aging pop stars, but maybe it's just by chance. Make that "likely," as The Violet Flame gets right down to dancey, inspired business on its opening "Dead of Night," a track that pumps with the beat of any given single off the duo's great 1989 album Wild!. Classic lyrics from Andy Bell speak to the morality play that club night can be ("Too many times you're forgiven/Now you cry like you're the victim") then the chorus is like a pair of bright red cha-cha heels (a joyful stuttering of "D-d-d-dead of night") that won't be ignored. If hearing Bell in his Maleficent costume is a decadent kind of delicious, he's still an excellent Sleeping Beauty as well, as the pumping "Paradise" welcomes a new soul mate with open arms and open heart. Synth man Vince Clarke is simpatico in these back-to-the-future surroundings, as the great "Be the One" sounds like he plundered the computer and found some early sketches of Yaz's "Only You." while "Under the Wave" could be seamlessly mixed with all the minimal bleeping and blooping on Depeche Mode's debut album Speak & Spell, also known as Clarke's last hurrah with the band. The big anthem this time out is "Elevation," a cut with the simplicity of Robin S's "Show Me Love" and lyrics preaching freedom to the dancing masses ("It makes you kinda wonder, what are we supposed to do/When the fate of many, is guided by the hand of few/Who-o-oa."), then there's the closing "Stayed a Little Late Last Night" and the heart-breaking "Smoke and Mirrors," both serving the roles of a soul-filling number that sticks to the bones. With all the elements in place, the late-era The Violet Flame sits on the top shelf of Erasure albums, and considering all the greatness in the back catalog, that's no easy task. ~ David Jeffries
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Rock - Released April 15, 1987 | Sire - Warner Records

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Pop - Released November 16, 1992 | Rhino - Warner Records

Since their singles have always been as well chosen as they were well crafted, Total Pop! The First 40 is top-shelf Erasure the whole way through, displaying the evolution of the synth pop band through representative singles. This Total Pop Deluxe Box features the original two-CD Total Pop! with all the synth pop duo’s singles in chronological order, and then adds material geared toward the truly devoted Bell/Clarke aficionado. Besides an expanded booklet, the box adds a bonus live CD, plus a DVD of the duo's performances on the BBC television network. ~ David Jeffries
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Pop - Released June 3, 2014 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop - Released November 24, 1992 | Rhino - Warner Records

On a roll from its U.K. chart-topping success with the Abba-esque EP, Erasure celebrated with the baldly titled Pop! While scant in terms of general info, as a no-frills hit-for-hit collection Pop! lives up to its considerable brief. Taken out of context from the various albums, hearing one straight-up smash after enough becomes a pure delight. It's intriguing to hear how the pure synth-pop/soul fusions of the earliest years give way to a more fluid style, almost as if the notoriously hard-to-stay-satisfied Clarke, having finally found a perfect partner in Bell, found the time and inclination to explore other options. As for Bell, hearing his evolution from an all-too-obvious clone of Clarke's Yaz partner Alison Moyet into his own English soul style makes for a treat. Picking out highlights from already powerful material almost begs the question, but hearing the stretch of brilliant songs from the soothing jump of "Oh L'Amour" to the explosive, infectious energy of "Stop!" makes for great listening, Clarke's arrangements and Bell's passionate vocals hitting everything song for song. Calling a straightforward, chronologically organized singles collection one of "hits" would be arrogant if it weren't for the fact that it was also true, almost every number a Top 40 placer at home, more than half hitting the Top Ten -- and it's never hard to hear why. There is one wryly funny and informative bonus in the liner notes -- without explanation, though unquestionably written by self-confessed gearhead Clarke, a list of classic keyboards he's used on Erasure's hits appears with this note: "This is a general list of synthesizers you may or may not be interested in. It is not a product endorsement." ~ Ned Raggett
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Electronic/Dance - Released March 31, 1997 | Mute, a BMG Company

The calmer inner meditations of Erasure behind them, the duo found themselves on Madonna's label in America and released the notably more upbeat Cowboy in 1997. The zeitgeist that the duo perfectly encapsulated in the late '80s had long been left behind, resulting in an album that sounds like it wants to keep the party going when all the guests had long gone home. While Erasure itself could drag here and there, it was still an honestly intriguing combination of new and old for the band, something the pleasant (but little more than that) Cowboy can't claim. At base, the problem is that while the basic Erasure knack of hummable hooks and fine singing remains unchanged, something seems missing -- what made songs like "A Little Respect," "Stop!," and "Chorus" more than enjoyably catchy pop isn't there. Cowboy is amiable but not memorable. Vince Clarke to his credit doggedly resists flat out following current pop trends in the hopes of greater relevance, so there's something to be said for sticking to one's guns. His usual preferred combination of gentler lead synths and rougher bass tones sounds enjoyably supple as well, with perhaps the only concession to late-'90s pop being a greater use of hip-hop beats. Andy Bell's voice as always hits its fine sweet-sounding heights. But beyond a cut or two, very little honestly connects beyond that, sad to say. "In My Arms," released as a single, has an attractive air to it, with a nicely sweeping chorus, but feels a little too relaxed, not as flat out energetic as it could be. ~ Ned Raggett
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Electronic/Dance - Released January 24, 2005 | Mute, a BMG Company

Starting soft and staying there, Nightbird takes more than a couple listens to pay real dividends, but that Erasure are revitalized is evident first time through. Gone is the trying-too-hard surface-pop of Cowboy and Other People's Songs and back is the intimate, introspective, and great lyrical moments of the ballads scattered among the duo's best albums. Song after song displays that lead singer Andy Bell has grown remarkably as a writer. His vivid tales of isolation and painful regret don't have that Morrissey sting in the tail, but they're just as good for weepy evenings and are just as honest/cathartic as anything the Mozz has written. Bell's prerelease announcement that he's HIV positive explains the malaise that's here and there on Nightbird, but the man's been secretly dealing with the disease since 1998 and his "coming out" relief is reflected in the album's positive energy and extra helping of hope. It's Bell's album, and much like thumbing through his diary, but synth whizz Vince Clarke is up to the task, providing clean and tidy tunes in classic Erasure style. He must have dusted off all his old machinery, since the bleeps and beats of the album are familiar, plus the "woah-oh-oh!" of "No Doubt" brings reminders of the great "Love to Hate You," just at half-tempo. That's something to point out. With only two up-tempo numbers, Nightbird isn't made for the dancefloor. It's a "headphone album" or a "when you're alone" album, and considering the band's campy past, a surprisingly excellent one. Bell's dealings with HIV have obviously influenced Nightbird, but he rarely points right to it, making the album adaptable to any listener's own introspection. Smart, moving, approachable, and well constructed, Nightbird is Erasure's mature masterpiece. ~ David Jeffries
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Country - Released February 12, 2007 | Mute, a BMG Company

If you made it to 2007 with a fat wallet then you probably aren't a true Erasure fan. Since 2003 the group has been responsible for a slew of sideline releases -- remix albums, acoustic albums, and big stack of limited-edition, souvenir live albums -- with only the 2005 effort Nightbird offering something entirely new. On the Road to Nashville is another live album and the hook here is that the usually electronic, club-oriented act is backed by a live band, which makes for some interesting arrangements. Seeing as how they're performing at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium -- once home to the Grand Ole Opry -- "Blue Savannah" becomes a rollicking hoedown while "Victim of Love" sways in a rustic style, lap steel guitar and all. While these are clever, cute, and fun, seriously delivered tracks like Nightbird's "Breathe" and the chestnut "A Little Respect" are more rewarding with performances that breathe new life into these fan favorites. If you haven't checked in on the boys since the millennium turned, you're better off checking the well-built Nightbird and picking some tracks off the acoustic effort Union Street before venturing here. This is for the hardcore fans, the ones who have endured a mountain of stopgap releases and somehow still beg for more. ~ David Jeffries
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Rock - Released April 15, 1987 | Sire - Warner Records

Originally released on double vinyl some months after The Circus, thus its title, The Two Ring Circus is a time-killer release that actually stands very well on its own. Collecting remixes as well as re-recordings and live tracks, it at once makes for a good alternate take on the previous album as well as showing off further strengths of the duo. The seven remixes kick off the set, two by Erasure with assistance from either Flood or Eric Radcliffe, one by Flood with Mute Records boss Daniel Miller, and the rest by other outside DJs and producers. Little Louie Vega gets the honors for the best overall mix, though -- his revamping of "Hideaway" turns the gentler surge of the coming-out-and-leaving-home tune into an orchestral blast-infused full-on dance anthem. The three re-recordings, of The Circus' "If I Could" and "Spiralling" and Wonderland's "My Heart...So Blue," are each marvelous, substituting the synths and beats of the original for orchestral arrangements by Andrew Poppy. All three were strong ballads to begin with; here, Bell plays off the quietly dramatic takes with skill and style, arguably making each of them better than the originals. The concluding six songs are from a German show on the Circus tour -- it doesn't say so anywhere on the disc, but Bell's between-song yelps of "Danke!" gives that much away. All the takes are lively and the audience reactions near hysterical. It concludes with a fine run-through of Abba's "Gimme Gimme Gimme," originally done as an early B-side. ~ Ned Raggett
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 22, 2014 | Mute

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Electronic/Dance - Released May 21, 2007 | Mute, a BMG Company

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Country - Released April 3, 2006 | Mute, a BMG Company

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Electronic/Dance - Released October 23, 2000 | Mute, a BMG Company

Erasure perfected their synth-pop/dance sound in the mid-'80s, and over the course of the next decade and a half they continued within that structure. By 1997's Cowboy, the band lost some of their melodic sense in exchange for the techno dance trip. It is nice to say that on this release Erasure went back to doing what they do best: strong melodic pop music full of angst and pain. There's no real experimentation, just the old form of songwriting. This will not win new fans, but it might win back those few who were turned off by the group's dive into techno. Since 1997, Vince Clarke has collaborated on two experimental projects: 1999's Clarke & Ware Experiment with Martin Ware of Heaven 17 fame and the Family Fantastic album. Neither were too successful, but they did provide platforms for Clarke to expand his writing and playing beyond the pop song format. His return is very much welcomed. Andy Bell's voice has never sounded better, and as usual it fits the music perfectly. A strong album, with some of the best songs they have ever produced (including the wonderful "Freedom" and "Surreal"), this is a classic sounding Erasure album, and it could not be better. ~ Aaron Badgley
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Pop - Released June 28, 2019 | Mute, a BMG Company

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Pop - Released June 21, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop - Released April 26, 1994 | Elektra Records

Released three years after Chorus, I Say I Say I Say found Erasure for the first time fully interested in essentially staying in place. The album as a whole is at base an attractively redressed version of what the duo had already done, the occasional slight surprise notwithstanding. While Clarke in particular shows some virtuosity with his performances, helped by Human League/Heaven 17 veteran Martyn Ware's production, I Say lacks any real novelty (certainly Bell's singing isn't going to change any earlier perceptions, positive or negative). It's not as experimentally indulgent as the self-titled album or unfortunately unmemorable as Cowboy, but it's still not quite the group at its sharp pop finest track for track. When it does succeed, though, it has plenty of the flash and verve of old. "Always," the wonderful ballad that was the album's lead single, with a slightly quirky opening, strong verses both musically and lyrically, and a flat-out brilliant chorus, Bell's impassioned delivery one of his finest moments. I Say's lead-off one/two combination is also a winner; "Take Me Back" also plays the sweeping, slow card effectively, Bell in particular getting in some fine singing. "I Love Saturday," meanwhile, neatly balances pepped up energy on Clarke's part with a lower-key delivery from Bell, a striking combination that makes for a better result than the strident, full-on pep of "Run to the Sun." Other winners include "Man in the Moon," which has a delightful chorus with a sweetly silly pipe/synth melody, "So the Story Goes," and "Miracle," the last two of which feature the singing of a cathedral choir. It's a nice look ahead to the reach of the self-titled record, though, with more pop-friendly song lengths and two of Bell's best, strongest performances on the album. ~ Ned Raggett
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Pop - Released December 3, 2001 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 9, 2018 | Mute

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