Three years after the release of Total Pop! - The First 40 Hits (Erasure's most comprehensive collection of the band's singles to date) another Erasure compilation, entitled Essential, was released in March 2012. Part of the EMI Gold range which also saw compilations by Yazoo, UB40, Human League, Kim Wilde, Blondie and Roxy Music amongst others released under the same moniker, Erasure's Essential CD is home to 16 tracks from the band's back catalogue spanning 1985 to 2003. Undoubtedly the 16 songs chosen are a curious bunch with many big songs such as A Little Respect, Stop!, Chains Of Love, Blue Savannah, Love To Hate You and Take A Chance On Me all noticeable by their absences. Arguably the only bona fide hit singles present are Sometimes, Victim Of Love, Chorus and Always - somewhat meagre pickings considering Erasure's sizeable collection of top 5 UK singles. Instead Essential is home to some of the band's lesser-known singles such as You Surround Me, Am I Right?, It Doesn't Have To Be, Star and I Love Saturday.
Despite the various misgivings, there are still a lot of great tracks to be found on Essential and whilst it's clearly not aimed at hardcore fans, there is still a lot to recommend about this release, especially the budget price.
There is no doubting these are still terrific songs, but if you buy an artist's "essential" compilation it's not unreasonable to expect more in the way of well-known hits singles. And if you're particularly pedantic the fact the tracklisting isn't in chronological order might be slightly irritating. What is more perplexing is that four tracks (that's a quarter of the album) come from Erasure's much-maligned cover versions album from 2003, Other People's Songs. Of these only Make Me Smile (Come Up & See Me) was released as single, meaning the top 10 single from this album, Solsbury Hill, is other noticeable absentee. Presumably the three other songs chosen are selected because the average person is familiar with the originals, but frankly there is no way on Earth that the horrible, substandard b-side quality cover of Video Killed The Radio Star could ever be considered "essential" (for me, it's one of the worst ever Erasure recordings).
Unquestionably the title to this compilation is dubious at best, with the tracklisting rarely showcasing the hit singles that have defined Erasure's career. What would have been welcome is if EMI had the courage to add a few top album tracks in instead of a collection of cover versions - the likes of Hideaway, Waiting For The Day, Take Me Back and Save Me Darling deserve to be enjoyed by a wider audience and would surely still delight casual fans. Likewise, most of Erasure's post-1994 singles are overlooked once again which feels like a missed opportunity to promote some great but under-heard songs from this era. Still, despite the various misgivings, there are still a lot of great tracks to be found on Essential and whilst it's clearly not aimed at hardcore fans, there is still a lot to recommend about this release, especially the budget price. By not mimicking other best of compilations, it can still act as a decent companion to the likes of Pop! or Hits!. But if you're on the hunt for your first Erasure compilation album, I'd urge you to check out Total Pop! The First 40 Hits instead - it is better in every single way, and is substantially more essential.
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