From Moscow To Mars
When a band hits a milestone like 30 years in the industry, it is not unusual for the record label to sift through their back-catelogue and see what content can be re-released in order to celebrate the achievement (or cash in on it, depending on your outlook). In 2015, the Always – The Very Best Of Erasure compilation very much looked to capitalise on Andy and Vince's three decades together, and 2016 also saw all the band's albums being released on vinyl (some for the very first time). But of all the releases curated to mark their anniversary, the anthology box set From Moscow To Mars was the one that whetted the appetite of the fans more than any other; a 12 CD bonanza crammed full of singles, b-sides, live tracks and unreleased goodies as well as 48-page hardback book, live DVD and prints. Whilst this all sounds appealing on paper, overall the box set feels like a missed opportunity to truly celebrate the vast history of this incredible band.
The box set feels like a missed opportunity to truly celebrate the vast history of this incredible band.
Take the first 3 CDs for instance. These contain all the band's 50 singles from 1985-2015. Except they don't contain them all as some are missing, such as remix singles Sometimes 2015, A Little Respect – HMI Redux, Always 2009, Oh L'amour – August Mix and Who Needs Love (Like That) – Hamburg Mix. Some might feel this makes sense, but the exclusion of Phantom Bride (released as an EP in 2009) is an oversight. Of the 50 singles that are included not all are the single mixes, and the first couple of seconds of Elevation is cut off for some inexplicable reason. Pedantry of the tracklisting aside, what is the point of including these in the box set at all? We already have numerous other singles collections (none better than Total Pop! – The First 40 Hits) – give us something we don't have.
Whilst knowing which album tracks are the personal favourites of both Andy and Vince is interesting in itself, having these make up two of CDs in the box set isn't all that appealing, especially as most fans will already own every track anyway. It's also strange how we get Boy – Acoustic again on Andy's CD, given we already have it as part of the singles collection elsewhere in the box set. For many a year, fans have wished for a b-sides album and From Moscow To Mars finally delivers this wish, albeit is a compromised form. Fans were asked to vote for their favourite b-sides with the most popular 36 making the grade across two CDs. But why not offer them all? It is an anthology after all and these are far harder to come by than all the singles. Two CDs of remixes is a bit meagre as well, and after cherry picking the best ones to use on Always – The Very Best Of Erasure a year earlier, those found in From Moscow To Mars aren't especially strong (although there are at least some new mixes thrown in for good measure, including the excellent Waiting For The Day – Vince Clarke Remix). Why not offer the best ones (I know, "best" is subjective but the point remains)? And why not offer a whole lot more than 22 remixes in total?
I have no criticism of what you get in the box set – it's what you don't get that is the source of my general dissatisfaction.
The live CD covers performances from 1987 up to 2011 but has some noticeable absences – there's nothing from The Tiny Tour, The Cowboy Concerts, The Other Tour, the Total Pop! Tour or the Violet Flame Tour. The contents is still good, but overall it is not done as well as the live CD found in Total Pop! which blended each track together to make it feel like you're listening to one, career-spanning concert. The rarities CD is genuinely appealing including some previously unreleased content and other tracks that are extremely hard to come by, but as with every other aspect of the box set it isn't comprehensive. The final CD is an audio documentary which doesn't merit multiple listens. Lastly, we have the The Wild! Tour, which is released on DVD for the first time. Whilst this is a welcome addition, why have only one concert? And why not at least push the boat out and make it available on Blu-ray? The physical contents of the box set, such as the hardback book and postcards are nice enough. But that's ultimately the problem with the composition of From Moscow To Mars – no aspect of it is really top drawer.
I didn't intend for this review to come across as critical as it has (the box set is home to some truly incredible songs after all) and something is always better than nothing, but there is little to enthuse about in From Moscow To Mars. I have no criticism of what you get in the box set – it's what you don't get that is the source of my general dissatisfaction. No aspect is completely comprehensive, there's little in the way of previously unreleased content and the tracks haven't been remastered. I have box sets from other artists that include every single album on a USB stick (in MP3 and FLAC) or sets that come in wooden or metal boxes rather than cardboard. They have a premium feel and you feel like you're getting a huge part of that artist's entire back-catelogue rather than just a fraction of it – that's what I hoped for when the notion of an Erasure anthology was first announced. Ultimately, From Moscow To Mars is just a good release – but for a band of Erasure's immense talent and incredible body of work, just good simply isn't good enough.
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