Snow Globe

Onge's Review

Snow Globe is the band's first foray into recording Christmas themed songs since 1988's Crackers International EP. Released in the winter of 2013, this is not your traditional festive album in that it is home to original compositions as well as yuletide-based cover versions, and all with barely a jingling sleigh bell to be heard (thankfully!). The album gets off to a cracker (no pun intended) in the form of the excellent Bells Of Love (Isabelle's Of Love), which despite what the sleeve notes would tell you was written entirely by Vince for his niece Isabelle. Beautifully crafted, this is an uplifting and contagious song which is home to a strong chorus and fine backing vocals. My only criticism of the song is the dubious use of the apostrophe in the song's title! Lead single Gaudete follows and on first listen is a curious song - a medieval Latin hymn is certainly an unusual choice for a Christmas album. But the band deliver a classy, and incredibly infectious, recording that really showcases their creativity and in particular Andy's voice. His vocals are terrific, especially in the falsetto parts of the song, and really demonstrate how his voice is improving with age. Another of the self-penned tracks follows in the form of Make It Wonderful which is the second single from the album. Not inspired by the holidays at all, this is a fine mid-tempo number that is just lacking a little in the chorus. The production is slick, contemporary and isn't a million miles away from some of the songs from Tomorrow's World (but without the brash vocals effects found that album).

Though often melancholy in tune, Snow Globe also has a shimmery, icy beauty.

USA Today

Sleep Quietly is the first of the very festive-sounding covers, which sees Andy's Kate Bush style vocals delivered over a slightly menacing synth backdrop. Whilst Vince's arrangement is interestingly layered and Andy's vocals are accomplished this isn't a particularly engrossing song to start with and isn't one that is likely to become an addictive listen. The untouchable Silent Night gets the album back on track in superb style. If you think you've heard this hymn to death over the years, this version will still blow you away - the understated music aids to highlight Andy's sultry, divine harmonies which are genuinely amongst the finest vocals the band have ever recorded. A shiver-inducing classic. Original track Loving Man changes the pace and is a bouncy gem of a song. Partially, the lyrics are about Andy's late former lover Paul Hickey ("I know that I can't keep numbing out the pain") but despite this is uplifting and very enjoyable. Next up is The Christmas Song and the first thing that strikes you is the very 80's computer game synth line that runs through the track. It is great to hear something different musically for a song such as this, even if it is somewhat incongruous, but once more the original song is quite disposable. The arrangement for Bleak Midwinter certainly feels more in keeping with the Christmas spirit and is home to tribal percussion and soft use of synth sounds. Once more Andy unleashes his inner choirboy and delivers some fine vocals, especially in the track's harmonies and backing vocals. A fine interpretation of a mediocre hymn.

Following the darker theme of the previous song is Blood On The Snow which is another song with a very video game sound to it. Written entirely by Andy (but again credited as a Clarke/Bell composition), this is a lyrically strong track that alludes to the festive season without ever really mentioning it. The vocals and music fuse nicely, but the song sadly lacks a killer chorus. Still, a good track notwithstanding. Another new song follows in the form of There'll Be No Tomorrow, which is a song about having the time of life by treating a night out as if it is your last. This is by far the weakest of the original songs - and has a very Nightbird/Light At The End Of The World b-side feel to it. By no means terrible, it's no classic either. All that remains now are cover versions and Midnight Clear is up next, which is a soothing lullaby. Once more the production is effortless; musically serene and pleasant with good vocals, but there's little escaping the fact source material is flat and not particularly interesting. It's nice, but also pretty forgettable. The conclusion of this song sounds almost identical to the intro of the song that follows as the pace of the album slows considerably. White Christmas is an intriguing recording - the crackling gramophone vocals and subway station sound effects juxtaposes the modern music box style synths and foreboding bass of the song in an interesting manner (even if the middle eight feels jarring and out of place). Whilst this is a creative approach to reinterpreting this much-covered song, it doesn't quite hit the sweet spot. The album concludes with Silver Bells. The arrangement develops and builds nicely as the song progresses and Andy once more sounds excellent. Problem is, this is another example of good music and vocals being held back by a weak song, and sees the album end on a lull.

Fans' Best/Worst Of

Top 3 Songs
  1. Loving Man
  2. Bells Of Love (Isabelle's Of Love)
  3. Make It Wonderful
Bottom 2 Songs
  1. White Christmas
  2. The Christmas Song
Results taken from Quick Poll #73

The deluxe box set version of the album is home to another couple of CDs, as well as a host of festive goodies. The Acappella Version of Gaudete really helps to highlight the quality of Andy's vocals, although the song works better with music. There are nice acoustic versions of Make It Wonderful, which sounds more sombre and soulful than the album mix, and Stop The Cavalry, which is a good song that deserved a proper synth arrangement and a place on the main album in my view. There are pointless instrumental versions of Silent Night and White Christmas and a spoken word piece called Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus that is unlikely warrant more than one listen. The most interesting tracks are the 2013 Redux versions of tracks from the Crackers International EP. Whilst nowhere near as warm and enjoyable as the flawless original, the new version of She Won't Be Home is still a very good reworking which once more sounds like it could be from a Nintendo game. The new version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is far superior to the drab original, thanks in no small part to Vince's dark, pulsating new arrangement. Andy's falsetto vocals are likely to still divide opinion, though. The Erasure Christmas Radio Show makes up CD3 and is a charming, funny insight into the Snow Globe project. For the box set version, add half a star to the album rating.

Summary

Snow Globe is a good but inconsistent project that sometimes suffers from an identity crisis. The album pacing falls away as you reach the final tracks and the mix of original tracks and album tracks does affect the album's overall cohesion. Despite this, the original songs help to stop the album feeling too samey - even if some tracks feel out of place on a Christmas-themed release. It is nice to hear Vince dabble with 8-bit arrangements for the first time and as you'd expect it is done with the utmost skill and competency and Andy's layered, lush vocals rarely dip below the exceptional. If anything, such qualities are often wasted and if you could take the quality of the music and vocals and apply them to better songs, Snow Globe would easily be a classic (which bodes very well for the next Erasure release). As it is, Snow Globe is a good festive album that is still well worth checking out.

Fan Reviews

Below are some fan reviews written by visitors to this very site. Once you've read these, please feel free to use the form at the end of the page to write your own review.

  1. Absolutely awful, it seems that Vince just don’t care anymore, the music is so so poor, one finger programme music from the old days at school with a basic Yamaha.

    Andy again, gives it his all as usual, his vocals are nothing other than perfect. Thank you Andy, at least you care!

    Vince, why? I have followed Erasure since 1985, you are a legend, but this pathetic ‘Sonic the Headhodge’ music needs to stop! Start playing your instruments again, please oh please stop ripping off your fans, this is not good enough!

    2 out of 10
    Reviewed by Steve
    2 December 2013 10:25 pm (GMT)
  2. not my Album, sorry. I like “loving man” and “bells of love” the others are some Kind of bad really. I am an erasure fan since the mid-eighties but on this work the “erasure-feeling” is gone ( for me ). Not your best work Andy and Vince – it hurts but you can do it better, we all know…

    2 out of 10
    Reviewed by markus from germany
    3 December 2013 9:20 pm (GMT)
  3. The songwriting haven’t been better since Nightbird.

    8 out of 10
    Reviewed by Thomas Copenhagen
    17 December 2013 6:05 pm (GMT)
  4. I had my reservations about this album when it was announced, dreading an-Other Peoples Songs debacle (only Solsbury Hill and Goodnight making my Erasure shuffle list).

    Let’s get the original tracks out the way first. Loving Man (9/10) will be another V&A track that won’t be heard outside of the fan base and it’s a crying shame. I slipped this track on to a Christmas Party set I was dj-ing just last weekend and it was like an “A Little Respect” moment, with people shimmying onto the dance floor to the opening few beats. My heart swelled with pride and proceeded to announce it was from Erasure’s new album. Got a couple of enquiries afterwards regarding the album. Result. These are some of Andy’s best lyrics in a while. On to Bells of Love (8/10), it’s a grower and don’t think it sounds like anything they’ve done before. Normally there’s a hint of a melody or bass or plink-plonk from Vince that you’ve heard before, not this time. Make it Wonderful (7/10)…another grower, starting with a fanfare, then a lull before a further fanfare! There’s No Tomorrow (5/10), seems like Non-Stop fall-out mashed up with some of the poorer Tomorrows World tracks (Whole Lotta Love Run Riot I’m looking at you!).
    On to the traditional selection and it ranges from creepily fantastic (Sleep Quietly) to Other Peoples Songs crashed into a ZX Spectrum (The Christmas Song). These will only get played yearly, as most Chrimbo albums do, so that’s no slight on the quality of the album.
    Overall , this is a great little package with Loving Man being the cheese-board and The Christmas Song being…the brussel sprouts! A solid 8/10 from me and looking forward to my next gig for another blast of loving man through my sound system…

    Coops (The now-sober Scotsman)

    8 out of 10
    Reviewed by Allan Cooper
    17 December 2013 11:37 pm (GMT)
  5. A great collection of songs from Erasure. Andy’s vocals are terrific especially in ‘Gaudete’ and ‘Bells of love’.
    The unique take on ‘The Christmas Song’ is also very enjoyable.
    Only thing which could be changed is the style of one or two of the songs; not completely Erasure’s type. Nevertheless, a must-buy album.

    9 out of 10
    Reviewed by Brendan, Surrey
    25 January 2014 2:12 pm (GMT)
  6. Disappointing. Couldn’t wait to play it – but listened to it only twice in the end. New tracks were dreary and lacking any of that erasure magic. Covers of traditional Christmas songs were better. Overall, the album just did not work for me…….

    2 out of 10
    Reviewed by sue worcestershire
    3 February 2014 9:13 pm (GMT)
  7. I was dreading this album , but I have to say that I do like it very much . It is creepy in places and I Love the back to basics synthesiser approach . I love all the new song materiel and most of the old christmas classics. On the whole I really enjoy the album . I like each of Erasures albums as they all have a different flavour and this one is going to be my favourite one for x-mas and beyond . It worked for me and that’s all that matters … Lol !

    8 out of 10
    Reviewed by Ed / Stafford
    7 March 2014 10:32 pm (GMT)
  8. Bells of Love, Gaudete, Make It Wonderful and Loving Man are fantastic and these songs should have been made into a Christmas 4 track EP just like Crackers International, the rest of the album is filled up with nothing more than Erasure B-sides, Snowglobe for me is just a stop gap until the next proper Erasure album.

    6 out of 10
    Reviewed by burt
    6 April 2014 7:38 pm (GMT)
  9. nice album with some stunning songs -bells of love, gaudate, etc, just not into the 80s video game type production on one or two songs, but a nice atmospheric album that I will certainly play a handful of tracks off every December

    7 out of 10
    Reviewed by P Martin Elliott
    3 September 2014 2:59 pm (GMT)
  10. As has been mentioned, perhaps the best tracks could have been made into a next generation Crackers International – after all, there wasn’t much of a Christmas feel to Stop! – but in the main I liked this. As for the musical style, it sounded more like traditional Erasure than Tomorrow’s World or The Violet Flame. As for Vince playing one-finger music, what was Just Can’t Get Enough?

    Of the new V&A songs, Loving Man is the best with Bells Of Love a close second. But the miracle of this album is Gaudete – how on earth do you take a Christmas song written in 1582 and turn it into a funky and contemporary classic? The key is in the song’s structure – a two-line refrain preceding each of four, four-line stanzas – it’s the precursor to the modern pop song. This would have been a worldwide hit in the 16th century, had it not been written 350 years before the invention of radio and sung in Latin!

    6 out of 10
    Reviewed by Paul UK
    16 October 2014 11:12 pm (GMT)
  11. Since the 1988 Christmas mini-album “Crackers International”, a proper ERASURE’s full-lenght Christmas album really was needed. My dream came true in 2013 with “Snow Globe”.
    So “Snow Globe” was to “Crackers International” the equivalent of what “Other People’s Songs” (2003) was to “Abba-esque” (1992) : a proper full-lenght, serious and ambitious project.

    To me, “Snow Globe” was ERASURE best album since “Nightbird” (2005), i.e a return to the essence of ERASURE : bouncy pop music which can also be experimental, reflective and nostalgic.
    Andy BELL’s vocals are really shining on this album, showing all sides of his vocal talent.

    The standout track is “Bells of Love (Isabelles’s of Love)” that I consider as one of ERASURE’s best tracks ever.
    “Gaudete”, “Silent Night”, “Bleak Midwinter”, “Make it Wonderful” and “Blood on the Snow” are also among my favourites.

    My only regret is that Jona LEWIE’s “Stop the Cavalry” wasn’t properly covered but only received a rushed laidback acoustic attempt on the limited 2nd CD of “Snow Globe”. This all-time fantastic Christmas pop song really would have really deserved the best of ERASURE’s treatment : sharp electronic music mixed with operatic vocals !

    9 out of 10
    Reviewed by Erwann Le GARREC, France
    3 March 2016 1:37 am (GMT)
  12. I really like the new tracks but kinda tought the covers (except for Gaudete) were a bit “meh”.

    8 out of 10
    Reviewed by BRossete Joinville, Brasil
    12 March 2016 11:40 pm (GMT)
  13. I was glad to get an Erasure Christmas album and there are some really fun tracks on here. I rather like the simplistic nature of the ‘traditional tracks’ and they fit nicely into the Holiday mood.
    Musically, there is no movement forward but I was just glad to get some more Erasure product.

    BELLS OF LOVE (ISABELLE’S OF LOVE) [8/10]
    GAUDETE [8/10]
    MAKE IT WONDERFUL [8/10]
    SLEEP SILENTLY [7/10]
    SILENT NIGHT [8/10]
    LOVING MAN [8/10]
    THE CHRISTMAS SONG [4/10]
    BLEAK MIDWINTER [5/10]
    BLOOD IN THE SNOW [6/10]
    THERE’LL BE NO TOMORROW [7/10]
    MIDNIGHT CLEAR [4/10]
    WHITE CHRISTMAS [5/10]
    SILVER BELLS [5/10]

    BONUS DISC

    GAUDETE ACAPELLA [6/10]
    STOP THE CAVALRY (ACOUSTIC) [4/10]
    SILENT NIGHT (INSTRUMENTAL) [5/10]
    SHE WON’T BE HOME (REDUX) [6/10]
    MAKE IT WONDERFUL (ACOUSTIC) [4/10]
    GOD REST YE MERRY GENTLEMEN (REDUX) [5/10]
    WHITE CHRISTMAS (INSTRUMENTAL) [3/10]
    YES, VIRGINIA, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUSE [1/10]

    6 out of 10
    Reviewed by Jonathan Andrews – Florida, USA
    17 March 2016 7:33 pm (GMT)

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