Union Street

Onge's Review

Having rarely ventured far from the synths during their first twenty years together, more than a few eyebrows were raised when Erasure decided to release a purely acoustic album in the spring of 2006. Conceived two years earlier, eleven lesser known songs from the band's back catalogue were re-recorded and the album was released to co-inside with Erasure's first ever purely acoustic tour. The opening track Boy sets the scene for the rest of the album; mellow, melodic and with a distinct country and western flavour. Slightly tribal in its percussion, and lacking the energy of the original, this track still manages to gets the album off to a decent start. The tranquil Piano Song follows where Steve Walsh's guitar and Gordon Ticomb's dobro compliment Andy's heartfelt vocals aptly. Soothing and pleasant this rendition undoubtedly is, inspiring and infectious it is not. And there's no absolutely no sign of a piano on this track, or any other. The version of Stay With Me that follows is strikingly beautiful, with David Weiss's woodwind being a major factor in the excellence of the arrangement. Andy sounds as terrific as ever, although the vocals are left a little exposed and more backing vocals would have been a nice addition. This does not stop this being a definite album highlight and a majestic reworking of a truly gorgeous song.

It's not the pop fans might have imagined but explores a more soulful side to this pair. Andy Bell's rich tones work brilliantly with the predominantly acoustic and slide guitar backdrop. Patchy, but 'Home' and 'Love Affair' are gorgeous.

Gay Times

Spiralling follows, which is one of the finest and emotive songs ever recorded. As with so much of the album it is tender and peaceful, but too much of the arrangement, which is just Ben Butler on guitar, is reminiscent of the live working of this song present on The Two Ring Circus. The omission of the Safety In Numbers part of the song is also detracts from the recording and there is nothing in this version which excels it above previous recordings. Home follows where Andy once again showcases his near flawless voice. Much of the arrangement works well and it is nice to have some backing vocals that sound very faithful to the original recording, but the acoustic bass played by Joey Seifers sounds too much like a guy playing an elastic band and musically this ruins the song, which is a real shame. All is forgiven though as Tenderest Moments is a complete triumph, and is the only track where Vince plays an instrument on the entire album. Originally the b-side to the Run To The Sun single, the combination of three guitars and Andy's perfect vocals make this the best track on the album. Best of all, Andy rectifies the vocal aberration of the original by singing the song in a lower register and the track is so much better for it. An excellent version and definitely vocally superior to the mediocre original.

Unfortunately the best track on the album is soon followed by the worst. Alien is a great song, but here it is severely blighted by a sub-standard arrangement, with the major sinner being Gordon Titcomb's ill-conceived mandolin which doesn't fit in with the rest of the song at all. Remove this from the equation and we'd have an effective reworking. Instead we just have a disappointment. Blues Away is also not one of Union Street's strengths. Having vocally made amends in Tenderest Moments by ditching the falsetto, Andy squanders the chance to do likewise with this track and whilst the vocals are accomplished, the pitch is still too high which renders the rest of the reworking inconsequential. How Many Times? has Andy on top form and he effortlessly sings over Steve Walsh's simple but effective guitar accompaniment. This is easily one of the strongest tracks on the album and with Andy sounding so good with his deep vocals it really emphasises the falsetto misdemeanour of the preceding track.

Fans' Best/Worst Of

Top 3 Songs
  1. Tenderest Moments
  2. Boy
  3. Home
Bottom 2 Songs
  1. Blues Away
  2. Boy
Results taken from Poll 2008-09

Love Affair is up next and benefits from a pleasing string arrangement including violins and a cello. Hauntingly beautiful, if not entirely melodic, the arrangement is coupled with another fine vocal performance from Andy making this a reasonable reworking. Rock Me Gently concludes the album and the most striking thing about this version is how the vocal arrangement has been laboured over - something often lacking on other Union Street tracks. Indeed it seems the original London Community Gospel Choir vocals are present, as well as some new harmonies from Jill Walsh but overall the song just isn't gratifying, largely because the majesty of the original version's arrangement simply cannot be equalled by Steve Walsh's acoustic guitar alone.

Summary

Overall this is a pleasant release but sorely misses Vince's genius, which is to be expected given the album doesn't have a single synthesiser on it. One thing Union Street does capture is the brilliance of Andy's voice although sometimes his vocals can be a little over-amplified. There is certainly an unplugged rawness to some of the songs, which sometimes works in their favour, but few of these renditions are as strong as the orchestral tracks from The Two Ring Circus and ultimately this album just leaves you longing to hear the original electronic versions of these tracks instead. Sadly, I don't think was what the band hoped to achieve with Union Street.

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. Union Street? An album full of guitars? NOOOOOOOOOOOO!
    But when you listen to it – it makes sense. This is a wonderful album. Obviously I would prefer an album of electronic music but this is a great ‘chill out’ album. Highlight is without a doubt ‘Tenderest Moments’ – the first time I’d heard this song, seeing as though I don’t own Run To The Sun single yet. There is not one poor song and the whole album is a masterpiece. Can’t wait for the tour!!!!!!!

    Lucky/MODTL
    x

    8 out of 10
    Reviewed by I Should Be So Lucky (MODTL), North Wales, UK
    7 April 2006 12:35 pm (GMT)
  2. Union Street is a grower!

    Stay with me is for me one of the most beautiful songs Erasure have performed , the version on Union Street is possibly one of Erasure’s finest productions: This Album has taken a bit of time to get used to, which can only be a good thing as the growers become firm favourites . We are used to Vinces bleeps and bloops whilst Andy skillfully moves through the lyrics . however, Andy sounds absolutely amazing on Tenderest moments , Home and the haunting Rock me gently.Vince and the other musicans strumming along add the finishing touches to an gem of an album.Unplugged , unzipped bleepless which ever way you look at it Acoustically this album is pure indulgance

    Union street is a treasure chest of favourite past ballads brought back to life ! Sublime, heartwarming. and loving can only describe Union Street.

    Roll on the live shows …

    9 out of 10
    Reviewed by DAZZLER, sheffield
    7 April 2006 1:34 pm (GMT)
  3. What a waste of time, effort, energy and money!
    This could have been so much better. Firstly, be honest, the slide was evident since I Say and continued in the next albums, Cowboy, Loveboat, and only recovered in Nightbird. These ‘fill-in albums’ seem like they were put out for the sake of putting something out – as evidenced by the lack of actual quality in them. Before you scream, I’ve been a long term fan since I was at school and then throughout medical school and now into my surgical career. I saw them live in the recent Nightbird tour which was awesome!
    People will argue they need to evolve, change and experiment – I agree, but I would rather they didn’t put these feeble efforts out to drive nails into their own coffins. I feel they peaked with The Innocents, after a great start with Circus and Wonderland, and maintained it in Wild, and Chorus to some extent. The self-titled Erasure was experimental and great. Then things started to go wrong after I Say, until the recent return to some form with Nightbird!
    So what’s wrong with Union Street – well what’s Vince doing apart from strumming along; song selection is poor (sounds like a poor B-side album), and there’s little creativity on offer.
    OK – what would I have done? well I have nothing against the acoustic sound, I actually hoped they would do this but either a whole new album or with a better selection of their old stuff. A new album in their usual vein i.e some slow and some faster pop songs would have been great; or perform some of their classics as acoustics i.e victim of love, a little respect etc.
    Why did they not release Boy as a single eligible for the charts – probably because it was not going to register in them at all! I don’t accept the reason it didn’t qualify – the previous EPs did!? I have yet to see how this album sells (not always an indicator of a good album I know) but even die-hard fans will think twice.
    Erasure need to be careful as others (EG Madonna) are doing what they did effortlessly – putting out top notch pop – they are in danger of losing themselves in a race to reinvent – they need to go back to their roots (as they tried in Nightbird) but at the same time move on – it is possible!
    COME ON – I KNOW THEY’RE CAPABLE OF MORE THAN THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1 out of 10
    Reviewed by Irfan Khan, bristol, UK
    10 April 2006 4:43 pm (GMT)
  4. sad to say but a dreadful filler album from a band that belong back in 1992. they should have done better but with this album failing to chart the top 100 surely its now time for a radical re-think. poor show.

    1 out of 10
    Reviewed by lee kaay, london
    16 April 2006 8:35 pm (GMT)
  5. Superb album. A great example of what talented songwriters Erasure are and what wonderful harmonies their songs hold. A truely beautiful album

    10 out of 10
    Reviewed by Tiska, Slovenia
    19 April 2006 2:32 pm (GMT)
  6. i have just watched erasure perform in edinburgh playing songs from union city,okay sure it took a bit of getting used to,but in my mind you cant deny the sheer brilliance of these songs.watching andy sing how many times alone with only the guitar sent shivers down my spine.the audience were spellbound.i think love affair is such a classic song but the production on union city takes away its beauty. boy,tenderest moments,alien work accoustically fantastic.to be honest after a few plays im addicted to this album roll on part 2

    10 out of 10
    Reviewed by grant milne, scotland
    20 April 2006 9:32 pm (GMT)
  7. very good album-not the best thing they have done but i like it!!!! nice to hear the songs in a different guise.

    6 out of 10
    Reviewed by paraic elliott, Ireland
    6 May 2006 10:58 pm (GMT)
  8. Hi I have been looking at fans comments on this album. WHAT this album was a breath of fresh air, to me. WOW factor or what. Some one said erasure should think about stopping, are you a fan or what. Try to get a ticket , no chance. I missed the last tour, gutted. Know im on line i wont miss any more. Union Street was such a change , never expected this one . I loved the fact that i knew all the songs , but they were so different this time. Keep playing it and you,ll love it like me , especially Blues away. xxx

    10 out of 10
    Reviewed by Debbie, Hull U.K
    7 May 2006 12:56 pm (GMT)
  9. Quiza la idea era buena, pero el resultado no me parecio tanto. Este disco como bonus de un inedito habria sido maravilloso, pero como disco tal cual no me parece, monotomo al extremo, demasiado similar de tracka track. Falta de instrumentos quiza…..
    Rescato solamente ; Stay with me, How many times? y Tenderest Moment.

    3 out of 10
    Reviewed by German Saavedra, Chile
    1 October 2006 3:15 am (GMT)
  10. I love this album.
    I really like the fact that I know all the songs and it’s refreshing to hear them in a different way.

    After the brilliant nightbird album I wasn’t expecting them to bring out another that is just as good or maybe even better.

    hope it keeps up. really love it, never get tired of listening to it.

    10 out of 10
    Reviewed by Matt, S.Wales
    19 October 2006 5:55 pm (GMT)
  11. BOY [7/10]
    PIANO SONG [6/10]
    STAY WITH ME [9/10]
    SPIRALLING [5/10]
    HOME [9/10]
    TENDEREST MOMENTS [7/10]
    ALIEN [7/10]
    BLUES AWAY [8/10]
    HOW MANY TIMES [7/10]
    LOVE AFFAIR [6/10]
    ROCK ME GENTLY [6/10]

    7 out of 10
    Reviewed by Michael, Amarillo, TX
    27 July 2007 6:51 am (GMT)
  12. Yeah, this is ok. Best tracks are Stay with me, How many times and Tenderest moments.

    5 out of 10
    Reviewed by jemuvompo, Finland
    22 September 2007 3:53 pm (GMT)
  13. I like the originals of all these songs, and the main point of this album was to link in with the 2006 acoustic tour, so I found it an interesting work and it was nice to have this particular collection of songs on one record. Obviously with none of the material being new, and none of the big singles included, there was little commercial appeal to the general public, but as a fan I enjoyed it.

    6 out of 10
    Reviewed by Paul, UK
    2 August 2011 3:59 pm (GMT)
  14. I really love this album, full of beautiful songs, it divides fans but was surely worth putting out there as a document of another side of the band. I love
    BOY [6/10]
    PIANO SONG [8/10]
    STAY WITH ME [9/10]
    SPIRALLING [8/10]
    HOME [9/10]
    TENDEREST MOMENTS [8/10]
    ALIEN [8/10]
    BLUES AWAY [7/10]
    HOW MANY TIMES [7/10]
    LOVE AFFAIR [5/10]
    ROCK ME GENTLY [7/10]

    8 out of 10
    Reviewed by pmrelliott dublin
    2 March 2015 4:27 pm (GMT)
  15. Piano song with guitars? Slide guitar everywhere? As the saying goes, “If you don’t have anything nice to say….”

    Well, I do have a couple of nice things to state. How Many Times feels RIGHT. This is the standout track for me. Secondly, It is nice to have Tenderest Moments performed.

    2 out of 10
    Reviewed by Jonathan Andrews – Florida, USA
    15 March 2016 5:04 pm (GMT)
  16. One of my favorite albums of all time. The arrangements are gorgeous, the song selection is flawless, and the acoustic setting makes you really appreciate them as songs. With time and hindsight it gets even better.

    10 out of 10
    Reviewed by Gabo
    6 April 2017 9:25 pm (GMT)

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