"3. Singles - EBX3" [UK]
Mute Records (EBX3)
Release Date: December 2001
Let me begin by saying that I'm not really sure what the official title for this boxed set of CD singles is. It is usually referred by Mute Records, the label that issued the set, as simply EBX3, which happens to be the catalog number for the item.
This particular set is the third in a series of boxes of reissued Erasure CD singles. The first two boxes covered the singles from Erasure's first three albums. EBX3 contains their first EP (Crackers International) plus the four singles from the Wild! album.
As with the other three sets (there is also an EBX4 on the market currently, which will be reviewed separately), my biggest complaint is with the way the discs were packaged. Rather than put each disc into its own jewelbox, or even into its own slimline case, each disc is packaged in a cardboard slipcover, which has a high potential of causing damage to the discs. Additionally, the tray that these slipcovers (and the ten page booklet that accompanies the set) are located in is cumbersome to slide in and out of the box. Once the CDs are all removed from the original packaging and placed into blank jewelboxes, however, that problem is eliminated.
As for the discs themselves, Mute has followed the same basic pattern with EBX3 that was set forth in EBX1 & EBX2. There are few surprises to the dedicated Erasure collectors here, as nothing in the set is previously unreleased. The biggest disappointment for some may be the fact that there are tracks that are noticably missing from the set (such as the 7" version of "Stop!" from Crackers International, which has a fade out ending). The basic pattern for each disc is that it contains any tracks that were released in the UK on either 7", 12" or CD formats (possibly cassette too, but I'm not aware of any tracks during this era that were exclusive to cassettes). I believe, if I'm not terribly mistaken, that all the tracks included were commercially released originally - so no weird promo exclusive mixes are turning up in this set. This means, for example, the Shep Pettibone mixes of "Blue Savannah" are missing from this set; not only were they promo exclusive, but they also were issued only in the USA so Mute likely did not have the rights to them.
Regarding the individual discs, the fact that there are no real surprises here shouldn't be a turnoff. The Crackers International disc collects, for the first time, all of the tracks from the 7" pressing and limited edition 12" pressing (also known as Crackers International II, it included a recording of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"), plus the extended 12" mixes of "The Hardest Part" and "Knocking On Your Door" (these should not be confused with the remixes of "Stop!" and "Knocking On Your Door" that appeared on the US version of Crackers International and UK Crackers International II).
The "Drama!" disc is of mild interest to most American collectors, as it contains all of the same tracks that were previously available on the US version of the "Drama!" single. It should be noted that they appear in a different order than the original US single, but it's still all the same tracks.
To me, the "You Surround Me" disc was the highlight of the set. Of the songs that were issued as singles in the UK for the Wild! album, "You Surround Me" is easily my favorite, but beyond that, this is possibly the strongest single package that Erasure have done. The disc contains two b-sides (the unusual instrumental "91 Steps" and the cover "Supernature") in addition to the requisite slew of remixes. It can be fascinating to listen to the different mixes of "You Surround Me," as they range from a simple extended version, a high energy dance version, and a minimalized, stripped back drum and vocal version. In my opinion, "91 Steps" is a rather fascinating track (I think it is one of the most underappreciated Erasure tracks), and is its most interesting in the 6 Pianos Mix, where the song is played entirely using pianos, rather than using the varied synth sounds of the original. "Supernature" is one of the best b-sides that Erasure did during this era (second only to "Dreamlike State"), but outside of the William Orbit mix, the remixes here are rather flat.
"Blue Savannah" has always seemed to me to be an unusual choice for a single from this album; I would have much rather seen "Brother & Sister" get promoted. The remixes of "Blue Savannah" that are on this disc (in particular, the Der Deutsche mixes) leave a lot to be desired. The absence of the Shep Pettibone mixes is very noticable, as his mixes were likely the best done of the song. Unfortunately, the single gets saddled with one of the worst Erasure covers, "No G.D.M.," and a song that feels like it never quite reaches its mark, "Runaround On The Underground." It doesn't help that "Runaround On The Underground" was devolved into a virtual instrumental in its one and only remix. The song feels like it has a lot of unreached potential, and it is a shame that it wasn't reached.
The last single in the set is "Star," a single which (for me, at any rate) almost defines what good remixing is all about. Between the three different remixes of "Star," plus the remix of "Dreamlike State" (okay, two remixes, but one is simply a shorter version of the other), these two songs are taken in several unique directions, reinterpreted in a variety of ways, and yet always retaining the heart of the song that is clearly identifiable. Mark Saunders, William Orbit, Gareth Jones, and Daniel Miller (along with Bruce Smith and George Holt) did a fabulous set of remixes for this single.
For anyone with more than a passing interest in Erasure, this set of CD singles may be worth looking into. For a reasonable price, you can pick up a large number of rare remixes, some of which are on CD for the first time ever (the last three tracks on the "You Surround Me" disc, for example, are quite rare).
(reviewed by Daniel Aeschliman on October 29, 2002)
All songs on this disc written by Vince Clarke and Andy Bell except for "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," which is a traditional song
All songs on this disc produced by Erasure; mixed by Mark Saunders
All songs on this disc written by Vince Clarke and Andy Bell.
"Drama!" produced by Garth Jones, Mark Saunders, and Erasure; mixed by Mark Saunders and Daniel Miller
"Sweet, Sweet Baby" produced by Mark Saunders and Erasure; mixed by Mark Saunders
"Paradise" produced by Gareth Jones, Mark Saunders, and Erasure; mixed by Mark Saunders
"You Surround Me"
"You Surround Me" and "91 Steps" written by Vince Clarke and Andy Bell
"Supernature" written by Cerrone/Wisniak/Lovich
"You Surround Me" and "91 Steps" produced by Garth Jones, Mark Saunders, and Erasure; mixed by Gareth Jones
"Supernature" produced by Gareth Jones, Mark Saunders, and Erasure; mixed by Daniel Miller and Phil Legg
"Blue Savannah" and "Runaround On The Underground" written by Vince Clarke and Andy Bell
"No G.D.M." written by Gina Kikoine
"Blue Savannah" produced by Gareth Jones, Mark Saunders, and Erasure; mixed by Gareth Jones and Mark Saunders
"Runaround On The Underground" and "No G.D.M." produced by Erasure; mixed by Mark Saunders
All songs on this disc written by Vince Clarke and Andy Bell
"Star" produced by Gareth Jones, Mark Saunders, and Erasure
"Dreamlike State" produced by Erasure; mixed by Daniel Miller, Bruce Smith, and George Holt