The Innocents was a phenomenally successful Erasure album, and remains their biggest selling original album to date by far. Produced by Stephen Hague, who had worked with the likes of Pet Shop Boys, OMD and New Order, the album topped the charts from its release, only to regain the number one spot again eighteen months later. Extremely popular with the fans, The Innocents is widely regarded as their finest work. The timeless A Little Respect, one of the band's most successful singles, opens the album. The staggeringly effective instrumentalisation and faultless vocals result in a fabulous song that worthy enough to open any album. Second up is Ship Of Fools, which was co-produced by Dave Jacob. Another masterpiece, this song has a wonderfully effective backing from Vince over potent lyrics of confusion and frustration. Beautifully sung throughout, with Andy's sultry lower register contrasting the falsetto of the previous track, this is a truly marvellous pop song.
Bell's singing has grown increasing confident and the lyrics are more adventurous than standard pop fare, but potentially interesting ideas stumble over rhymes like 'Medusa/Seduce you'.The Times
The sensational Phantom Bride is next, a wonderful song about a lonely girl and her struggle with life until a man injects some hope into her existence. Perhaps guilty of a slightly weak but still catchy chorus, this is a highly enjoyable number and no doubt would have made an excellent single back in 1988. Indeed, this track was finally released as a single to mark the 21st anniversary edition of the album in 2009. Chains Of Love follows, which remains one of Erasure's more successful American singles. With fine vocal support from Naomi Osborne and Caron Wheeler, a typically catchy chorus and another fine arrangement from Vince, this up-tempo track is a strong track.
Hallowed Ground slows the pace of the album after the previous two energetic tracks. A downcast song full of negative imagery as Andy laments over societies ills, the tone of the track is deep without ever being depressing making Hallowed Ground lyrically one of the band's finest. Sixty-Five Thousand is a very expendable track that offers very little to interest the listener. Dull, and uninspired this really should have been a b-side like most of Erasure's other instrumental tracks.
Heart Of Stone resurrects the album. The addition of brass by The Kickhorns gives this song an extra thrust, further enhancing the listener's pleasure of this fun and agreeable track. Yahoo! is a pseudo-gospel song, where Andy preaches about the dangers of the Devil and the glory of God. Despite the silliness of the song, it is so uplifting and fun it is hard not to enjoy this track. Imagination is another decent Erasure song, which is made up of a top-tapping chorus with a fine music backdrop. The band show more invention and variety with Witch In The Ditch, with it's pulsating waltz-like arrangement which highlights how varied an individual Erasure album can be. Weight Of The World is a strong conclusion to the album, and although the chorus isn't perhaps as gratifying as it could be, it is still a fine song. Some versions of the album also came with two weak bonus tracks. When I Needed You is quite popular amongst fans, but the vastly contrasting tempos of the verse and chorus create a fragmented song. It seems to me that they were written as two different entities and hurriedly stuck together. River Deep, Mountain High is a decent cover version, perhaps slightly long, which offers nothing astonishing as the album finally fizzles out to its disappointing conclusion.
In 2009, to mark 21 years since this album's original release, the album was remastered and re-released with the 2xCD and DVD box set edition bringing with it a host of extras. Remastered, this album sounds crisper and better than ever whilst saying true to the original recordings. A second CD of b-sides and rarities is a very welcome addition with the Shiver Me Timbers Mix of Ship Of Fools and Country Joe mix of Don't Suppose being the outstanding tracks on offer. The DVD offers a performance from The Innocents Live concert at the NEC in Birmingham as well as performances from the BBC archives. Given the box set is very reasonably priced, it makes for an essential purchase. For the box set, add another half star to the score.
The Innocents is an album with some great Erasure moments. Stephen Hague's production is exceptionally slick (although perhaps is a little guilty of diluting some of the intricacies of the music too far into the background) and Andy's vocals have rarely sounded better. The weak last few tracks do sadly detract from this album as a whole, as does the unnecessary Sixty-Five Thousand. However the strengths far out-weight the weaknesses, making this a fine addition to any pop fan's CD collection.
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