Less than a year after the release of the World Be Gone album, it came as a surprise to many a fan when it was announced the album was to be completely re-recorded in collaboration with Echo Collective (a Belgian group of post-classical musicians) and re-packaged as the World Beyond album. Unlike it's predecessor, World Beyond opens with Oh What A World and this track very much reflects what is about to come - lots of beautiful classical instruments complimenting Andy's unplugged vocals. It's a really effective rendition of the song and gives the track a more heartfelt feeling than the more foreboding original, with Andy really excelling vocally. Be Careful What You Wish For! follows and sounds divine with lush string instrumentation and simple piano notes. It's clear that the stripped back and low tempo nature of the original album translates well into conventional acoustic instruments and it's another pleasant re-working. As is World Be Gone, which shows that Echo Collective has been very faithful to Vince's instrumentation (with the shimmering synth echos translating to string plucking). But this track starts to highlight what's missing from World Beyond - backing vocals. The lush chorus of the original washes over you, but here feels a little too bare and could really have been lifted by having some layered vocals to go with the layered acoustic arrangement.
Whilst some experiments have inconclusive results, this time it has proved that whatever the format or arrangement, Erasure are a great songwriters and artists who are maybe undervalued in the world of 'serious' music and are much more than the camp 80's hit-machine some see them as.Louder Than War
A Bitter Parting is up next and once more is a nice, classical rendition that barely strays from the essence of the original track. The bass guitar in particular feels like a good nod to the original synth bassline. As with many tracks on this album Andy's vocals sound great and are given a bit more room to breathe in the absence of synthesisers. Still It's Not Over is the first track to really show a flourish of something a bit different from the original version, with some Andy woahs in the introduction. That's about as far as the differences go though, as once more the instrumentation is very faithful to the original version. Andy's vocals sound a tad strained in the chorus but otherwise it's a fine version of a fine song. The version of Take Me Out Of Myself really highlights what a delicate, sweet track this song is, but generally it can't elevate the track above mediocrity. Again, the single-track nature of the vocals makes the song feel a little bare. The opening chimes of Sweet Summer Loving follow next and really demonstrate how respectful Echo Collective have been towards the World Be Gone originals. At no point do the tracks veer away from the recordings the fans are already familiar with. Andy's vocals are especially sweet here and it's clear he has connected with the instrumentation and delivered an appropriated measured performance.
Fans' Best/Worst Of
- Oh What A World
- World Be Gone
- Be Careful What You Wish For!
- Take Me Out Of Myself
- Sweet Summer Loving
Love You To The Sky is perhaps the most interesting of all the tracks from World Beyond as this song is the hardest to replicate in a classical style. For obvious reasons it's no longer home to a thumbing beat, but still translates well. It's still not the best song they've ever written, but does show how strong the band's song-writing skills are as their work can so readily work in a number of different styles. Next up is Lousy Sum Of Nothing which is probably the most disappointing track on the album, at least for me personally. I adore the original and think the epic, spine-chilling chorus is one of their very best, but here Andy elects for a lower register which extinguishes all of the power from proceedings. Despite the huge anti-climax of a chorus, it's still a great song but undoubtedly it's not on a par with the original. Nor is the final track on the album, Just A Little Love. This is the only track that really doesn't work: the chime noise that makes up the song's intro persists throughout the song and actually becomes quite annoying; the strings in the tune of the "think about it baby" backing vocals are misjudged and the chorus doesn't stand out enough from the rest of the track. Andy muddling his vocals at the song's conclusion does nothing to rectify things and overall ends the album in disappointing fashion.
World Beyond is beautifully performed throughout but ultimately it feels unfulfilled in many places. The unplugged nature of the album was of course the point, but it makes for quite a one-dimensional listening experience. By relentlessly only having one voice throughout makes the vocals feel like they are lacking something extra and if layering more of Andy's vocals into the mix went against the vision the band had for the album, why not have some session singers provide backing vocals instead? With a limited number of instruments used throughout, the album does get a bit samey after a while and whilst Echo Collective have been truthful to the original versions, there's a sense it's been played a little too safe and that rather than being re-interpretations of the songs, they merely feel like re-recordings. There's little creativity or flair, certainly when compared to Andrew Poppy's The Two Ring Circus arrangements, and not enough originality compared to Steve Walsh's Union Street renditions which are far removed from the original versions. It's a shame because World Beyond is pleasant enough, but I can't feeling it could have been something much better with a little more desire to re-imagine and push the songs in new directions.
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