Erasure – Rock Me Gently

As far as I’m concerned, there’s little argument about which Erasure album is best – definitely one of the main candidates would be 1995’s enormous eponymous Erasure, which we listened to previously a while back.

After two fairly minor hit singles, and a relatively unsuccessful album (it only peaked at number 14, whereas the previous five had all hit the top spot, although releasing a studio album in November in those days generally wasn’t great for chart positions), the decision was made not to release any more singles in the UK, but the Czech Republic and Germany got an extra one, the brilliant Rock Me Gently.

It’s one of the first intentionally non-charting singles I know of, as the Czech version was widely available on import in the UK, and it might be my favourite single ever. First, you get the single version, a subtle but beefed up reworking of the original, cut down from ten to four minutes without losing too much of the atmosphere of the album version.

It’s a curious choice of single, and it was never going to be a huge hit anyway, so why should it have conventional remixes? First up is A Combination of Special Events, which takes the soft organ sounds which we would later learn belong to the original demo version, and spreads them out over ten minutes, mixing in some more exploratory elements for the long middle section with Diamanda Galás.

Next comes a remix from Phil Kelsey, a regular guest on Erasure‘s 12″ singles, which takes the track into darker, almost deep house territory. There isn’t a lot of vocal here, but it still doesn’t feel too removed from the original, particularly the long middle section.

Possibly the best Erasure remix ever follows, the Bamboo version, reworked into a curious drum and bass-inspired piece by George Holt. By the standards of this era, it’s short, clocking in at just seven and a half minutes, but it’s quite unique and extremely good.

Having lost a good chunk of the original version on the cutting room floor when the single version was put together, it’s nice to see it recovered for the Extended version, which pretty much just takes the album version and adds the drums from the single. Leaving it every bit as good as the original, just a bit more bangy.

The near-instrumental b-side Chertsey Endlos brings the Czech CD to a close. I remember being a bit perplexed by it at the time, but actually it wraps this single up rather nicely. It may not be quite as essential as its predecessors, but neither does it diminish their power.

For the particularly adventurous, the German CD adds two more tracks. Having worked again through the single version and the b-side, you also get a live acoustic take of album track Sono Luminus, a pleasant interpretation of the song which is neither essential listening nor entirely forgettable. Then finally, the Out of the Moon remix of the title track by George Holt and Thomas Fehlmann (the latter occasionally of The Orb). This is a pleasant dub version built generally around the “mood” of the original song and with some of the elements of the Bamboo mix we heard earlier.

But while the German CD may not be entirely essential, the Czech one definitely is – as a companion to the original album it’s inescapably brilliant, and highly recommended.

Neither of the Rock Me Gently singles are still in print, and they never seem to have quite made it to the download universe either. But I’d heartily recommend tracking one or the other down. Seek and ye shall find.

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