Andy Bell

Electric Blue

The synth-pop legends of Erasure can still sell out a week of shows in San Francisco or New York as swiftly as they did in their early-'90s heyday. But lead singer Andy Bell has apparently been itching to release a solo album, and now we have Electric Blue, written without co-conspirator Vince Clarke. Bell did, however, choose frequent Erasure collaborators Manhattan Clique to produce the album. Here and there, the Clique indulges in a couple of those annoying vocoder tricks that helped put Cher's voice in tune a few years back. But Bell shows that such studio trickery is unnecessary for his big vocals, especially on pitch-perfect songs like "Shaking My Soul." He sounds as fresh as he did in the late '80s. The big-ticket partnering here, "I Thought It Was You," featuring the falsetto of the Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears, might end up the album's breakout club song, but it's "Love Oneself" and "Delicious," Bell's collaborations with Claudia Brucken (another synth-pop idol, from '80s group Propaganda), that manage to steal the show. Vince Clarke's quirky production sense is missed in places, but Electric Blue will still sit neatly alongside the duo's catalog and please longtime fans without a problem, perhaps even more than the last couple of Erasure albums.

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