Following last year’s expanded reissues of the group’s first two albums, Big Break Records has returned to the catalogue of Eruption with another title from the soulful disco group. The Best of Eruption was originally released on the Hansa label in 1981, but BBR’s new iteration has happily upped the track listing from 14 to 19 selections to provide a fuller overview of Eruption’s positively volcanic legacy in disco, pop, soul, funk, and R&B.
Founded in the United Kingdom in 1969 by members of African and Caribbean descent, the group (originally named Silent Eruption) had a major breakthrough in 1975 at the U.K. RCA Soul Search Contest. Eruption won the competition and gained a contract with the major label, yielding the single “Let Me Take You Back in Time.” But the song penned by lead singer Lindel Leslie and produced by Billy Jackson failed to gain much commercial traction, and Eruption returned to the trials of the road.
In Germany, Eruption was spotted by a talent scout for Frank Farian. Though he would much later become notorious as the producer behind Milli Vanilli, Farian was then best known as the voice of Boney M. Farian enlisted the five-member group now fronted by Precious Wilson (a backup singer promoted to lead vocalist in 1975 after Leslie departed the ranks) to become part of Boney M’s live band on a European tour. A new deal with Hansa Records led to the single release of the raucous floor-filler “Party, Party,” but Eruption’s second single, a cover of Ann Peebles’ southern soul tour de force “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” became its most enduring hit. The epic disco reinvention became a U.K. top 5/U.S. top 20 hit in 1978 and opened the eponymous debut album Eruption on the Hansa label produced by Farian and Rainer M. Ehrhardt.
The Best of Eruption naturally kicks off with “I Can’t Stand the Rain” and features tracks culled from the band’s three original Hansa albums. 1977’s Eruption blended high-octane disco originals like “Computer Love” and “Wayward Love” with familiar covers. In addition to “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” the band tackled funk on Brass Construction’s “Movin'” and classic balladry on a reprise of Gladys Knight and the Pips’ medley of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt’s “Try to Remember” with Marvin Hamlisch and Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s Academy Award-winning “The Way We Were.” Precious Wilson’s vocals truly smoldered on the latter, which is no small feat considering its pedigree not only with Knight, but with “Way We Were” originator Barbra Streisand.
Sophomore album Leave a Light yielded five tracks on the original Best of Eruption, expanded to six on this reissue. These highlights include Leonard Caston and Terri McFaddin’s touching “Leave a Light (I’ll Keep a Light in My Window),” previously recorded by artists including Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye (as a duet), The Temptations and Smokey Robinson as well as co-writer Caston on his Motown LP Caston and Majors (reissued by BBR in 2013). Though the dance-oriented reworking of “Leave a Light” didn’t repeat the success of “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” the next track from an even more unlikely source did. “One Way Ticket (To the Blues)” was written by Jack Keller and Hank Hunter and recorded by Neil Sedaka in 1961. Farian and co-producer Rainer M. Ehrhardt recast the song’s moody melody and train-like rhythm for a new dance generation. With Precious Wilson taking the impassioned lead and Eruption providing the robotic backing vocals, “One Way Ticket” became a major international hit. It reached No. 9 in the U.K. and in the U.S., made the Disco top 30. Leave a Light crucially allowed Wilson to further showcase her versatility, including on a straight ballad take of a classic Dionne Warwick hit (Andre and Dory Previn’s hauntingly beautiful “(Theme From) Valley of the Dolls”). Eruption originals included “Hey There Lonely Girl” (not the Eddie Holman favorite), the reggae-flecked “Left Me in the Rain,” and the uptempo workout “Up and Away.”
After Leave a Light, Precious Wilson departed Eruption to pursue a solo career, and was replaced by Kim Davis for the band’s third album Fight Fight Fight, from which three tracks appear. The most successful was the dance makeover of Del Shannon’s 1961 chart-topping “Runaway,” which became a moderate hit in Germany with its chugging dance beat refusing to obliterate Shannon and Max Crook’s beguilingly eerie melody. “Go, Johnnie, Go (Keep on Walking, John B.)” repurposed the famous cry of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” into an altogether new, midtempo composition; it earned Eruption a top 10 hit in Germany. The third selection here from Fight, the peppy and soulful “You (You Are My Soul),” was also released as a single in conjunction with the Best Of album.
In addition to “Up and Away” and the RCA single of “Take You Back in Time,” BBR has added the 12-inch extended versions of “I Can’t Stand the Rain” and “One Way Ticket,” as well as the funky, party-ready “Good, Good Feelin’,” the B-side of “Runaway.” Good, good feelings run throughout this buoyant collection, produced for BBR by Wayne A. Dickson and Casper Janssen, and copiously annotated by Janssen. Nick Robbins has remastered all tracks. Make no mistake – The Best of is an Eruption of classic pop-disco grooves.
- I Can’t Stand the Rain
- Go Johnnie Go (Keep on Walking, John B.)
- Leave a Light (I’ll Keep a Light in My Window)
- Party, Party
- Computer Love
- (Theme From) Valley of the Dolls
- One Way Ticket (To The Blues)
- Hey There, Lonely Girl
- Left Me in the Rain
- The Way We Were
- Wayward Love
- You (You Are My Soul)
- Good Good Feelin’ (Hansa 102 632, 1981)
- Up and Away (from Leave a Light, Hansa International 200-213, 1979)
- Let Me Take You Back in Time (RCA Victor U.K. single 2581, 1975)
- I Can’t Stand the Rain (12-Inch Long Version) (Hansa 12-inch single PRO 7686, 1978)
- One Way Ticket (12-Inch Long Version) (Hansa 12-inch single 600 065, 1979)