New wave/'80s fans found 2009 to be a year of reunions. The Midge Ure-era Ultravox lineup toured, even after keyboardist Billy Currie spent years spewing venom in Ure's direction. The Specials reconvened, albeit sans keyboardist Jerry Dammers. Heck, even Haircut 100 decided to give it another go with Nick Heyward at the helm (only percussionist Mark Fox and saxman Phil Smith sat it out). Perhaps the most successful and least likely reunion occurred when all five members of Spandau Ballet announced that they were getting back together. What makes this so amazing is that, just a handful of years ago, vocalist Tony Hadley, drummer John Keeble, and multi-instrumentalist Steve Norman had taken guitarist Gary Kemp to court over songwriting issues (they lost), and any chance of a reunion seemed to have gone sour. But, against all odds, the five members (who also include bassist Martin Kemp) ironed out their differences and undertook an enormously successful tour. Fans who were not able to catch them live were treated to a live DVD plus this acoustic-based studio creation called Once More. Apart from the acoustic reinterpretations of some of their biggest hits, the real attractions here are the two new tracks, "Once More" and "Love Is All." Both tracks are wonderful ballads that may not be as drop-dead gorgeous as "True," but they are right up there with other favorites like "How Many Lies." Perhaps as some sort of truce, "Once More" is credited to Gary Kemp and Steve Norman, while "Love Is All" is Hadley's baby. Both are proof that the Spandau magic is intact and ready to conquer the world again. As for the rest of the album, the boys in the band have rearranged songs from their catalog, putting the emphasis on the "song" itself and not the production. Some of the songs are given new life in the mostly acoustic arrangements, with only one, "Chant No. 1," sounding awkward and not entirely successful. The rest, though, are delicious new looks at songs that served as a soundtrack to a generation: "True," "Gold," "To Cut a Long Story Short," and "Only When You Leave," to name a few. They add a bluesy, funky feel to "Communication," while retaining its hook-filled melody. Lesser-known tracks like "Through the Barricades" and "With the Pride" are stunning in these new, simple arrangements that showcase Hadley's still-fantastic voice. Thankfully, the Spandau boys are still in top form, and one can only hope that a full studio album will hit the racks before they start suing each other and fall apart again.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Schnee