Ultravox (formerly known as Ultravox!) are a British new wave band, formed in London in 1974 as Tiger Lily. Between 1980–86, they scored seven Top Ten albums and seventeen Top 40 singles in the UK, the most successful of which was their 1981 hit “Vienna“.
The band has been led by two different frontmen who never played together in the band at the same time. From 1974 until 1979, singer John Foxx was frontman and the main driving force behind Ultravox. Foxx left the band to embark on a solo career and, following his departure, with the three remaining members in hiatus, Midge Ure took over as lead singer, guitarist and frontman in 1980 after he and keyboardist Billy Currie worked in the studio project Visage. Ure revitalised the band and steered it to commercial success lasting until the mid-1980s. Ure left the band in 1987 after establishing his own solo career and the group disbanded for a while. A new line-up, led by Currie, was formed in 1992, but achieved little success.
The band’s best-known line-up of Currie, Ure, bassist Chris Cross and drummer Warren Cann reformed in 2008 and performed a series of reunion shows in 2009 and 2010 before releasing a new studio album, Brill!ant, in May 2012. In November 2013, Ultravox performed as special guests on a four date UK arena tour with Simple Minds.
Sleepwalk—-Although this track does sound dated and minimal compared to today’s standards, that is why purists such as myself love it. I am a self-proclaimed 80’s guru and I love most all of the music that was produced in that era. This is squiggly and fun…..I never tire of this band. I like this early incarnation…but Midge really cemented this band for me.
Passing Strangers—-I love the vocal inflections on this track and the way the whole band adds to the fullness of the song. This is classic overseas 80’s fare that I fell in love with. The Brits are always ahead of their time…..leaving us to play catch-up. This is an example…the US took many tips from bands like this.The synths are incredible…still adding guitars and real drums…..genius.
Vienna—-Is there anyone who does not know this song? This is the most morose track…silent and still….building to a dizzy climax that lets me know where Gary Numan got his idea for Sleep By Windows. The vocals are so emotive and intense…so sad and blended with the music in a grandiose magnificent way. The synths lead the entire thing down a path that has masterpiece written all over it. Just listen to the lyrics…….damn!
All Stood Still—-The instrumentation on this track gets close to the things bands like Berlin began doing in the early 80’s. Although I must say the lyrical content means way more than many of the aforementioned bands. These were the great years of the beginning synth wave…when musicians were discovering they could make a song without 8 other people involved. This makes me want to Goth dance and forget the climate of 2015.
The Thin Wall—-Another synth laden wall of sound at the onset. The vocal is almost theatrical…..at times sounding genuine and when the band joins in sounding more like a masterpiece. I’m telling you, overseas bands can teach us so much about good music…way, way before it happens here in the US. This was a classic recipe that made MTV a huge staple for so many years.
The Voice—-Grandiose in sound and sounding super produced, this track is damn near flawless. The swelling violins….the vocal from Midge. The sweltering emotion that drips from every word……yet the underlying energy that pervades. This is damn near perfect.There is so much emotional control to the vocal…it still gives me goosebumps…..yeah….I’m an 80’s kid.
Reap The Wild Wind—-Another pretty well known song from this band, the beginning keyboards remind me of a long lost 70’s soft rock radio hit. The swirls that wrap around you from the complicated synth are incredible. The vocals…at times almost spoken are accentuated by the backdrop voices of the rest of the band. This song is both sad and joyous…a journey in three minutes.
Hymns—-Never a favorite track of mine, I do love the chorus of the track. Mostly, the vocals are a bit too Broadway inspired for me…but this was ‘art-rock’ back in the day. The lyrical content makes me think though…allowing me to lose myself in a homemade daydream as I contemplate the meaning of writers words. A pretty good track…but not a standout.
Visions In Blue—-Well, I had almost forgotten about this track…talk about a Broadway inspired song. The spoken vocal and the ghastly instrumental track is right out of the songbook from Phantom Of The Opera. The track does wake up a bit…but this is rather too grand for me.
We Came To Dance—-Jumping head long back into the synth decadence of the era, this is the alternate alternative to Safety Dance. This song moves at such a great pace with a never-ending loop of synth that rarely alternates or deviates. This is spontaneous…joyous yet conjures up thoughts when 80’s dance was not so peaceful. This is pure joy to hear after such a time.
One Small Day—-Much more guitar based than anything yet heard thus far on this collection, this has a heady feel to it. The vocal is pushed so far back in the mix, you can barely hear it…to me this ruins the track….why are the instruments so much in your face when the vocal is so full of anguish and emotion. Sometimes….over production can ruin a masterpiece
Dancing With Tears In My Eyes—-.Except for Vienna, perhaps one of my favorite songs from this band. The emotion and urgency in the voice is what makes it all so important to me…this is a masterpiece of a song. I feel every word that comes from Ure…you can’t escape the joy and the sadness that is conveyed in a single way of singing. The instrumentation is classic American synth…but trust me…they had it down pat first. This is one of those songs I will listen to until I can’t.
Lament—-Seriously, this song sounds like a instrumental mix of Phil Collins and Depeche Mode…..we never travel far from our heroes. To me. or for me, this is a sad song…the piano and the drivel makes it heavy. There are layers and layers of music on this song…makes you sit back and say wow.
White China—-Ok…….this seriously has Depeche Mode written all over the instrumentation. Even the band joining in from time to time seems like a Gahan recipe. I don’t like this song…to me it is grasping at the future, or trying to stay current without coming up with something that original. Come on guys….I expect so much more from you…..
Love’s Great Adventure—-Returning in full force to the defining sound of New Wave Europe, the lyrics make you think and feel. The music makes you feel joyous and I have the urge to dance and type at the same instant. This is a masterpiece of a song…one of the reasons I fell in love with this band…how wonderful….no other words explain my joy!!!
Same Old Story—-Right from the onset, this track sounds hollow and under-produced. The added horns and background female singers need to be erased and you would have a classic song. This is sad to me….explaining to me why this band took such a long hiatus. This is not Ultravox but a producers idea of what it was supposed to sound like with the changing times. You can’t force a band to be something you want them to be.
All Fall Down—-Full of Irish references and f aux bagpipes, this is a huge song. The mood of the song is again, a bit theatrical…but the feeling of the lyrics are not lost. This is a nice swan song…the march of the music and huge choir of voices is phenomenal…I love this….but there could have been so much better.
All In One Day—-With huge instrumental swells and mood enhancing oboes, the song is striped bare of synths at the onset…again making me feel like I’m in the middle of a play. The voice is so strong and inflection…..you can’t help but fall in love with this band…but I could think of 8 better songs that could have been on here. This song is both sad and joyous….and really….at the end of the day…who can ask for more than emotion….because music matters!
****out of 5