Category: Ultravox

Ultravox – Vienna

ARTIST: Ultravox                 Ultravox_-_Vienna

TITLE: Vienna

YEAR RELEASED: 1980

CHART ACTION: #164 US, #3 UK

SINGLES: Sleepwalk (#29 UK), Passing Strangers (#57 UK), Vienna (#2 UK), All Stood Still (#8 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: New Europeans

LINEUP: Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billy Currie, Midge Ure

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A reconstituted Ultravox goes towards electronics, and discovers the winning sound.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After practically disbanding when erstwhile leader John Foxx, Midge Ure joined up with three of the Ultravox quintet and formed practically a new band, since they remade their sound and style.

Going for a cool, European, electronic vibe in the manner of Gary Numan, and coupling that with the alien-sounding guitar of Ure and violin of Billy Currie, Ultravox’ Vienna struck the right mood in image, style, and sound.

Even though the sound is mostly electronic, drummer Warren Cann’s use of electronic percussion and programming (he came up with the signature percussion sounds in the title track) were unique.

The whole album came together, with the kick-off instrumental setting the mood for the entire record. This set the tone for the 80’s New Romantic movement in the UK.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Drummer Cann was the creepy vocal in “Mr. X”, and they also did a German version called “Herr X” (of course). Also, the US switched around the order in the first side, and it messed with the flow.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, B-sides and remixes abount

GRADE: A: A landmark album for the UK scene.

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Ultravox – Systems of Romance

ARTIST: Ultravox Ultravox_-_Systems_of_Romance
TITLE: Systems of Romance
YEAR RELEASED: 1978
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: Slow Motion, Quiet Men 
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Doubtful. They still weren’t a ripple on the US scene.
LINEUP: John Foxx, Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billy Currie, Robin Simon
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Still with Foxx leading the group, Ultravox loses the “!” and the punk rock and moves toward an embrace of electronics and synthesizers.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After two rather unsuccessful albums, and an appetite for evolution, Ultravox moves right into synthesizer rock with this album. It works on several levels.

First, the band feels comfortable in this setting, especially Currie, where we get the first taste of his electronically altered violin sound in “Slow Motion”. New guitarist Simon fits into this sound, adding sparse riffs and colorful fills to the proceedings.

Lyrically, Foxx is treading into Gary Numan territory, which is fine. But Foxx isn’t Numan – his vocals aren’t icy to be like Numan and they’re still a pain point for me. Still, the new sound is encouraging for listeners, and those who are used to the Midge Ure Ultravox would not be disappointed in this one.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The dreaded US tour did this incarnation in – Foxx was unhappy with the reception and the band and Simon decided to stay in the US for a while. So when they came back Cann, Cross and Currie needed to plot their next move…

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A couple of bonus tracks (b-side and long version of a single)

GRADE: B+: Love the sound of the album more than anything. Foxx still is a bother, but I can work around him.

Ultravox! – Ha! Ha! Ha!

Ultravox_-_Ha!-Ha!-Ha!ARTIST: Ultravox!
TITLE: Ha! Ha! Ha!
YEAR RELEASED: 1977
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: ROckWrok, The Frozen Ones, Young Savage
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Hiroshima Mon Amour
LINEUP: John Foxx, Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billy Currie, Stevie Shears
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second 1977 album introduces more keyboards, a drum machine, and a better set of songs.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is a pretty vast improvement over their self-titled debut. Ha! Ha! Ha! is the album that starts Ultravox! on the way to being Ultravox as we know them. Their synthesizers and electronics set more of a mood and feel, and the punky cuts have more energy and urgency to them.

Foxx’ vocals still irk me a bit, but he’s more in control and he actually does a good job in delivering Hiroshima Mon Amour as a torch song (complete with saxophone break).

They got some airplay on the BBC with this one, even without a single hitting the charts. Not to say this is a perfect album, but it’s better, and the bonus single Young Savage is probably their best punk-rock-electronica single.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Metalheads recall Hiroshima Mon Amour as covered by Alcatrazz. Mopers recall that song covered by the Church. I guess it can fit in both camps.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yeppers. The Young Savage single, some live cuts and some remixes and most of them actually add to the record.

GRADE: B+: Again, not perfect, but better and more of what I like about Ultravox and that whole electronics meets punk movement that was burgeoning in the UK.

Ultravox! – Ultravox!

ARTIST: Ultravox! Ultravox_ultravox
TITLE: Ultravox!
YEAR RELEASED: 1977
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: Dangerous Rhythm
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I Want to Be a Machine and My Sex had some notice in the UK.
LINEUP: Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billie Currie, John Foxx, Stevie Shears
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A fusion of electronica and UK new wave – this debut ain’t Midge Ure’s Ultravox, and to me, it tests patience at times.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Produced by Brian Eno, you’d expect some electronic tom-foolery, and you do get that. You also get bleak songs like I Want to Be a Machine, which only gets exciting when Currie’s violin makes an appearance about five minutes into it. But there’s more of a guitar-based sound that you maybe would have expected.

Some songs have pretty good moments. They were precursors to Gary Numan and Tubeway Army, but I thought Numan did this stuff better – the alienation, the machine persona, you name it. The only reason this is remembered is what the band became. Plus, I really don’t like Foxx’ vocals. They grate on me. I’d say about half of the songs are good enough for me.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: Before becoming Ultravox! and churning through a few names, they were known as Tiger Lilly and hit with a cover of “Ain’t Misbehavin’”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, some live cuts are appended.

GRADE: C+: It’s probably me – but I’m just not into this Ultravox persona, nor Foxx.