Originally released in 1983 as an EP, this is the soundtrack to the live video of Ultravox, from their 1983 tour (hence the subtitle, "The Soundtrack"). This is Ultravox at their live best, and thankfully the reissued CD is expanded, containing all of the songs from the video (but still not the entire concert). "Reap the Wild Wind" is brilliant live and comes screaming at the listener with an extreme amount of energy and emotion. The same can be said for "The Voice." Midge Ure gives his all throughout, but here he is the voice. "Vienna" sounds wonderful and is certainly a crowd-pleaser. Fans will enjoy this live collection.
Midge Ure's career, as fans well know, did not begin or end with Ultravox, and so If I Was: The Very Best of Midge Ure & Ultravox attempts to give an overview of one of '80s' Britain's most popular singers. As a career retrospective goes, however, it's pretty spotty. The Scottish vocalist first found fame with the pop band Slik, who scored a chart topper with "Forever and Ever" in 1976. Unfortunately, you won't find that here, nor its hit follow-up, scored just as a car accident took the band out of the charts. Once recovered, Ure moved on. His first port of call, in 1978, was ex-Pistol Glen Matlock's punk/post-punk supergroup the Rich Kids, who released a single and album, although this compilation draws nothing from this period, either. The following year, with the Kids in disarray, Ure helped form the even more illustrious Visage. Joining him there was Ultravox's Billy Currie and, before the year was out, Ure was fronting two hit-bound bands. Visage gets short shrift here, with Ultravox invariably, if unfairly, better represented. But even this wasn't enough to keep the singer busy. In 1981, as both bands' albums and singles swept up the charts, Ure linked up with Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott for yet another hit, "Yellow Pearl".
Collecting B-sides from the Vienna to the Quartet era, Rare, Vol. 1 is a much better prospect than Vol 2. which comes from Ultravox's later, less interesting years. Here the band was still full of life and as many of the less formal tracks display, willing to experiment. The rickety "Keep Talking" is the strange sound of Ultravox jamming and if you've never been able to connect this cold band to member Midge Ure's earlier, more glam outfit the Rich Kids then you haven't heard their aggressive cover of Brian Eno's "King's Lead Hat" (and you really should).
With the departure of vocalist John Foxx and guitarist Robin Simon behind them, Vienna kicked off Ultravox's second phase with former Rich Kids vocalist Midge Ure at the helm. Trading Foxx's glam rock stance for Ure's aristocratic delivery, Vienna recasts the band as a melodramatic synth pop chamber ensemble with most of the group doubling on traditional string quartet instruments and the synthesizers often serving to emulate an orchestra. It was a bold move that took awhile to pay off (the first two singles, "Sleepwalk" and "Passing Strangers," went unnoticed), but when the monolithic title track was released, the Ure lineup became the band's most identifiable one almost overnight.
With the successes of Vienna and its follow-up, Rage in Eden, Ultravox's position in the music scene was unassailable, further fortified by frontman Midge Ure's foray into solo-dom with the summer 1982 hit cover of the Walker Brothers' "No Regrets." The band's "Reap the Wild Wind" followed it up the U.K. chart that fall, a taster for the band's sixth album. And what a portentous taste it was…