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…
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.
As the title suggests, Ultravox were in a gray mood as they launched into their seventh studio LP, their previous existential angst now pooling around personal anguish. The album's title track was a study in languorous melancholy, where the emotional pain lingered on and on. And why would it ever dissipate, when romance is forever doomed, as "When the Time Comes" exquisitely illustrated? Even "One Small Day," the most musically celebratory song on the set, battles depression but dismally loses the war. No wonder Ultravox were so keen to escape far into the past, with "Man of Two Worlds" taking them back to the gloriously romanticized days of the Celts. The modern world, in contrast, was filled with terrors, both emotional ("A Friend I Call Desire") and global. There was the omnipresent yellow peril to fear; but if "White China" warned of the dangers of creeping communism, the nation sworn to protect its citizens from a Stalinistic embrace proves just as nefarious on "Heart of the Country".
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).
ULTRAVOX Return To Eden - Live At The Roundhouse (2010 UK Deluxe Edition 3-disc [2CD/1DVD] set - Recorded during the bands 2009 sell out UK tour on April 30th at the legendary Roundhouse in London. The 'Return to Eden' tour was the first time that the classic Ultravox line-up of Midge Ure, Billy Currie, Criss Cross and Warren Cann had performed together in over 2 decades. This 3-disc set comprises a 18-track collection of live recordings including 'All Stood Still', 'The Thin Wall', 'Reap The Wild Wind', 'Hymn', 'Visions In Blue', their classic hit 'Vienna' and more; plus a Bonus DVD featuring their live performance at the Roundhouse, and the 'Building Eden Reformation' Documentary. Presented in a sealed tri-fold card digipak picture sleeve).