Want List: Stephen Emmer – International Blue

Stephen Emmer © 2014 Carin Vabruggen

Stephen Emmer © 2014 Carin Vabruggen

As night follows day, just a day after posting about John Foxx, I just got a tip from commenter Nick that Midge Ure has come out of his fox[x]hole! An article in today’s Radio Times reveals that Ure has another solo album called “Fragile” in the pipeline for next month. That title sounds whole appropriate, considering the horrible sound he brought to the last Ultravox album. But the Radio Times had a free download from another project of Ure’s that is coming out first. He’s one of a stable of singers that Dutch musician Stephen Emmer [ex-Minny Pops] is working with for his third solo album, “International Blue.”

I have owned and enjoyed Emmer’s “Vogue Estate” EP from 1983 that featured “imaginary soundtrack” music with guest vocals from Martha Ladly and Billy MacKenzie. I obtained the CD in the late 90s but had not heard a peep from Emmer in the ensuing years. Apparently, he had been caught up in providing actual soundtrack music following “Vogue Estate” for a number of media outlets before getting the bug to follow his art once more in 2007 with the “Recitement” album that was produced by ace board man Tony Visconti. Seven years later and now his next opus is being readied with Visconti again overseeing the production.

stephen emmer - internationalblueCDA

Electric Fairytale Recordings | US | CD | 2014

 Stephen Emmer: International Blue [2014]

  1. Let The Silence Hold You
Taking Back My Time
  3. Blown Away
Sleep For England
Song For A Deserted Wife
  7. Seachange
Break In The Weather
Mama’s Mad
In The Mirror Reflected

This time it’s an album of lush, emotive ballads with dark, grandiose production courtesy of Emmer and Visconti, who both know more than a thing or two about arranging strings effectively. In all honesty, the sampled Midge Ure track, “Taking Back My Time” sounds great! Mr. Ure has remembered how to sing on this outing and any fans of Scott Walker, Burt Bacharach, and Glenn Gregory’s turn on the last B.E.F. album will find much to enjoy here as they settle into their library’s leather lounge chair and pour themselves a snifter of Cognac. This might be the best turn that Mr. Ure could hope for with someone else making the artistic decisions. A clean, jazzy guitar kicks off the song in a deceptively simple fashion. When the full orchestration enters after the first chorus anyone pining for the proto-avant garde Scott Walker sound [Marc Almond to the white courtesy phone…] will be rejoicing. Myself? Give me more of those mandolins and tympani!

Speaking of Glenn Gregory, the close, personal friend of Midge is another singer on “International Blue,” making this yet another Ure/Gregory matchup. Perhaps one day they’ll just make that joint album that they probably both have in them, but until then, this will more than suffice. “Untouchable,” the first “single” released from the album is out in “stores” already. Gregory took the reins on the song, making it another tribute again to his and Emmer’s late friend Billy MacKenzie. In fact, one can stream it below right now.

It’s a lovely, spectral ballad with spectacular baritone vocals from Mr. Gregory. It’s magnificent and one has to just love the lyrical reference to “Party Fears Two” in the very first line. Again, the jazzy guitar takes the tune into the stratosphere of adult pop that seems to be back in vogue of late. This work sequences well with the single [“Skyfall”] that Peter Godwin released a while back. If this project hadn’t already been top-loaded with baritone singers [in addition to Gregory and Ure, Liam [Cousteau] McKahey and Neil [Furlined] Crossley share vocals here] I daresay that Peter Godwin would have been an excellent addition to the roster. In any case, the rehabilitation of Midge Ure begins here.

I dearly hope that this project sees release on physical CD format, but it’s a hopeful sign that the “Untouchable” single is already in iTunes USA for purchase for those who cannot wait, so at the very least this will be getting a US release. The album is out on July 8 and tonight, if you are in the UK, the whole collective, including producer Visconti will be performing these songs live at Abbey Road Studio 2 with the concert being broadcast on Vintage TV [Sky 369, Virgin 343, and Freesat 515]. How I hope that this will eventually be hosted in the Live Sessions portion of the Abbey Road website for those of us who do not have European Satellite television.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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10 Responses to Want List: Stephen Emmer – International Blue

  1. Echorich says:

    I’m a fan of Emmer – even if I’ve not heard everything he’s created. Vogue Estates is a classic of the Early 80’s that still sounds impressive 30 odd years later.

    The Mackenzie tribute Untouchable with Glenn Gregory is one of the stand out songs of 2014 so far. It is both touching and impactful – a fitting piece of pop art for the most enigmatic voice of the 80’s. Each time I hear it there seems to be more to the song than the last time I heard it. Gregory hasn’t sounded better in over two decades. The phrasing is pure Mackenzie. Emmer and Visconti have washed the lyrics in a shimmering, majestic melange of strings, guitar and electronics. The final bass notes bring it all back down to earth with a satisfying finish.

    I have to say I am quite surprised at the power in Midge Ure’s vocal. The gravel of his live performance at 2011’s B.E.F. performance was a bit of a shock to these ears. The thinness of his vocals on the following year’s Ultravox release Brilliant, did nothing to make me feel any more confident that Ure would ever return to form. But wow, this sounds like Midge Ure circa 1985. I suspect this was an inspiring combination of artists and producer for Ure. I can only hope that the coming Ure solo album stands up to the power of Taking Back My Time.


  2. Tim says:

    “If this project hadn’t already been top-loaded with baritone singers [in addition to Gregory and Ure, Liam [Cousteau] McKahey and Neil [Furlined] Crossley share vocals here] I daresay that Peter Godwin would have been an excellent addition to the roster. In any case, the rehabilitation of Midge Ure begins here.”

    A Cousteau alumni sighting……….damn, I miss them.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – I’m an old fossil. I have never even heard of Cousteau! One baritone who came to mind this morning was David Freeman of The Lover Speaks. What has he been up to in the last nearly 30 years? Quite a lot, according to Discogs! I’ll have to check some of it out!


  3. Tim says:

    Cousteau = two albums, the lead one stunning and the second one….not a bad sophomore effort but after the first one you have to realign your ears a bit to accept it for what it is. Think Tindersticks with a heavy Scott Walker influence. Prior to their breakup they referred to themselves as sleazy listening. Album #1 is sublime. I keep on meaning to do my own “re-made & re-modeled” take on their catalog but never get around to it.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – Tindersticks…? You must realize after years of reading my scrawlings that I’m not too “hep” on all of this “contemporary” music “the kids” are listening to. I can tell you what Howard Devoto is up to but most if what had happened in the last 20 years is a cipher to me. So what were Timdersticks like, since I have a full array of Scott Walker music [canon up to date!*] in the old Record Cell?

      * – It helps my dwindling music budget that Walker is considerate enough to take 5-9 years between releases.


  4. Tim says:

    I used to see Tindersticks cds at my local crackhaus, I mean record store but at the import price I just couldn’t push the trigger to buy albums that looked like something that I may like without knowing what they sound like. Thanks to a certain……..uh…….very, very, VERY early one could say peer based file sharing system I was able to hear them and I was off to the store the next day and bought pretty much everything that I could lay my hands on. So hard to describe….maybe head on over to YouTube and try “A Marriage Made in Heaven,” “Can We Start Again” or “Tiny Tears.” Anne Dudley producing the bastard lovechild of Nick Cave and Lee Hazlewood?


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – That works well enough for me. Thanks! And thanks for using P2P wisely. These days I use iTunes previews in much the same way. Some times I even buy there if it’s (gulp!) download only with no other recourse to WAV or FLAC.

      Speaking of Lee Hazelwood, chasinvictoria once did some work for his son; giving me three degrees of separation between myself and the great Lee Hazelwood! That’s not too much to crow about, though. Forty years ago, there was the same degree of separation between myself and Richard Nixon!


  5. Echorich says:

    Cousteau and Tindersticks!! There is a double bill that I would travel across an ocean for. Tindersticks and those amazing vocals by Stuart Staples got me through the morass that was 90’s rock. Part Scott Walker, Nick Cave and Bryan Ferry – but none of them at the same time, his voice is so exceptional you never forget its timbre.
    Cousteau ended the 1990’s with one of the decades greatest singles and one which for me put the final nail in the coffin of Britpop – ‘The Last Good Day Of The Year.’ Part Bacharach/David, part Scott Walker, with a sprinkling of John Barry, Cousteau brought back drama and emotion to a British music scene that was sorely lacking both at the end of that forgettable decade.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Your ardor is telling. If you are that enthusiastic, then I need to take notes on Costeau and Timdersticks and say “hats off” to Stephen Emmer for putting this little soirée together!


  6. nick a says:

    This has just appeared …..


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