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: International Blue 
- Let The Silence Hold You
- Taking Back My Time
- Blown Away
- Sleep For England
- Song For A Deserted Wife
- 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.
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