Record Review: Midge Ure – The Gift DLX RM [part 4]

JPN LP with obi

[continued from last post]

The second supplemental disc managed to round up almost every affiliated rarity that surrounded the album. There were a few items missing, which we’ll duly note. The 7″ version of “Call Of The Wild” was missing, and while the “No Regrets” single discussed in the next paragraph was here, “After A Fashion,” his team up with JAPAN’s Mick Karn wasn’t. It would have been nice to get those 12″ single tracks on an album like this. Since this was a “definitive edition” of course they had to add some previously unreleased bait for the fans to buy again. While “The Gift” was al album of the ’85-’86 period, the bonus tracks began with something that went all the way back to 1982, and was the first solo Midge Ure release, and we’re so glad that they did.

“No Regrets” was a UK single that when released in the summer of 1982, went top 10 in the UK. The Tom Rush heartbreak ballad had been a single for the writer in 1967, so it had knocked around a bit in the 15 years before Ure covered it. It looks like dozens of artists took a crack at this one. It was last heard in the UK charts as the late-in-the-game hit single by the reformed 1970s Walker Brothers in 1975. Ure was definitely a Scott Walker fan as he’s admitted that “Vienna” was influenced by “The Electrician” and on this song, he stuck fairly close to the arrangement that The Walkers made a hit with; even sticking closely to the iconic guitar solo.

Ure, chopped off an extra verse and ramped up the tech and buffed the final product to a fortissimo 4:00 length. This single was killer great stuff that I first heard when MTV would occasionally play the video in the early 80s, in defiance of the fact that the song had never been released here until 1993 on a Ultravox/Midge Ure “best of” compilation. I finally got the song in the Record Cell when it showed up as a B-side on the “Wastelands” 12″ single. It took me long years to finally get the 7″ of this and the 12″ [pictured here – I still don’t have one] had a different sleeve but was musically identical to the 7″ version. The instro B-side was notable for naming Ure’s music publishing company and little else.

Next, the full contents the “If I Was” 12″ single appeared. The extended A-side ramped up the instrumental quotient of the song with standard buildups favored at the time. It’s nothing that made the song any better or worse. The version of “The Man Who Sold The World” was another of Ure’s 1982 side trips brought back into the fold. He recorded it for the 1982 soundtrack album of the movie, “Party, Party,” a rather fun group of mostly covers by UK pop stars of the time. I had to have this in 82 for his version of Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World.” I had not heard the original at that time, but it was Bowie with Ure covering it! It had to be amazing.

Well, the song has never done anything for me to this day. Even the Bowie original, which I heard by the 90s. The version on the B-side of the “If I Was” 12″ is a 5:30 version and the version on “Party Party” is a 5:50 take. I have heard that it’s a newer recording in 1985 but I’ve not bothered to do the forensic listening and analysis to determine this or not. It’s still a dreary, turgid song; now with added synthesizers and drum machines. The real prize of this single was the instrumental non-LP B-side, “Piano.” It showed that Ure had been listening to Philip Glass back then and was taking notes! It’s all piano and [sampled] piccolo ostinatos and builds in an infinite loop of swirling tension. It’s an exciting 2:30 at just the right length.

One of the defining features of the 12″ single of “That Certain Smile” was that there was no extended 12″ remix; and almost unthinkable notion in 1985! That did not mean that they didn’t try. There is a 6:30 extended mix on this CD; the only place where it can be heard. For a reason! It sounds like a rough mix that might have been abandoned since anyone could see that it was not meant to be. The EQ darts all over the place here and what little integrity the song had is eviscerated in the attempt. I did like the extended coda on the fadeout though! They had something going there.

The other 12″ B-sides featured here. The instrumental version of “The Gift” was less anguished without Ure’s vocal on top. As usual, the winner here was still the B-side from the original 12″ single. The live version of “Fade To Grey” from Ure’s rehearsals for his big solo tour of late ’85 featured Mick Ronson on the left channel playing guitar. Slide, by the sound of it. Ure took the leads on the right channel. The whole thing had a wild west, Morricone tinge to it and we had always waited to hear this song sung by Ure, so it managed to fulfill the dream well enough.

The first real winner on 12″ mixes from Ure was the “Wastelands” extended version. It managed to build up the levels of the song’s melodrama exceptionally well. The extended intro built, and built, until it was finally undercut by a single piano note just prior to Ure’s joining in on the song. While the album mix was a highlight, the 12″ version stood as definitive to these ears. Mark Brzezicki, of Big Country played the drums on this track and cemented his place in the future Ultravox lineup, though no-one here knew that it would happen! The other tracks from this 12″ were the live @ Wembley Stadium versions of “The Chieftain/The Dancer.” Live band drummer Kenny Hyslop [ex-Slik] does his best but the monster drum machines of “The Chieftain” were not to be topped, and Kevin Powell does his best to walk in Mark King’s footsteps in an admirable attempt. The live version wisely segued after 2:30 into the first ever live Visage track; “The Dancer.” This lively track from the Visage debut came across exceptionally well. Almost making us wonder what a full Visage tour by Ure and his band might have been like.

The créme de la créme of Midge Ure’s solo career was definitely the 12″ version, remixed by Rik Walton, of “Call Of The Wild.” This was probably a full Messenger’s track that never got released since Colin King was also credited on the writing of it with Daniel Mitchell and Ure. The 12″ mix was radically re-structured with the thunderdrums dropping the listener right into the middle of a team of horses running at full gallop. The bass of Kevin Powell managed to keep up with the rapidly firing drum machines here rather well. The metallic squeals of Ure’s guitar added frissons of howling rock tension to the song. Whenever I hear this it’s pulse-racing time. Ure never sounded better than he did here, and the 8:00 12″ mix always ends way faster than I would have preferred it to! It’s too bad that Razormaid didn’t make a killer 10:00 version of this one.

Next: …Live At Wembley

 

 

About postpunkmonk

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11 Responses to Record Review: Midge Ure – The Gift DLX RM [part 4]

  1. Tim says:

    Thanks for the mentions of his autobiography. I wasn’t aware that such a thing was and it was pretty affordable for the Kindle version. I’m working through a re-reading of Studs Terkels’ oral history of the Depression and when done with that it’s next in the to-read queue.

    Liked by 1 person

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – Ure’s book covers a lot of interesting territory. When I saw him live in ‘16 and ‘17 he had an expanded audiobook version on flash drive at merch. I had him autograph my UK hardcover the second go-round. He had possibly the most interesting ten year span of a career between ‘75-‘85 of any musician I could name. The chapter on Band Aid was most interesting for his candor at his chagrin for ripping up the same musician’s that ended up being asked to perform on the single. If you recall interviews with Ure in the UK music press, he was not shy about saying exactly what he felt about his competition. Of course no one made an issue of it but I liked that Ure worried about it.

      Like

      • Tim says:

        The Amazon one is an expanded edition but you have to be using a Kindle to get at it, if you use the reader app on something else you don’t get the expanded content.

        I am looking forward to this one, it only had 11 reviews on amazon, which I suspect are hardcore fans, but if the honesty/self-deprecation levels are what people are saying it is I think that I will like it.

        Like

  2. negative1ne says:

    thanks for mr monk, for the extended coverage.
    not much to add to the reviews, since you covered them in depth.
    waiting on the live track details.

    i will say that ‘call of the wild’ still gives me chills listening to it.
    i don’t have the 7 inch yet, but will get it at some point, and
    i have the 12 inch with the black and white picture, not the color
    one, which i have to get also. my other 12 inch has a rip in it, when
    i tore off the plastic to it, it still reminds me of how impatient i was to
    just listen to this non-album track.

    i do like the ‘that certain smile’ 12 inch remix though, the song
    needed a real extended version, and this pretty much covers it.

    i like how midge ure isn’t scared of covering big songs, or covers
    of other well known artists. funny thing is, i like his takes better
    than the originals. and especially his covers of the visage songs.
    when i heard the originals, i was disappointed that they weren’t
    as good. especially ‘fade to grey’.

    some of his live versions are as good as the studio versions,
    case in point is ‘after a fashion’. a terrific take on it. but i’m
    getting ahead of myself.

    the early live recordings of groups circa 81-84, like ultravox,
    midge ure, simple minds, etc, were great because the crowd
    noise was very low….listen to the ‘monument’ ultravox live album,
    and the versions were close but not quite the album versions,
    and back then groups cared about making their live instruments
    sound ‘right’, now you hear distorted recreations of the music
    and its sounds completely off (the last simple minds tour was
    so disappointing, i didn’t bother writing a response to your review
    of it). ..anyways, more on this, in your next post.

    later
    -1

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      negative1ne – I only recently found out about the B/W/Color variations of the “Call Of the Wild” 12″ but I got the clear vinyl 7″ in the early 90s. Maybe even at a record show. My 12″ has the color photo. I thought it was funny how the huge 12″ single has a tiny 35mm slide sided image on it. Yes, it is a record to send the endorphins rushing along the spinal cord. It’s that thrilling! I saw from some recent Midge Ure set lists that he’s been occasionally covering “Yellow Pearl” in concert now. What I’d give to see him sing that one! Or better yet to add his vocal to the master tape. I wouldn’t want the instrumentation to change, but it would be very cool to hear him sing it.

      Like

      • Vlad says:

        Monk, he doesn’t sing it. It’s often at the start of the show and is used as an instrumental prelude which then segues into “Passing Strangers” (a bit like “Chieftain/Dancer” live mix). I too expected to hear him sing it but no, for some reason he doesn’t do it.

        Like

  3. zoo says:

    I don’t know if Midge gets enough credit as a guitarist. His razor-sharp tone is superb, and he’s a very tasteful player as well. He can get a little “whammy bar” happy at times (“Call of the Wild,” for example), but that’s a minor quibble.

    Like

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