Ultravoxless: Voiceless “Vienna” Still Delights

ultravox - vienna steven wilson 2xCD cover art
Chrysalis Catalogue | UK | 2xCD | 2021 | CHRC1296

Ultravox: Vienna [Steven Wilson Remix + Instrumental] – UK – 2xCD [2021]

Disc One: “Vienna” [Steven Wilson Remix]

  1. Astradyne
  2. New Europeans
  3. Private Lives
  4. Passing Strangers
  5. Sleepwalk
  6. Mr. X
  7. Western Promise
  8. Vienna
  9. All Stood Still

Disc Two: “Vienna” [Steven Wilson Instrumental Remix]

  1. Astradyne
  2. New Europeans [inst.]
  3. Private Lives [inst.]
  4. Passing Strangers [inst.]
  5. Sleepwalk [inst.]
  6. Mr. X [inst.]
  7. Western promise [inst.]
  8. Vienna [inst.]
  9. All Stood Still [inst.]

Some would say that after last year’s ultrabox of “Vienna” that the decision to uncouple the Steven Wilson stereo remix of the album [created to let him make a surround mix of the album] and sell it as a Record Store Day edition would be exploitative, but some wise person thought to include an instrumental disc of Wilson’s [modest] remix version. It’s out there and not terribly expensive on the CD format, so I was on it. I wondered how the experience of the album would be without Midge Ure belting it out on top of the music. The short form? It’s still a great synth rock album!

If anything, the absence of vocals draws even more attention to the outrageous musicianship that the band had at their disposal at this stage of the game. And one gets to appreciate the details of arrangement that got swept away in the vocal power of Ure sweeping through it. Ure’s guitar in “New Europeans” now more than ever seems like a stand-in for the tone that Robin Simon had brought to “Quiet Men” on the previous album.

The Moog bass lines in “Private Lives” now get much more prominence and that track’s Achilles heel; its sketchy lyrical content [they were just learning] is now absent from the playing field, making their playing stronger. I had never really noticed the complexity with the melody in the middle eight, for example.

“Passing Strangers” was another instance where Chris Cross’ bass [guitar] this time, really got some spotlight for once. Cross was usually the odd one out with three extroverts like Ure, Cann, and Currie competing for oxygen in the band! This disc allows him the room to breathe for once.

My favorite track, “Western Promise” also got some transformation without vocals. Of course the long buildup was unchanged, but where the electric “Hai!” was once the start of the vocals, I could now [finally] hear a tight descending fill by Cann leading into the first verse. And not having vocals, made the crazed synth-like flute that I loved so much really pop in the mix. Allowing me to absorb all of the previously obscured detail. I have still heard nothing like it in the intervening 41 years.

The big splash of “Vienna” probably owed a lot of its commercial success to Midge Ure’s powerful vocal. Without it, the star of the show is clearly Warren Cann’s distinctive drumbeat. The piano in the chorus is surprisingly clean and simple, with Currie clearly waiting for his solo in the middle eight to shine.

The pulsating “All Stood Still” also had enormous detail to drink in without the lead and especially backing vocals to demand attention. There was a pause at the end of the first chorus on Currie’s distorted lead that was utterly new. The bell-like synth tones in the middle eight were also new to these ears. But the biggest difference was how the infamous cold ending played out minus the massed vocals stopping on a dime. The lead synth got a short pan from channel to channel as it’s envelope faded out one beat behind the music.


This is still a sharp listen and it’s surely grist for the mill of hardcore Foxx-fans who bemoan Ure’s presence in the band. Though I’m not one of them. Even so, it’s interesting to hear details that normally get glossed over by the presence of the vocals. And in the end, we’ve now got a six disc BSOG edition of “Vienna” and how can that be anything but a good thing? Especially with the fact that it was not just on 2xLP clear vinyl but also the beleaguered silver disc that is the apple of my eye. And having it released both in the UK and America just pushed all of my happy buttons for a change.

-30-

About postpunkmonk

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32 Responses to Ultravoxless: Voiceless “Vienna” Still Delights

  1. Gavin says:

    I have not heard this yet, but a group of us on Twitter were making suggestions as to who could do a new vocal. Logan Sky suggested John Foxx, but then we descended into farce with my suggestions being the pretentious plum-voiced art critic Brian Sewell, or diminutive Scottish comedian Wee Jimmy Krankie.
    We live in hope…

    Like

  2. negative1ne says:

    hi mr monk,

    great job on this. i too have been looking forward to this release. although i don’t have it yet, i’m sure to get it shortly.

    in a way i cheated, and created my own instrumental versions of the tracks earlier this year, using audio tools that separated the voice out. although of course, these will be much higher quality and originals using the multitracks. the surround sound mix did have some interesting sounds in them also as you pointed out in earlier reviews.

    will this be the last of vienna from ultravox, or will we see any more discoveries on further anniversaries. probably. as they move onto the next deluxe releases. i hope they do this treatment for all the forthcoming albums (yes, even u-vox). but it will be a long process, and many years.

    later
    -1

    Like

    • negative1ne says:

      Hi mr. monk,
      finally got around to getting it. Very nice. I have to get it on vinyl also.
      But at some point, these will be great for creating extended versions,
      if someone hasn’t already done so. still nice to hear the isolated passages
      and instruments.

      later
      -1

      Like

      • postpunkmonk says:

        negative1ne – I figured that you and Tim who like to make mixes would be definite customers. I was happy that it came out in America and on CD as well! There were only about five CDs for RSD drop 2! I should try to get some mixing experience. I’m always imagining remixes but have never sat down at any of my DAWs [I have three] and bothered trying to learn. There’s always so many projects I want to do with skills I’ve already honed that developing new skills doesn’t seem worth the time.

        Like

  3. Tim says:

    I just snagged the CD version of this on Amazon for a price that was not price gougey.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. RichardAnvil says:

    My only quibble here is why include Astradyne on the instrumental cd when it’s already an instrumental and is disappointing that they didn’t include the rather brilliant Steven Wilson mixes of any of the b sides on either disc (Waiting IMHO sounds absolutely amazing with so much of the music being unwrapped to reveal nuances and hidden sounds).

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      RichardAnvil – Yes, the “instrumental Astradyne” was redundant, but you can argue that it was imperative to the “Vienna” experience, so I get it. Since this was a coda to the box, I guess they thought that fans already had the box, but I agree. Instrumentals of the B-sides would have been pretty thorough.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Glenn says:

    Read on SDE that this CD is getting a post-RSD wide release in the EU. Not sure about the US but wanted to mention this in case the RSD CD prices ramp up.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Glenn – Welcome to the comments! That’s good news for anyone who might want a copy of this. With low numbers on a RSD drop, it’s good to have a wider release for this. Even if its only in Europe, that should mean lower prices on the aftermarket for everyone interested.

      Like

  6. Kev says:

    Thanks for your thorough review. I’ve been toying with buying a copy of this and your wise words have finally given me that final nudge!

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Kev – Anyone deep into the “Vienna” album should find this interesting enough to buy. If you’re like me with seven copies in your collection, you’d be crazy to skip an eighth!

      Like

      • Kev says:

        I’ve CDs and vinyl stored (hidden?) away in various places … I’m sure I also have 6 or 7 different editions, and that’s not including that flippin’ box set from last year! Never mind, one more ain’t gonna break the bank!

        Like

        • postpunkmonk says:

          Kev – And the ultrabox last year was priced modestly, thank goodness! I have to limit my consumption of three figure boxes.

          Like

          • Kev says:

            Don’t even go there with three figures! Aside from 80s synth rock I’m a big fan of western swing and invested in two 12 CD box sets from Bear Family Records of (almost) everything Bob Wills recorded. Both were close to £300 each! Fantastic things to have, with wonderful 250 page hard back books, but still something my wallet weeps about from time to time!

            Like

  7. negative1ne says:

    Hi Mr Monk,

    Looks like we have an idea of the ‘Rage in Eden Boxset’.
    (no instrumentals though). – maybe on CD?

    Tracklist :
    4LP
    LP1
    1. A1 The Voice
    2. A2 We Stand Alone
    3. A3 Rage In Eden
    4. A4 I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)
    5. B1 The Thin Wall
    6. B2 Stranger Within
    7. B3 Accent on Youth
    8. B4 The Ascent
    9. B5 Your Name (Has Slipped My Mind)
    LP2
    1. C1 The Thin Wall (Single Version)
    2. C2 I Never Wanted To Begin
    3. C3 I Never Wanted To Begin (Extended Version)
    4. D1 The Voice (Edit)
    5. D2 Paths And Angles
    6. D3 Private Lives (Crystal Palace 13/6/81)
    7. D4 All Stood Still (Crystal Palace 13/6/81)
    LP3
    1. E1 The Thin Wall (Crystal Palace 13/6/81)
    2. E2 New Europeans (Crystal Palace 13/6/81)
    3. E3 Sleepwalk (Crystal Palace 13/6/81)
    4. E4 I Remember (Death In The Afternoon) [Crystal Palace 13/6/81]
    5. F1 Stranger Within (Live at Hammersmith Odeon, London 16/10/1981)
    6. F2 Mr. X (Live at Hammersmith Odeon, London 16/10/1981)
    7. F3 Rage In Eden (Live at Hammersmith Odeon, London 16/10/1981)
    LP4
    1. G1 Accent on Youth (Live at Hammersmith Odeon, London 16/10/1981)
    2. G2 The Ascent (Live at Hammersmith Odeon, London 16/10/1981)
    3. G3 Your Name (Has Slipped My Mind Again) [Live at Hammersmith Odeon, London 16/10/1981]
    4. G4 Vienna (Live at Hammersmith Odeon, London 16/10/1981)
    5. H1 Passionate Reply (Live at Hammersmith Odeon, London 16/10/1981)
    6. H2 Passing Strangers (Live at Hammersmith Odeon, London 16/10/1981)
    7. H3 We Stand Alone (Live at Hammersmith Odeon, London 16/10/1981)
    8. H4 All Stood Still (Live at Hammersmith Odeon, London 16/10/1981)
    9. H5 The Voice (Live at Hammersmith Odeon, London 16/10/1981)

    later
    -1

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      negative1ne – A Full Hammersmith Odeon show? I wonder if the CD [there had better be one!] might offer something more, though the live album was the real pull on the “Vienna” box.” Where did this rundown come from? On September 10th, 2021, Cerise Reed who runs the official Ultravox website said this on the subject:

      On July 12st Dermot from Chrysalis told me that he was halfway through pulling together a Rage in Eden box set and that he’d managed to match the same number of discs as Vienna. So it’s definitely coming, I just don’t know when as yet.

      So there’s that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • negative1ne says:

        Hi mr. monk,
        this was from a czech website. the cd release will probably have a new stereo remaster, and a cd probably of the early and rough versions. the dvd will most likely have a surround sound version. still waiting on a full tracklisting for those.

        later
        -1

        Like

      • alonewithstrangers says:

        Cerise is not really in the loop anymore and what was said to her in July was what the ‘potential’ was but nothing had been confirmed: we were a long way away from anything being ready to even put in front of band members, let alone approval. Nothing was definite and the process for RIE has been a lot more difficult than Vienna for a number of reasons – I won’t go into detail,

        As I mentioned elsewhere, that Cz listing is approximately correct. The distributor that leaked the information has been shot.

        As I’ve also said elsewhere…..wait for the official announcement for what the various formats will have…..you hopefully will not be disappointed.

        Like

        • postpunkmonk says:

          alonewithstrangers – Disappointment does not exist in the same universe as “Rage In Eden.”

          Like

          • alonewithstrangers says:

            Fair point: it sits up there with Vienna, Low Life, Secret Wish, Lexicon, Dare, Travelogue, Songs From The Big Chair & Zillionaire as one of the greatest albums from that whole decade.

            Like

            • postpunkmonk says:

              alonewithstrangers – Definitely a piece with “A Secret Wish!” Nice to see the esteem for “Zillionaire.” Which I prefer to “Lexicon.”

              Like

              • alonewithstrangers says:

                I like them both, clearly if they are in my list but they are almost by different bands. Certainly Mark & Martin were in a very different place by the time Zillionaire came around, not least of all because of Martin’s Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Mark’s recent interview with Martyn was excellent and I’m looking forward to part 2.

                I’m lucky enough that one of my friends is (real) friends with Mark, Martin & Stephen so sometimes get to spar with Mark: he can be extremely witty with high levels of sarcasm.

                I’m also hopeful that the long-waited ABC box retrospective will bob up to the surface relatively soon: there is potentially some excellent stuff in the archives.

                Like

                • postpunkmonk says:

                  alonewithstrangers – How I loved the early 80s when bands could still have the time to develop their style as radically as ABC did! One could also point to Spandau Ballet as well since their first three albums were also willfully different from one another. I will admit to being an admirer of “Beauty Stab” and I’m not just being a contrarian. That mid-late Roxy Music sound may have been a tad beyond their grasp that early, but they sagely got the actual mid-late Roxy Music rhythm section on to reprise their roles. The next time Fry tried that tactic on “Skyscraping,” he was capable of doing it beyond the pastiche level.

                  Like

  8. jonholmes says:

    Sacre life, says I. Leave Conny’s versions alone please.

    Like

    • Kev says:

      Yeah, the originals were the best! Enjoyed hearing Wilson’s instrumental versions for something different though!

      Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      jonholmes – Welcome to the comments. Fortunately, they have. The Plank mixes [which are indisputably magnificent] are canon and in the A-list of every release of the album [except for this sole one]. This disc exists as a postscript to the story of “Vienna” and is, let’s be frank, money-spinning which was modestly priced, at the very least. I did really like and prefer the Wilson mix of the B-side “Waiting.” So let’s give the kid a shot but at the end of the day is Steven Wilson in the same realm as Conny Plank? Never.

      Like

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