Ultravox’s “Rage In Eden” Boxed Set Is Two Of A Perfect Pair [part 3]

rage in eden disc 2
Disc 2 – Steven Wilson 2.0 remix

[…continued from last post]


So we were diving into Disc 2 of the “Rage In Eden” ultrabox. The famous ending to the album was the stark and uncompromising “You Name [Has Slipped My Mind Again].” It was little else but a bass drum, processed to sound like a gunshot in an echo chamber, a dissolute Midge Ure vocal, and a decrepit old piano as played by Billy Currie. It was as minimal as Ultravox ever got, so naturally, here was where the distinctions between Conny Plank’s and Steven Wilson’s predilections all but evaporated.

As we’ve heard, Plank emphasized midrange frequencies on Ure’s vocal. This drove him deeper in the mix. Steven Wilson left the vocal less blurry. Giving it a greater presence in the mix. I could spot fewer distinctions in the minimal backing track. After the album’s climax, we got the two B-sides, in Wilson mixes. “I Never Wanted To Begin” from “The Thin Wall” was here in its 7″ length. It was always an example of compulsive rhythm programming that has a drum pattern that could stick in the brainpan for days. And the serrated violin riffs contrasted with the deepsytnth bass and percussive synth claps made of it a tremendous dance floor track from the normally rocking Ultravox.

On the Plank mix, the drum machine sounded dull and blurry. Once more the vocals were heavy on the midrange frequencies and very dry this time. And the violins sounded covered with film. Wilson allowed the bass drums and toms to reveal their detail of attack. The violin was dryer, and it allowed more vibrance in the mix. Midge Ure’s vocal came forward in the mix with a slight delay added to beef up their power. And the synth bass received a boost to its attack with a little compression applied.

Next came my favorite B-side by Ultravox, and possibly anyone else! “Paths + Angles” was based on a lovely piano figure overlaid with a compulsive rhythm that sounded like perfect accompaniment for skipping, over which Warren Cann intoned the lyrics with his famously sonorous voice. This had been famously recorded on a day when Midge Ure was elsewhere, so the rest of the band really delivered in his absence.

Under the aegis of Plank, the piano figure in the intro had more reverb and compression applied to it. Though Cann’s voice was deeper than Ure’s he still had his midrange frequencies boosted and had reverb added to them, resulting in a flatness. The EQ on the violin conspired to make it fade completely into the woodwork of the song.

Wilson had the piano less effected, and actually made is quieter in the intro mix. The crude guitars [remember, Midge was away that day] received a high frequency boost to make them pop in the mix. While Cann’s vocal moved forward in the mix to reveal much more detail. These B-sides were not re-thought as “Waiting” had been the last time, but they were brought in line with the rest of Wilson’s approach. Where things got very interesting were on the last two tracks.

There had been early, “work-in-progress” mixes added to various of the 2008 remasters on 2xCD format. Here we heard Wilson’s remix of two such tracks that didn’t manifest anywhere else on the set. Since “I Remember [Death In The Afternoon]” was missing on its LP multitrack tape, we got to hear Wilson remix the early mix of the song. The Bass synth pulse was cleaner and more forthright and once the drums happened, we heard a new and insistent riff relentlessly repeat on Midge’s guitar.

Midge Ure letting it rip in 1981

Ironically, the rhythm guitar was dropped out of its normal space in the song’s chorus! In the instrumental break, Currie’s piano was a minimal presence, but the same could not be said for Ure’s guitar, which roared and howled throughout the song. Putting the boot in much more forcefully in the space for its traditional solo and soloing on the fade before dropping out to give Billy Currie’s piano an extended final word in the coda. Exciting differences, to be sure, but nothing on what was coming next.

We had a six minute opus version of “Your Name [Has Slipped My Mind Again]” that was a third longer than we’d ever heard. And it opened with the same gunshot drumbeat the song always had but within a second, the sound of shattering glass told us that these were the sounds of refuse being dumped on the floor of Plank’s studio and recorded that Cann had alluded to in the liner notes. Deep foghorn synth spread across the floor of the song. And it was clear that this was a completely different performance of the song judging from Midge Ure’s vocal.

So this was an almost maximal version of their famously minimal song. The watery tack piano was still there, but after the solo Midge Ure took the opportunity to throw a little melisma and even a major key or two as the song got another minute and a half of running time. Making of this a far cry from the benumbed and desensitized delivery the song was famous for. Giving us a tantalizingly different imagining of the famously stark and melodramatic song. Ultimately, the band and producer made the right decision to go with the album performance and production of the song. Just as Steven Wilson made the right decision to dust off this decidedly different take on the track for inclusion here. It’s the kind of alternate version that’s catnip to my ears.

rage in eden sleeve 3
Disc 3 – singles, B-sides, rarities


As we moved to disc three, we came to the repository for all of the rarities that first reached our ears on singles. The released versions of “I Never Wanted To Begin” and “Paths + Angles” as well as the 7″ edits of “The Thin Wall” and “The Voice.” “The Thin Wall” was always one of the most interesting 7″ edits from the band because of the production required to trim the song down was closer to a remix; at least for the four bars it took in the song. We’ve discussed the B-sides already but we have to praise Ultravox for including an extended version of “I Never Wanted To Begin” on the 12″ of “The Thin Wall.” Since the 12″ A-sides from the album were straight, long LP cuts at five to six minutes in length, they made that B-side the only extended remix from the album.

The 12″ remix broke down the double-tracked drum machine rhythms with a wider delay added for maximum stimulation and extended the intro with the scratcher and synth-claps maintaining the tension while drop-ins of the “name that sin” backing vocal were added to the mix. This only made the rhythms even more hypnotic to these ears. I can’t believe I had that 12″ for untold years without ever playing the remixed cut since the sleeve and label gave no indication that it was different from the 7″ mix.

The instrumental break mid-song for the guitar/viola call and response ended on long sustain of Ure’s guitar for a percussive breakdown shot through with synth glissandos that if they were in the other mix, were buried there and far from the surface of the song. This was yet another instance of the band just killing it with their delivery of the intense and strident song breathing down our necks. The coda kept up the repetition longer than the 7″ before fading with all the tension of the song still unresolved.

Finally, the two live B-sides as on “The Voice” were given their berth here. “Private Lives” was an intense version of the song with Ure’s slashes of rhythm guitar playing second fiddle to the pitch bent synth leads of Currie that seemed far closer to whammy-bar abuse that his own efforts! But that was part of the thrill of Ultravox. A bloodless Synthpop band, this was most certainly not. Then a live and breathlessly reckless “All Stood Still” managed to put even the tough and unremitting “Private Lives” in the shade. This band were never more intense than on this song; the one Ure-era track that would have felt at home on “Ha! Ha! Ha!” This was a fine repository for the rarities released historically for “Rage In Eden,” but the rest of the disc would be new to our ears.

Next: …The Rough + The Smoother

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
This entry was posted in Core Collection, Designed By Peter Saville, New Romantic, Record Review, Remastering, Scots Rock, The Great B-Sides and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Ultravox’s “Rage In Eden” Boxed Set Is Two Of A Perfect Pair [part 3]

  1. alonewithstrangers says:

    I take back my comment on part two re ‘Your Name……’!


  2. Pingback: Ultravox’s “Rage In Eden” Boxed Set Is Two Of A Perfect Pair [part 4] | Post-Punk Monk

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