[…continued from this post]
SINGLES, B-SIDES + RARITIES [CONT.]
The rest of disc three was comprised of glimpses of mostly familiar material in its formative stages. First up were a series of loose cassette rehearsals where the kinks in the songs were worked out. The structure of “I Remember [Death In The Afternoon]” was similar to the finished product; though recorded here without any vocals. “Accent On Youth” was in a seven minute take where the jaunty rhythms of the track were emphasized such that I could see people dancing in a New Wave club to this version more easily. Especially with the drum breaks lasting for several bars while the other instruments dropped out. Most differently, the part of the track eventually called “The Ascent” and made into the next track on the LP was in the middle eight position of the track.
We got quite a different look at “Paths + Angles/The Thin Wall;” depicted here as Billy Currie a pair of piano themes which eventually resolved into the melodies that surprisingly formed the backbone of the sturdy dance tracks. The repetitive piano loops of the first part would eventually transform into the sequencer riff of “The Thin Wall,” while the second part would become the delicate piano riff that was the backbone of the very danceable B-side. Providing a fascinating glimpse of the songs had they manifested 200 years earlier. It’s amazing what happens when drum machines become involved.
Things got interesting with a pair of “Untitled” recordings that never made it to the germination stage of a new Ultravox song. The first was saddled with a bouncy synth/guitar riff interplay that seemed to be a little too happy for what was shaping up to be Ultravox’s most melancholy opus. The second was closer to the target with a catchy synth percussion hook together with the drums of Cann.
Next we had a program of “work-in-progress” mixes with early forms of the songs we know and love more than halfway across the finish line. “The Thin Wall” Seemed to have an alternative Ure vocal but many other aspects of the song were in the right place; save for the dramatic descending string glissandos which were a half beat later in the mix. Things like that can really knock you for a loop when a lifetime of expectation is dashed like that. The middle eight was nearly identical, but the transition to the coda was four bars of sustained viola instead of one before the descending glissando. The the last minute or so of the coda contained allegro, two-note slashes of almost percussive violin to shepherd and prod the song to its end.
The rough mix of “The Stranger Within” allowed Chris’ Cross’ bass guitar to get a rare spotlight on this album in the instrumental mix of the track. The long section of distortion and dissonance on this occasion had what seemed like Ure and Cross joining in with Currie on their guitars and was similar, but longer to the same segment on the unedited ten minute mix. Even though this one was just over seven minutes as the 1981 version was. It was fascinating to hear this band brutally push and roughen the material in this fashion.
“The Voice” was also instrumental in the work-in-progress mix, and like the preceding cut, the normally buried bass guitar received some spotlight in the mix. Small differences manifested, like dropping out to just the beat for two instead of one bar at the song’s midpoint. There were more synths in the coda where Billy got to solo into the fade out.
“We Stand Alone” was a vocal mix with what sounded like the same vocal take my Ure, and for the life of my I found it almost impossible to pick anything but the smallest differences in the mix. Certain synth glissando hooks were either minimized of missing altogether, but these were what I considered tiny details. I would be hard pressed to point out any substantial differences without a head to head comparison in a multitrack environment.
Next: …Why We Came To The Party
It’s these early takes and work in progress versions that make these box sets so attractive to me. It’s so interesting to hear how these early ideas would end up as the finished articles. Sometimes the early versions are quite different, such as ‘Accent On Youth’, whilst ‘I Remember’ is not far from the version on the album. It’s also interesting to hear Billy mess around with a piano and throws up ideas that will get used on different tracks. Billy’s ideas it seems were the basis of so many Ultravox songs.
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Andy B – This got tagged as false positive spam? No red flags [links]. Weird. Good thing I am diligent in examining the spam/trash folders. Things are getting dicier there. What’s not dicey is the fascination in hearing a Billy Currie piano sketch that will become utterly transformed into an Ultravox track!
Also a lot of the first & second attempts at tracks were Billy and Warren together demonstrating how they played off against each other. Same was true of the Vienna rehearsal sessions.
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Yes very good that you are diligent in examining the spam/trash filters. Don’t know what happened there.