I’ve spoken on occasion and dropped the term “Jazz-Funk” into the mix here at PPM. What that usually entailed was a Pop/Funk band adding Jazz filigree to the music. Not terribly far removed from what a group like Earth, Wind, + Fire was aiming for. What a band like Defunkt brought to the goal was almost the antithesis of that paradigm. Because Defunkt were a Jazz band who were aiming to bring a Funk energy to their music.
In the 1981-1982 period I was soaking up the sounds of college radio after discovering that they were on my wavelength in the new decade. The only radio station I listened to after 1980 was WPRK-FM in Winter Park, Florida. And the trend that was holding sway over the station’s independent programming was Funk. In late 1981-1982, I was hearing a lot of Funk on the station. This meant that they were heavily spinning a track like ABC’s “Poison Arrow” when it was an import single but the station was also giving heavy airplay to the output of NYC’s Ze Records.
Ze was home to Funk and Latin Funk bands like Was [Not Was] or Kid Creole + The Coconuts. They were also the home to the “No Wave” Punk Funk fusion of James White + The Blacks; where [naive] Free Jazz, Punk, and Funk walked a thin line together. One of James White + The Blacks’ members, spun off into his own band by 1982 and Joe Bowie formed the nexus of Defunkt with the intent to bridge the gap between Jazz and Funk from the uptown side of the street.
I can recall hearing both sides of this single in the WPRK-FM environment but I never ever saw this record in almost 40 years of searching until my trip to Los Angeles in 2018; where I found both the UK and US 12″ of this in my shopping! Fortunately for me, it was the UK edition, with the Neville Brody cover art, that I came across first. So I have the best copy of this I can hope for.
It was a trip hearing this for the first time in almost 40 years and finding that I had many memories of the record jumbled together in my mind, which interpolated parts of separate verses into a whole that did not exist. What did exist was a swaggering horn riff driving a churning Funk groove that was embellished by each of the players adding their solos to the mix from the get-go. The loopy slide guitar solo from Richard Martin right out of the box was not the sort of cross pollination that one expected to hear in Funk music.
The lead vocals were salted throughout the lengthy mix from trombonist Joe Bowie juxtaposed with backing vocalist Clarice Taylor. The closest the cut got to Free Jazz was the skittering trumpet solo from Joe’s brother Lester but the horns and fiercely popping bass from Kim Clarke kept the dancefloor momentum raging.
The razor’s edge
Against the ropes
Working for a living
Living for the dope
The Razor’s Edge
The single’s B-side offered still more fatalistic Funk of crushing urban intensity. I can’t think of another more mixed and paradoxical metaphor than “Strangling Me With Your Love.” I can’t think of another song that ever began with the long, protracted sigh employed here before Mr. Bowie added “you are strangling me with your love/in your hotel room of permanent desire.” The vibe here was less swaggering than the A-side with bassist Clarke employing a Mu-Tron envelope filter for a Bootsy Collins feel. But did Bootsy ever have a track with a chorus like “you know I love you/gonna choke me to death?”
The syncopation of the bass and congas seemed laid back in comparison to the other track, but the lyrics belied the more relaxed vibe. Giving the sprawling, nearly eleven minute groove an air of claustrophobic doom. Lester Bowie’s trumpet solo at the 8:00 mark added more staccato energy to rough up the listener’s discomfort levels.
The Defunkt debut album of 1980 had a 4:05 version of “Strangling Me With Your Love” and this new version on the 1982 12″ was produced by label owner Joy Boyd on this 12″ and given an abundance of time to stretch out. There was plenty of room for all of these Jazz players to use their techinque to a different end. This makes me thirst for more of this bitter brew and to that end, I’ve added the tidy 2xCD of the band’s two albums for Hannibal Records to my Infinite Wantlist®. The music of Defunkt was very congruent with another band of Jazz players testing the waters of Funk, bass player Jamaaladeen Tacuma’s Cosmetic. The last few years has seen me buying their LP and a few 12″ers but there are two more that I need before making the long-planned REVO edition. And both bands had M+Co cover designs on their albums. Hmmmm.
Last fall, the news came that a series of 1990s live albums; two from three separate tours of David Bowie would be released under the banner “Brilliant Live Adventures.” At the time the series of six albums was teased with the details of each one being trickled out. I wondered at the time if any of the shows that I had seen would be among the albums issued.
Because, if anything, the 1990s were my decade of David Bowie live. I was too young to see him in the 70s. By 1980 I was interested in getting all of the music from him that I could. But that stopped cold for years when “Let’s Dance” was released. For the next three albums, I didn’t want to see him in the 80s! I could have seen the “Never Let me Down” tour and didn’t hesitate for a second to pass it up. Which would have been unthinkable even five years earlier. By the time I finally saw him on the “Sound + Vision” tour of 1990 it was fascinating staging, but it didn’t really hit me as being prime David Bowie, even though he was performing a mostly excellent set of material with Adrian Belew on lead guitar. The nature of the performance meant that it was all timed to within an inch of its life to the huge videos projected onto scrims several stories high in the venue. Impressive, but cold and clinical by nature. Though I loved the Tin Machine album of 1988, he still needed to move forward and get out of his Phil Collins Years in regards to his solo career. That would begin to happen after the dissolution of Tin Machine with the promising, yet still spotty “Black Tie White Noise” album of 1993.
The second time I saw Bowie was on the “Outside” summer shed tour of 1995 with Nine Inch Nails opening up. I had been disappointed [to say the least] by the overegged yet undercooked “Outside” album that had too much attention given to the elements that didn’t matter and suffered for its pointless framing conceits that managed to deflate the entire project. I had the album for a week by the time we trekked up to Atlanta to see the show, but having strategically missed Nine Inch Nails, the show we saw was excellent.
Bowie’s band had re-absorbed the amazing Mike Garson on piano, who had reconnected with Bowie on the superb “Buddha Of Suburbia” album two years earlier. I was thrilled to see Reeves Gabrels; forever known to me as the Man Who Saved Bowie’s Bacon®, playing lead guitar live after loving his tone on the Tin Machine albums. Bowie had a fantastic set list full of well-chosen material that very smartly slotted deep cuts cheek-by-jowl with his current material. He had famously “retired” his many hits on the “Sound + Vision” tour of 1990; a move I was more than happy to accept if it meant that I would never heard “Let’s Dance.”
We next saw Bowie in 1997 in a large club where he gave his longest concert ever. It was worlds apart from the clenched-jaw professionalism of the first two shows I had seen. It was actually thrilling and surmounted the wall of fame and rock star privilege that had until this time enveloped Bowie. Bowie and his band were on fire and having a blast as they purposefully played every song in their rehearsed repertoire just for the fun of doing it. Happily, we were there to experience this gift. And now live sets undertaken from the albums “Outside,” “Earthling,” and “Hours…” are once again coming our way if we want to listen.
From what I understand, the first issue was a difficult to navigate hot mess of a website where buying the discs was more challenging that it should have been. I saw the first CD/LP and had a nominal interest in perhaps buying a copy but the limited edition of 6000 copies sold out in a fortnight or so, if I can recall. Then every month or so afterward, the other five albums would appear, and as soon as I saw what was being released, they seemed to have sold out very quickly. Leaving a much larger mass of disappointed fans in their wake as a frightful amount of the copies that did sell, were strictly for flipping in the heated aftermarket.
By the time the last one happened earlier this year, it was a blink-and-you-miss-it phenomenon. I recall getting the email from davidbowie.com and checking into to see what the contents were on the last one and it was already sold out. If you happened to live west of the GMT time zone and were concerned with sleeping, tough luck for you! Well, at least the Bowie Estate® has acknowledged that the while affair was handled badly. Inasmuch as now the full set of six albums is being repressed and interested parties are being asked to indicate their interest; perhaps as a means of gauging how many to manufacture this time instead of just pulling a number out of a hat. And just what are the goods of offer?
David Bowie: Ouvrez Le Chien [Live Dallas 95] – UK – CD 
Look Back In Anger 4:36
The Hearts Filthy Lesson 5:16
The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction (As Beauty) 5:22
I Have Not Been To Oxford Town 4:27
Andy Warhol 3:40
Breaking Glass 3:43
The Man Who Sold The World 3:41
We Prick You 4:19
I’m Deranged 6:18
Joe The Lion 3:58
Nite Flights 6:28
Under Pressure 4:07
Teenage Wildlife 7:02
This is one I would like to pre-order this time. It is basically the same dour set we saw and loved in Atlanta, though recorded in Dallas instead. My wife was excited to see “Andy Warhol” and it was a stunning version, but my thrills were more for “Breaking Glass” and “Joe the Lion.” Amazingly, “Night Flights” is my very favorite song from “Black Tie White Noise,” yet I cannot really remember anything about its performance in this sterling set, which is why I particularly want to get this one.
David Bowie: No Trendy Réchauffé (Live Birmingham 95) – UK – CD 
Look Back In Anger 4:44
Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) 5:20
The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction (As Beauty) 5:08
The Man Who Sold The World 3:39
Hallo Spaceboy 5:19
I Have Not Been To Oxford Town 4:22
Strangers When We Meet 5:00
Breaking Glass 3:52
The Motel 6:30
Jump They Say 3:37
Teenage Wildlife 6:41
Under Pressure 4:33
Moonage Daydream 5:38
We Prick You 4:22
Hallo Spaceboy (Version 2) 6:18
The UK set has some interesting differences, but not enough to make me forget about “Nite Flghts.” Though the also very Scott Walker track “The Motel” was maybe the next best thing. I don’t need both.
David Bowie: Liveandwell.com – UK – CD 
I’m Afraid Of Americans 5:19
The Hearts Filthy Lesson 5:34
I’m Deranged 7:07
Hallo Spaceboy 5:17
Telling Lies 5:20
The Motel 5:45
The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction (As Beauty) 5:49
Battle For Britain (The Letter) 4:35
Seven Years In Tibet 6:20
Little Wonder 6:10
Pallas Athena 8:42
V-2 Schneider 6:51
This smorgasbord of live versions from the “Earthling” tour was easy to pass up. I already had it since it was issued in 2000 since I was a member of Bowienet, who were my first ISP! This live CD was exclusively for Bowienet subscribers at the time. The difference here was that the four remixes at the end of that disc were removed, and instead, the live tech house versions of “Pallas Athena” and “V2 Schneider” that were part of that tour [and issued separately at the time under the cheeky non-du-disque Tao Jones Index] have now found a fitting home on this set. Maybe I’ll opt for the strategic download option there.
David Bowie: Look At The Moon! (Live Phoenix Festival 97) – UK – CD 
The Man Who Sold The World 3:35
Driftin’ Blues / The Jean Genie 5:36
I’m Afraid Of Americans 5:14
Battle For Britain (The Letter) 4:35
Seven Years In Tibet 6:47
Looking For Satellites 5:18
Under Pressure 4:03
The Hearts Filthy Lesson 5:14
Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) 5:23
Hallo Spaceboy 5:14
Little Wonder 6:07
Dead Man Walking 4:11
White Light / White Heat 3:54
O Superman 9:20
Now this one is definitely a must hear! It consists of 18 tracks. Exactly half of the set we saw, but still salted with deep cuts that were not on the “Liveandwell.com” set, which had a more contemporary focus. The acoustic “Quicksand” that opened the set was a stunner and I can’t wait to hear “Stay” again! And you could have knocked us over with a feather when he began playing “O, Superman!”
David Bowie: Something In The Air (Live Paris 99) – UK – CD 
Life On Mars? 5:28
Thursday’s Child 5:37
Something In The Air 5:22
Word On A Wing 6:37
Can’t Help Thinking About Me 3:37
China Girl 4:05
Always Crashing In The Same Car 3:41
Drive-In Saturday 4:56
I Can’t Read 6:34
The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell 4:26
Rebel Rebel 4:13
We loved the “Hours…” album when it came out and that got us so interested in David Bowie again, we finally bought the albums we had not heard yet to complete the collection! Yes, that means the horrible mid-80s EMI work, but also the transcendent “Buddha Of Suburbia,” which transfixed me with its questing, innovative character. It was so much more than a hastily knocked out TV soundtrack, I was stunned that Bowie had managed to bury his best 90s album.
But one thing about the “Hours…” album was the point that it had no accompanying tour. Reeves Gabrels parted ways with Bowie after its recording and there were a handful of promotional gigs to promote the disc; this being one of them. I can’t quite convince myself to buy into this one even though the set list is good, and I should be interested in hearing material from an album I liked so much played live. Can someone convince me?
David Bowie: At The Kit Kat Klub (Live New York 99) – UK – CD 
Life On Mars? 4:42
Thursday’s Child 5:16
Something In The Air 4:49
China Girl 4:09
Can’t Help Thinking About Me 3:00
Always Crashing In The Same Car 3:46
The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell 4:09
I’m Afraid Of Americans 5:11
Finally, there was a promotional CD of this set at NYC’s Kit Kat Klub that like the “Liveandwell.com” disc, is getting a wider airing to find its wider audience this time around. This seemed like even less than the last disc. And it was recorded at the Kit Kat Klub. A further strike against it for the name alone. Nope. I have better uses to put my $15.95 to.
So those are the albums coming back on offer again soon. They sold out [and then some] the first time and if you have an interest, the David Bowie website is taking names and emails to let interested parties know when they can be pre-ordered once more. The News page of the site lists next Monday, June 7th as the cutoff date to register your interest. The actual page in the site to do so says June 14th instead. If I were you I’d assume the earlier date is the real cutoff to avoid disappointment. There will be CD and LPs of each title with the [sold separately] box depicted at at the top of the post to hold the whole shebang. I’ve already let them know I am up for ordering the two CDs I want, so now it’s your turn. You know the drill. Hit that button below.
Early last March, we had a post trumpeting the new Psychedelic Furs album set to release on May 1st with a US tour that never happened. The May album release got bumped to July, and by that time I completely lost the plot. I still need to get a copy of that disc as commenters here who’ve had the pleasure tout its many fine attributes. Yesterday, the band released their new tour dates, set to happen [sensibly] later this fall. I’m still not ready to jam into a box with hundreds of people just yet, but I’ll admit that it might be possible later this year.
About half of the dates announced last year are still in the running this time, but the shows are much more numerous with dates in the UK as well as on the east coast and midwest United States. The West Coast and Canada will have to wait for the 2nd leg, by the looks of things. So where are they at? Lots of places. Some near you.
Psychedelic Furs | 2021 | US/UK Tour [1st leg]
September 2021 September 15, 2021 | Indianapolis, IN | The Vogue September 16, 2021 | Chicago. IL | The Vic Theatre September 17, 2021 | Milwaukee, WI | Summerfest September 19, 2021 | Buffalo, NY | Town Ballroom September 24, 2021 | Kingston Upon Thames, UK | Banquet Records – Q&A Session [sold out] September 27, 2021 | Bristol, UK | O2 Academy Bristol September 28, 2021 | Nottingham, UK | Rock City September 29, 2021 | Glasgow, UK | Glasgow SWG3
October 2021 October 1, 2021 | Manchester, UK | Manchester Academy 2 October 2, 2021 | Liverpool, UK | O2 Academy Liverpool October 3, 2021 | London, UK | Royal Albert Hall October 5, 2021 | Cambridge, UK | Cambridge Junction October 15, 2021 | Scottsdale, AZ | The Showroom @ Talking Stick Resort October 16, 2021 | Tucson, AZ | Rialto Theatre October 17, 2021 | Santa Fe, NM | Lensic Performing Arts Center October 19, 2021 | Houston, TX | White Oak Music Hall October 20, 2021 | Dallas, TX | Granada Theater October 21, 2021 | Austin, TX | Emo’s Austin October 23, 2021 | New Orleans, LA | Tipitina’s October 27, 2021 | Fort Lauderdale, FL | Revolution Live October 29, 2021 | Clearwater, FL | Bilheimer Capitol Theatre October 30, 2021 | Orlando, FL | Hard Rock Live – Orlando October 31, 2021 | Ponte Vedra Beach, FL | Ponte Vedra Concert Hall
November 2021 November 2, 2021 | Charlotte, NC | Neighborhood Theatre November 3, 2021 | Carrboro, NC | Cat’s Cradle November 5, 2021 | York, PA | Strand Theatre – Appell Center for the Performing Arts November 7, 2021 | Tarrytown, NY | Tarrytown Music Hall November 9, 2021 | New Haven, CT | College Street Music Hall November 10, 2021 | Phoenixville, PA | The Colonial Theatre November 12, 2021 | Atlantic City, NJ | Sound Waves @ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino November 13, 2021 | New York, NY | Apollo Theater November 14, 2021 | Beverly, MA | The Cabot November 16, 2021 | Northampton, MA | Academy Of Music November 17, 2021 | Montclair, NJ | Wellmont Theater November 19, 2021 | Huntington, NY | The Paramount
The Charlotte show is only two hours away, but that would necessitate lodging expenses. Carrboro is about three and a half hours away, but close to my pals near the Research Triangle. And Cat’s Cradle is always a fun show. Hmmmm. I’m not really ready for live music at this time as I am just not comfortable with going back to the old ways yet. Maybe next year I;ll feel differently. I do see that several of my friends will have shows near their doorstep, so their mileage may vary.
What I can get behind unequivocally, is the notion of the Psychedelic Furs as a band who have lost little and more likely have gained something more in the intervening years. I’m sure there will be some magical shows in those gigs; particularly the esteemed Royal Albert Hall gig. What a vibe that will have. If you need tickets, hit that button.
Let me preface this by saying that I’m not really a podcast guy. I’m much more interested in listening to music. Podcasts are sort of like TV in that they are a form of entertainment or information that prevent the simultaneous enjoyment of music. And we are all about the enjoyment of music here at PPM. So podcasts are out there. Sometimes my favorite bands do them, and I might even subscribe to them, but never quite bother with listening to them. I have a long 26 mile commute to work, but quite frankly that is my prime music listening time, and I need that for this blog to function. So maybe one day I might catch up with them when the stars align.
That day, was apparently was the last three-day-weekend, where I was chained to my computer re-processing images for a job I thought was all finished weeks ago. The book proof came back from the printer and the organization didn’t like the lush, full tonal range I strove to put in to the photographs which are the point of the book. “Too dark,” they chorused. So I was trapped for many, many hours trying to process the raw images to be lighter on the page without blowing out the detail and lush tonal range locked in them.
What better time to finally catch up on the podcast that Martyn Ware of Heaven 17 had begun last December that I had managed to listen to only a handful of episodes thus far. I mean, anyone who reads PPM knows that I’m usually all over the latest exploits of both Heaven 17 and John Foxx; yet a podcast where the two talked in depth for up to 90 minutes has sat in my podcast app half finished for two months now? It looks bad. Real bad. So I took the opportunity to play serious catch up with the podcast this last weekend.
Ware had done the podcast as a reaction to two factors: the lockdown, and the writing of his autobiography. The latter is penciled in for a release some time in 2022, but the notion of re-connecting with friends and cohorts during this period of social distancing was appealing to the guy. I can say that I’ve had some friends with whom I’ve had no contact with in decades suddenly show up in my inbox, so I get the impulse.
So Mr. Ware [no, not that one…] began “Electronically Yours” six months ago as a weekly podcast but has now increased his frequency to release episodes every few days! As of the John Foxx episode [#16] there are now as few as two but no more than four days between episodes. And his policy of relying on old friends and people in his contact list has fallen by the wayside as he casts his discussion net ever more widely.
I jumped in with the Midge Ure episode [#10] and have now gone on a run through the next seven or eight episodes from there while jumping off at various points to take in old favorites and people who just seem as though it would make for interesting conversation. He’s Zooming with these people and we hear the details, sometimes hearing mothers like Róisín Murphy yelling at the kids to keep a lid on it, or Richard Strange answering the doorbell for a delivery. All of it adding to the unscripted, extemporized nature of the show.
While Mr. Ware works from a page of notes he sometimes refers to as an loose outline, the long conversations are free to wander wherever they want to given the dynamic between the host and guest. Considering that Ware has known some of the participants since he was a young man only adds to the loose feeling and intimacy of it all. And each participant gets at least a full hour [usually closer to 70-80 minutes] to have a conversation that sometimes was down to answering any specific questions Ware pitched at the guest but could quite often let the guest tell their own stories.
The Guests So Far…
Glenn Gregory + Paul Bower
Sarah Jane Morris
Sananda Maitreya [pt. 1]
Sananda Maitreya [pt. 2]
Will Gregory + Adrian Utley
Professor Brian Cox
Then again, there are guests who are noted raconteurs who take the platform and run with it. I’ve not heard the Rusty Egan episode, but his verbal proclivities were the subject of more than one humorous aside in the talks with mutual friends who were familiar with his talkative nature. That said, my favorite episode thus far was the Richard Strange episode where the guest wove endlessly fascinating tales of his life and career as the founder of Protopunk Art Rockers Doctors Of Madness and beyond. I could have gone on for hours listening to Kid Strange elaborate on his varied career as he told of creating a D.I.Y. space to develop in the pre-Punk atmosphere of London: 1974. Memo to self: buy a copy of Strange’s 2005 autobio “Punks + Drunks, Flicks + Kicks!”
It was a game changer, hearing Stephen Mallinder of Cabaret Voltaire who was one of Ware’s oldest friends, crack up reminiscing about the olde Sheffield days of yore from when they were youngsters. I’m used to hearing Mallinder crack down, not up. Experiencing him separate from the often dour art I associate with him was a rare treat.
Likewise, we don’t usually hear Gary Numan laughing this much, though his closing tale of how he almost died in a case where his plane’s fuel line froze up was the biggest white knuckle ride of the podcast so far. Not for his tale of how he was in freefall to a likely death on the empty sea beneath his plane, but more for how he spent those tense seconds before the engines re-started thinking of how he’d have to kill his co-pilot if he wanted to be the one to commandeer the life raft in the tail of the aircraft. Remind me not to fly with this guy.
It was a treat hearing the boisterous Jo Callis holding court on the early days of The Rezillos and middle period Human League, where mutual manager Bob Last enlisted Callis to be one of Ware’s replacements in the Human League only to have Ware teach the guitarist how to use a synth. Most fascinating was Callis’ tale of how Bob Last came to be a band manager in the first place.
By the time the podcast was roping in guests that were not directly connected to Ware, like with Morris Hayes [music director for Prince’s New Power Generation band] we could some times be treated to hearing two musicians discussing CERN laboratories and the joys of astronomy research in the remote Chilean desert and getting caught up in the excitement as only two science geeks [Ware was a computer programmer when he started The Human League and Hayes also had a programming background] possibly can. At times like that, the show truly takes flight to become something its creator couldn’t have ever anticipated.
The format of the podcast has Ware closing out the show asking what the subject’s favorite examples of various artforms and artists are at the close of each episode. There are many threads of artistic continuity between the host and many of his guests, but so far, no one has ever picked the same “favorite synthesizer” when he asks them that question. Ware concludes each episode with a selection of emails and questions from his listeners as well as a brief synth doodle to finish out the program. “Electronically Yours” is out there as a podcast available at seemingly every distribution platform out there, so if you have an interest, it’s easily obtained. After a dozen episodes this weekend, I’m seemingly hooked and need to try to keep up with the pace that Ware is setting with two to three shows a week coming our way. Wish me luck.
I immediately noted how synth player Joseph O’Keefe held back the tempo of the piano intro to “Private Lives” to prolong the timing of the throwback intro for maximum impact. which made his pitch bending on the synth that immediately followed all the more tasty. The rest of the arrangement was clean and sharp with Ure’s singing having greater clarity than back in the day. All of the lyrics in this show were popping like never before. Then the songs’ distinctive coda wa salso extended for about twice as long as I am used to! Giving O’Keefe the room to really put his stamp on the track while Ure circled back at the song’s end to duet with his synth player, who let his playing get fruitier than we’re used to from Billy Currie. Tasty!
Now I got to hear my “gateway song” to Ultravox with “Passing Strangers.” I was enjoying how drummer Russell Field managed to instill himself into the songs with fills and accents that were not from the Warren Cann playbook, while adhering overall to the classic ‘Vox template. I appreciated how this rendition of the music honored the original without being calcified and locked down. The sound design on the middle eight solo [my favorite synth riffage of all time] was different on the lead patch with a more playful tone that was less machine like than I was used to. And the coda solo from the live arrangement had also changed here slightly. With new snare roll accents accompanying Ure’s great solo.
The lead synth patch on “Sleepwalk” was not as serrated as it had been on the 2009 Ultravox live album, but sounded fattened with a chorus for a new, widescreen aspect. It was still the driving “Judas Priest On Synths’ song of its original conception. The choral patches were a nice touch but I found myself missing the breathless white noise percussive hit as Midge Ure exclaimed the title before the middle eight occurred. That little hook really added to the forward velocity of the song and was missed here.
“Mr. X” received a new, glitchy, shortwave drift soundscape intro before Midge unleashed the song’s title on vocoder. So that was how he was going to reconcile the notion of performing this song without Warren Cann’s distinctive baritone spoken word recitation. A smart move! The rest of the sound design hewed fairly close to the original pattern this time. When O’ Keefe bust out the violin he played the music with scant embellishment. Ultimately, the song still played like the best song left off of “The Man Machine. No change there. But the famous side two “Vienna” suite where all of the songs were segued together was no followed here. Each of the three songs had its own space to start and finish, which I appreciated the difference of here.
Next came the song I had been waiting for. A four-count on a cymbal kicked off the distinctive sequencer pattern that energized “Western Promise.” The wailing synth leads were unchanged but this was already shaping up to be a very different “Promise.” With all three of the band playing synths and Field adding tattoos and fills expertly where none had existed before, striking quickly like an assassin’s blade.
Then the lead synths kicked in after the tense drop to the phased, synthetic shaker vacillating in the stereo spectrum that was punctuated by Ure’s shout of “hai!” Gott imm himmel! These leads were immense, dreadnaught-class synth patches that sounded like they were filling the horizon with their immensity! The sound here was absolutely monolithic and truly epic. The crazed flute-like synth playing along to the percussive drops was not here and I could have cared less. The canyon of reverb as Ure sang the title at the end of each chorus was perfection. The drum fills in the climax were killing me. Have I just heard my favorite song from “Vienna” re-imagined, better than ever, with a different band playing? That would be yeah. Maybe even a…
After that peak of intensity, sustained string patches served as the new intro to “Vienna.” While the song’s synthetic heartbeat stayed unchanged. I did enjoy how Ure varied his timing on the song for subtle difference to the song we’ve heard for 41 years now. The bass synth here was more prominent as well, giving us something new to grab onto.
I enjoyed the extended feedback intro to “All Stood Still” with this always vicious number positively crackling with enrgy here. The synth leads were delightfully different and Midge really bit into the song, allowing a ragged edge to seep into his delivery. The build up to the middle eight was also extended for a bar or two for a sustaining of the tension before Midge really cut loose on the solo in a new way, eventually ceding the spotlight to O’Keefe for a new solo in the now longer middle eight as the song went into the reggae part with a burning intensity.
Then the thrilling end to “Vienna” had come. What could be next but the amazing B-side to “Vienna?” Knock me over with a feather. Yes, please. We next got “Passionate Reply” in the program. The sequenced synth was fatter here and Ure’s guitar was adding delightful crunch to the unique, mannered song. Ure sat out the expression vocals that normally played in the song’s second half to let the instruments do the talking.
A succession of Ultravox hits rounded out the show. “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes” was in classic form, but “Hymn” got a new, slow and somber intro with morose synths leading into Ure singing the intro at a slower tempo before the tempo and song kicked into high hear with what sounded like the fastest BPM I’ve ever heard for it. The distinctive “Enola Gay” synth hook was still there but with more portamento on the notes. Ure, also played with his phrasing here to give things a different spin.
“The Voice” took on a different character here, with a succinct five minute rendition that didn’t attempt to replicate the dramatic percussive coda that was now established as a classic Ultravox move. Wise, and fun to hear the song with Ure’s voice taking the song to its conclusion. The standard concert ended there, but we had gone for the full monty which included three encore songs. “I’ve said it before, but “If I Was ” never sounded better than in its contemporary live incarnation, which added some much needed toughness to the marshmallow of a song. The guitar solo in the extended coda also helped
When “I Remember [Death In The Afternoon]” appeared, it was fantastic to hear this song get the attention it had always deserved. If there was any justice, it would have been the third single from “Rage In Eden.” A dramatic new intro section to the middle eight with staggered synth/piano chords appeared from nowhere, blindsiding me as the song took a surprising turn before ending up at the traditional place eventually. Ure’s solo at the climax there really wailed. Great to hear this one get the love and attention. Then the lilting “Reap the Wild Wind” brought this show to a close. A light hearted moment to close the show on after some of the fevered intensity that had just happened.
I expected that this would be good, but at the end of the day it was much better than that. This show now housed some of my favorite live performances of Ultravox’s canon and that was no mean feat. I have been really getting into playing the audio capture I made of this show and have been known to loop the devastating performance of “Western Promise” in my car at far too high a volume level than they recommend at The Monastery of New Wave for as much as a half hour at a time. I will be making a REVO CD of it this three day weekend [I hope to, anyway…] but I would be on top of a real, glass mastered CD/Blu-Ray/DVD package in a heartbeat. The lighting, staging, and direction of the show was superb [especially if you like blue…] so I can’t imagine that this should just vanish into the ether following my 30 day pass on Stabal.
Speaking of which, the online streaming platform is offering the concert until July 14th in the full, executive version and any Midge Ure fans should give it a shot. It seems like anyone who pays the $30 can watch the show as much as they like until that cutoff date. The interview with Ure as bonus material was interesting as well. Ure is always an engaging guy with an interesting perspective to bring to things. Hearing this much live Visage was nothing I ever imagined!
The only thing that I found lacking in the streaming presentation was that at no point were the talented backing band identified, and given what they bring to the event, that was a real error. They have managed to play iconic material close to my heart in a way that was faithful to then intent of the material without being airlessly slavish recreations of the songs that we all know and love. We have the discs for that if we want it. This concert offered a chance to hear this great material being given an injection of life and the individual chops that the band bring to the playing. 1980 was the year that Midge Ure became “Midge Ure” and the decision to mount this tour was a gift to his many fans that managed to touch many more lives than was planned up front through the decision to stream this final show. If you want to partake, then hit that button.
I have to say that one of the benefits of the Covid-19 lockdown and lack of live concerts were the streaming solutions that popped up to sate the market demand. While viewing a concert on streaming was a distant second to actually experiencing live music, it’s infinitely higher on the enjoyment scale than not seeing or hearing anything at all.
I can’t help but think that when live shows open up again with tours and the like, that streaming options might be a valid way of further monetizing the gigs that happen on a more regular basis. A streaming ticket for a gig at $20 [this show streamed live for $23 and for 30 days with extras at $30] might be a fraction of the live seat in the venue, but the potential is there for so many more eyeballs to experience the shows that way. After all, the infrastructure has now been established to do this with some regularity.
This show featured Midge Ure with what he calls Band Electronica. His three man band who play with him on his UK/European gigs. Cole Stacy on bass/synths. Joseph O’Keefe on synths/violin. And Russell Field on drums/loops. The show kicked off with a bang. The Phil Lynott synth-banger “Yellow Pearl” with Midge playing an instrumental version since most of his audience would possibly recognize it as the theme from “Top of The Pops” where the driving electro-rocker was the theme for several years in the early 80s. I would have been game for Ure to gave given the lyrics a go, but perhaps out of respect for his absent friend he opted for letting the music speak for itself. And the words it spoke were stirring and eloquent!
I can never get enough of “Yellow Pearl” and find it to be the acme of Midge Ure’s career outside of Ultravox and Visage. It showed him steeped in the sound of Krautrock and bringing it to the English shores as David Bowie had done a few years earlier. This track is always pure excitement and the flanged bass synths and arpeggiators soared over the motorik electric drums that had Mr. Field playing a Roland kit for this show with a heavy emphasis on a notably synthetic sound.
The tantalizingly brief speedrush of “Yellow Pearl” segued right into the song I had been waiting to hear live forever, when the Visage portion of the show began. Ure started at side one, track one with the electric title track to the “Visage” album; my favorite song from the album from day one. Ure had moved from his synth rig to the trusty guitar to give the propulsive track the requisite rock crunch. As Ure had stated whenever he had a platform, by 1980 he and Rusty Egan were more interested in fusing rock energy with electronics which ultimately led to the Visage project.
Hearing it played live, reminded us of how it had taken place in an era when there wasn’t even MIDI to make it all simpler. Ure sounded like he was holding back his vocals to occupy a similar space in the music that Steve Strange had when originally making this music. So this wasn’t a case of Ure belting it out 40 years later but trying to fit within the original parameters of the music. An in a contrary move, the song ended with a new coda instead of seguing into the next track. The drums and guitar dropped out to let the synths lave the last word. Ending on a very similar note to… Tubeway Army’s “Me! I Disconnect From You!” Color me surprised [and delighted].
And the next track was still “Blocks On Blocks.” Just like the Visage album. This was one of the tracks that lent itself to live, rock band playback most readily. Ure, was starting to warm up vocally and it was interesting hearing him sings the lyrics as it was much easier to discern what he was singing, even though the song still had a touch of vocoder as on the original. The middle eight was every bit as muscular as on the album thought the sound design on the synths was a bit more aggressive. The track still segued into the next song, the rousing instrumental, “The Dancer.” The orchestral stabs were a little polite but the guitar of Ure managed to fill in admirably for the missing sax of John McGeoch.
Next came a shocker. An expanded, re-arranged take on the first Visage recording. The cover of “In The Year 2525!” The original track as released on the “Fade To Grey” singles collection was a little tentative, but by now, it’s been re-imagined as the ultimate version of the Visage cover version. Ure was really hitting his stride vocally by this point and the extended intro and coda gave the track more gravitas.
The sound of children heralded the single “Mind Of A Toy” and the stripped back sound gave the spotlight to Mr. Stacy’s bass guitar. The next song was a ringer in the Visage set that had me startled. It ended up being “Glorious,” the song that Ure had performed on the Rusty Egan solo album of a few years back. While the song featured something close to the typical Ure lyric of his mature period, the music was pulsating electronica that sounded pretty great to me. Well, it was co-written between Ure with Chris Payne and Rusty Egan. I’m glad their chemistry hasn’t faded over time. The song ended with a drum solo breakdown that made sense considering that Egan had been drumming for the Visage set during the earliest legs of this original tour.
Then a drumbox loop paved the way for a surprisingly irreverent take on the classic “Fade To Grey.” With soft synths, there is every capacity for the artist to sample their master tapes and replicate the sound design of a cut down to the last detail. Usually OMD opt for this method as they are convinced that their fans won’t have it any other way. Myself, I prefer letting the song and sound design breathe a little. I appreciate some variation, otherwise we could all be in playback hell. And Midge Ure obviously sees things this way as well.
The main riff hook to “Fade To Grey” was played here with a different sounding patch that made it come a little closer to the sound of the Datura version with a hint of the rave. Ure’s was really cutting loose vocally here, and Cole Stacy offered the subtle backing vocals. I liked the new coda solo by Mr. O’Keefe as well, which led into a new cold ending for the song. That ended the Visage portion of the show and we’d gotten about half of the album as well as a few unscheduled treats. The only omission that I was perhaps missing was the berserker electronic fury of “Malpaso Man,” which, forty years later, is shaping up to be a surprise favorite. But maybe that was too much energy to get put into this song arc.
When the “metal beat” of a CR-78 faded up we knew it was time for the “Vienna” portion of the set. This would be a first as I’ve never heard the album played in full before on any other occasions. I was interested in seeing how this band would differ from recordings I had of the reconstituted Ultravox leaning heavily on this material from their 2009 concert I had in full on CD/DVD. With “Astradyne,” what was served was a classic take on the distinctive instrumental. The sound design stuck very close to the original template. The reverbed piano leads and violin solo paid fealty to the time-honored original recording, but the drum fills by Field dared to step outside of the Warren Cann rhythmic blueprint for the occasional flight of fancy.
I liked the differences in “New Europeans” with a clean hard sound to the arrangement with less of the atmosphere that Conny Plank had invested the song with. The tattoos of snare that Field was daring to place into the song were subtle, but appreciated. And over it all, Ure managed to really emote on his lead vocals that had hit hitting the highest notes of the evening thus far.
The middle eight had the lighting design for the show, which was almost completely into the blue spectrum for most of the show shift dramatically to red as Ure’s vocal lacked the filtering on the original album production for less of the remote distance of that version. O’Keefe’s piano solo on the coda synched perfectly with the last gank of Ure’s guitar for the famous cold ending.
I can recall getting a copy of Kraftwerk’s 1981 opus, “Computerworld” as a high school graduation present. Since I already had a computer in my home by that time [Radio Shack CoCo with Extended Basic upgrade, if you’re asking] I took great delights in writing programs while playing this album on the stereo. Geek thrills don’t come much more potent than that.
At that time, the notion of a new Kraftwerk album following a year or two of R+D was an expected given, but little did we know then how that supposition would play out over the rest of out lifetimes. It’s forty years later and to date there have been only two albums of new material. And neither of them are when we would typify as “iconic.” For the most part, Kraftwerk, eventually down to Ralf + Florian and now, just Ralf have been using the decades to burnish their katalog and compulsively frame/reframe their legacy with a shocking amount of concert touring and prestige residency gigs at tony art museums. Occasionally, resulting in an artifact like this one.
A 40th anniversary edit of the German language version of “Homecomputer” by Ralf Hütter that has come with the June issue of Germany’s “Musikexpress” magazine. For readers not in Germany, there are still ample copies of the 7″, single sided, yellow vinyl single available directly from the magazine at what is undoubtedly a moderate price that will cost us plenty in a few years in the vinyl bubble aftermarket. So if you want one, it’s yours for only €13.80 [inc. postage] to any location in the world. That’s just $16.80, American. But act fast.
For those on a budget, the single is also available as a DL single, while coupled with the English language version of the track as a bonus B-side. True, the only lyric was
I program my home computer,
Bring myself into the future.
But it’s attention to detail, which we certainly can’t fault Kraftwerk for lacking! Since I’m not invested in having a complete Kraftwerk collection on vinyl, I opted for the DL this morning to see what the fuss was all about. The original album mix was of a piece with the climactic track, “It’s More Fun To Compute” with both of the tracks sharing the same tempo and having almost a seamless segue mix. For this new 2021 edit, Mr. Hüter has obviously leaned hard on that prescient decision to make beat matching the songs as seamless as possible. Interpolating elements of the two songs together handily.
I have to say that it still sounds like amazing sound design in the synth programming that happened two generations [and forty computer generations…] ago. It didn’t sound like anything else then as Kraftwerk liked to have custom hardware modded by the synthesizer chop shops under their direction. Credit their vision for it still sounding futuristic forty years later. The “Computerworld” album always sounded like quicksilver to me. A fluid and liquid, yet somehow metallic construction like no other. Its electronics burbled with a vivid, lifelike quality.
This edit joins the other unique edits that Kraftwerk have supplied to Musikexpress Magazin for every two years now with a “Robots” edit in 2017, and an “Autobahn” edit in 2019. I’m slightly annoyed that this latest one is the only one available for a DL since I’m most interested in unique 7″ edits of “Autobahn” with the commercial US/UK attempts in house. I’d really be up for buying those two as well but might balk at the cost of getting the [surprisingly inexpensive] vinyl shipped to me from Germany. Let’s hope that someone at in the Kraftwerk mothership realizes that they had two more 7″ edits for Musikexpress that could join “Heimcomputer 2021” in the DL store of your choice.