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Incidentally, Systems... is Midge Ure's favourite
album and he knew the songs intimately when he
was working with keyboard genius Billy Currie
in Visage, something which definately counted in
Midge Ure brought more than just Captain Kirk
sideburns to the band: he brought a shimmering
commercial sheen which blended with their risky,
edgy earlier sound.
The sequencing of the tracks on the album works
a treat: Astradyne, the album's instrumental
opener sets the tempo with Billy Currie's superb
violin well to the fore. No sooner has the track
concluded then we're straight into Ure's choppy,
strident guitar of New Europeans, the contrast
between the textures is awesome.
The band gigged this album extensively before
and after it was recorded in the spring of 1980
so they were as tight as a gnat's chuff when
the tapes rolled.
Private Lives is ushered in with Currie's classical piano flourishes and then all hell
breaks loose as their trademark duelling guitar
and ARP Odyssey vie with each other to pass you
Most of the songs feature synth solos by Billy Currie playing an ARP Odyssey, which sounds something like a cross between a violin and a guitar. Currie also plays some amazing violin and viola on some songs, most notably Astradyne, Mr. X and the title track. And drummer Warren Cann takes electronic percussion to a whole new level on this album.
The title track Vienna is one of the best songs ever recorded in my opinion. A beauitful blend of electronic and classical instrumentation. I do believe it was a hit all over the world except the US of course. Ultravox were just too European for mainstream American ears at that time. Pity...for mainstream America that is. The only place you'd hear Ultravox at that time was on college radio, so mainstream America missed out on some amazing music.
This re-release has some b-sides to singles included all of which are good songs...Passionate Reply and Waiting are standouts to me. Herr X is an interesting version of Mr X with the vocals in German. Also included is the breakthrough video Vienna which was probably the first video to look like a mini movie.