Yikes. 26 years ago Midge Ure scored his first solo hit with a fine reworking of The Walker Brothers `No Regrets'. All moody electronica fired through with a wailing electric guitar it was a fine start to what has been a hesitant, but always interesting solo career.
Anyone who's watched Midge live over the past few years (and this reviewer has - many times) will know that he's made much of the fact that No Regrets was intended to be the first cut from a covers album that he always wanted to do, but never quite got round to completing. Well now he has, and after 26 years the question is: was the wait worth it? The answer is a resounding and depressing no. God, no.
This is an album that sounds like Ure has been locked in solitary confinement for a year with a small casio keyboard and an acoustic guitar. Instrumentally every song is reduced to vague noodlings, and the vocals are astonishingly insipid for someone of Midge's range. This was the voice the roared Vienna, that crooned the beautiful Breathe and that rocked through Dancing With Tears in My Eyes. Yet every song here sounds like he's recorded it after waking up at 3am, bleary eyed and in need of a glass of water.
So what about the selected cuts? Well, it's difficult to be critical when the songs are picked for reasons as personal as these, but it's precisely the fact that they mean so much to him that makes the album so depressing - nothing is raised to a level above elevator music; background noise.
There's the opening track, Alfie, which would never have been a hit if Cilla had done it like this, and there's the Carpenters' Goodbye to Love, which manages to make the original sound like Van Halen in comparison. Then there's a truly bizarre reworking of To Sir with Love, which, given the fact that it's now being sung by a man gives Lulu's song a hitherto unrealised homo-erotic edge. Like all the rest, it's just bland and noodlesome.
There are better tracks. Peter Green's Man of the World, Queen's Nevermore and Thin Lizzy's Song for While I'm Away are all improvements, each of them registering as something more than the weightless, amorphous mass that is the rest of the album. But not much more. On any of his other albums not a single track here would have made the cut.
Now that it's finally out of his system one would hope that Midge can get back to doing something of the quality of his last two studio albums, Move Me and Breathe - both of them amongst the best he's made. Any more like this, though, and he'll be needing to reform Ultravox just to pay the bills.