Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ultravox - Quartet (1982)

European Import

Note: this release was originally purchased as an LP, later replaced by the 2 CD, 2009 Remastered Definitive Edition containing a bonus disc with 13 bonus tracks.

Today is the fourth anniversary of this blog. 4 years ago, I started this journey with my brief thoughts on Paul Simon's Graceland album. In honor of the four years that have passed, I chose this disc because the title is somewhat related to the number 4 (I had already posted about Toto IV).  To be honest, when I started this thing I didn't think it would last this long so I didn't plan ahead to a fourth anniversary.  It's the band's sixth album and the group had been a quartet for several years/albums by 1982, so why they picked the title is anybody's guess. 

I'm assuming this album was Ultravox's attempt to hit it big in the US and ride the synthpop wave to the top of the charts.  To that end, they went all-out, grabbing the Beatles' producer and engineer, George Martin and Geoff Emerick, while having brilliant designer Peter Saville handle the graphics.  Alas, US success wasn't in the cards, but it was the group's most successful album on the Billboard Top 200 and contained their most successful US pop single: Reap The Wild Wind peaked at #71. The band never cracked the US Top 40, but made the UK Top 40 seventeen times.

Sure, the album (like all of Ultravox's work) is heavy-handed, very serious, and angst-driven, but that darkness is probably what appealed to me as a teenager.  Critics didn't like it as much as I did, simply because it didn't measure up to the group's 1980 album, Vienna.  In his review for Rolling Stone, Kurt Loder wrote, "Quartet isn't a bad record, but coming from the band that gave us Vienna, it's inevitably a disappointment."  So while I'm in the minority, I give a slight edge to this album over Vienna.  Earlier this year, I placed this album at #26 on my list of top albums of 1982.

I'm of two minds on this 2009 edition.  The remastering of the original album sounds fantastic (especially on headphones), but the bonus tracks aren't very good and the liner notes are practically non-existent. For a "definitive" edition, I would have at least expected a lengthy essay/love note to the band from a music journalist (or even a music blogger - I work cheap, guys, call me).  I didn't even get lyrics, although they are available here.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #61
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #42

Tracks:  My favorite track is Reap The Wild Wind followed closely by Hymn and Visions in Blue.  In the early eighties, side one (tracks 1-4) got significantly more playing time than side two (tracks 5-9) and I still like that quartet of tunes.  The weakest track is Cut And Run, so I usually skip that track.

Disc Two features extended versions (which I like, but already had), B-Sides (which are usually B-sides for good reason), and live versions from 1981-82 all mish-mashed in a confusing sequence. When my buddy Jim was in the Navy in the mid-80s, he saw Ultravox live in Munich.  When I asked him what he thought of the show, he said, "Loud, leaden, performance.  Eurotrash chicks listlessly dancing.  Ruined poor Jimmy for New Romantic/techno/Europop. That kind of music didn't lend itself to live performances."  That pretty much sums up the live tracks on this CD.  The worse track, however, is the B-side Break Your Back which sounds like the drunk cleaning crew of the studio playing around on a drum machine after the band had left for the day.  To recap, the second disc is pretty much pointless.  (When I asked Jim if there had been an opening act for Ultravox, he responded as only Jim could: "Some German dance music abomination.")

Personal Memory Associated with this CD:  After ringing in 1983 with the aforementioned Jim, he asked what song I'd like to hear to kick off the new year.  I picked Reap The Wild Wind because it was a current favorite song of mine.  After giving that track a spin on his turntable, Jim said he was going to pick a song and put on Tomorrow Never Knows by the Beatles. Good call, Jim.  You won that one.

Through this blog, I've become friends with many fellow music lovers over the past four years.  I'm grateful for these new friendships.  And I hope the good times continues.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Extended: A Collection of 12" Remixes (1998)
The Collection (1985)


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  2. Also a fan of this album though I wouldn;t say I am a fan of the band's catalog. Feel the same way about the sound of the remaster as you do - it sounds superb. And I will freely and openly admit I added the album to the collection with all of the other Ultravox Remasters to simply have more Ultravox.