In April 2009, Warren Cann (drums, electronic percussion, vocals), Chris Cross (bass, synthesizers, vocals), Billy Currie (synthesizers, piano, violin, viola) and Midge Ure (lead vocals, guitars, synthesizers) reformed Ultravox for a British tour called Return To Eden. In 2010 one of these shows was released on DVD having the same title (see review). It was the first time this classic line-up performed together since Live Aid in 1985. The British tour was followed by an extended tour in Germany and Belgium. Midge Ure stated that this reunion tour was only a one-off. The group wouldn't release any new material afterwards. “We're not trying to recapture our youth and we won't be writing new songs or recording another album. This is all about celebrating our music and our anniversary”, Ure said.
However, a couple of months later he discussed this reunion tour with the other original band members. He said that this reunion wasn't planned in the light of the aforementioned events, but it happened rather spontaneously and quickly while talking online with the others. So, the band started to perform again with the Return To Eden II tour during spring and summer of 2010. In January 2011 the band announced that a new studio album was near completion. Finally the release of Brilliant, the new studio album was released; their first one in 28 years and following Lament (1984). Ultravox also released an EP called Moments From Eden featuring four new live tracks recorded during their second reunion tour.
Well, a title like Brilliant immediately evokes the question whether this new album is really brilliant? After listening to the album a couple of times I could easily give my judgment on it. This album is certainly not as brilliant as Vienna (1980), Rage in Eden (1981) or Quartet (1982)! In the eighties Ultravox were specialized in delivering majestic electronic songs; they were particularly associated with the new romantic and new wave movement. But those days are gone and that also applies to the music of that era. Sure the same kind of music is present on Brilliant, but the spirit of the age no longer is. The music sounds too mediocre; you can feel that the chemistry between the musicians is not as strong as then. Moreover, the compositions are average as well. I wasn't waiting for a song like Vienna, Passing Strangers or The Voice. Music wise these songs had something to say. Brilliant just occasionally contains nice tunes that really felt good.
I think that the diehard Ultravox-fans will love this album all the way. Midge Ure's voice is still rather strong and recognizable. Also the piano parts, the violin playing, the electronic bass lines and drum beats are immediately linked with Ultravox. All these features are clearly audible on this album, but unfortunately this appears not to be enough to make of Brilliant a brilliant album. It's a pity because I expected a better comeback album. Hopefully they will record better material in the future!
** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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