Ultravox “Three Into One” 1979. Pre-Midge Ure …

Ultravox “Three Into One” 1979. Pre-Midge Ure (with John Foxx on vocals), Three Into One compiles singles and tracks from Ultravox’s first three albums: Ultravox! (1977), Ha!-Ha!-Ha! (1977) and Systems of Romance (1978) and b-sides of singles released through ‘78. Because I am much more familiar with the 80′s iteration of Ultravox with Midge Ure (big 80′s keyboards and vocals i.e. their 1981 hit “Vienna”), the power pop, punkish new wave style of the first few tracks on Three Into One surprised me and listening through the entire record was an education in the band’s evolution. “Young Savage” and “ROckwrok” recall both Devo and The Buzzcocks. Notes of synthpop kraut electronica (Kraftwerk and Neu! both Ultravox influences) appear on “The Man Who Dies Everyday,” the beat and vocals marching in perfect time. “The Wild, The Beautiful and The Damned” shows some hints at their future 80′s sound while incorporating soaring harmonic strings, a pretty groovy bass line and unironic urgency. “Slow Motion” combines warm heavy metalish guitar with cold keyboards and vocals. “Quiet Men” is quintessential synthpop: robotic but with an urge to see what every effect button on that new keyboard will do. “My Sex” is just plain weird with ultra-robotic vocal delivery and ambient background music and “Hiroshima Mon Amour” is also heavy in musical experimentation. 

Ultravox’s first three albums ultimately sold poorly with singles that failed to chart; Island Records dropped them and the band briefly broke up in ‘79 with Foxx’s departure from the band. (synth player Billy Currie hooked up to tour and record with Gary Numan – appropriate! – while drummer Warren Cann and bassist/synth player Chris Cross worked with a few other artists.) They regrouped with Midge Ure, and without Foxx and guitarist Robin Simon) in 1980.