'And I closed my eyes and realised, I survived,’ sings Midge Ure at the outset of this unfailingly impressive set.
No argument there. Fragile has been long enough in the making to represent a solo comeback, in which case it’s among the year’s finest. Played blind, it would take a moment to recognise the voice, but then his lavish trademark soundscapes envelop the listener, and the effect is at once reassuringly familiar and remarkably fresh. Immersed in recent times by Ultravox’s 2012 album Brilliant and by touring, this is Ure’s first solo record of new material since 2001’s Move Me. Unencumbered by his past but happy to embrace his longtime influences, he’s managed to create something wholly worthwhile from the sum of his parts. Those breathy but incisive vocals bestride dramatic clifftops such as Star Crossed (as stirring as anything he’s ever conjured). This isn’t about pointed glances and cool synthetics: there’s plenty of natural beauty on display, as on the elegant instrumental Wire And Wood. Bridges strikes a Twin Peaks mood, and, closing the album, the title track has Floydian elements. It’s a genuine pleasure to have him back as a solo force. PS ** **