Sunday, June 13, 2010

Spaz reviews the DURAN DURAN and ARCADIA reissues!

EMI proudly presents....

Digitally remastered and expanded three disc versions of classic DURAN DURAN albums: 



OK, so what pops into your head when you think of DURAN DURAN?  Probably expensive videos, good looking men wearing lip gloss, a few catchy songs and silly '80s haircuts, right?  Well, while Duran Duran are guilty for being the leaders of the Excessive '80s Brigade, they are also unfairly overlooked when it comes to judging music from that glorious decade.  People might remember the bigger hits like "Hungry Like The Wolf", "Rio" and "Girls On Film", but there are many more gems in their catalog that are deserving of reappraisal, making these three reissues a timely look back at the core of what Duran Duran was all about: making great, memorable pop music. 

Instead of your standard single disc remasters (they've already done that), EMI has released a trio of amazing three disc (two CDs + DVD) sets that will have casual and hardcore DD fans dancing in the streets.  Not only do they offer up plenty of music and videos, they come in snazzy little boxes that include five postcards and a poster!
My personal fave DD album has always been their 1981 debut album, Duran Duran. While the band were part of the same New Romantic scene that gave birth to Spandau Ballet, Visage, Classic Nouveaux and other bands, the Durannies debut was more focused and immediate than any of their contemporaries' first albums.   With classics like "Girls On Film", "Planet Earth" and "Careless Memories", this album was as accomplished as it was wide-eyed and innocent. Here was a band inspired by Funk, Pop and fashion, creating songs that incorporated numerous styles into one seamless sound.  Apart from the aforementioned tracks (all singles, BTW), the album also features two of my all-time fave DD cuts: "Friends Of Mine" and "Anyone Out There".  While the former may not be as hook filled as other tracks, it's a shock that the latter was not released as a single!  There are moments where the album does seem a tad weak (especially the closing instrumental 'Tel Aviv'), but overall, this is where you should start your DD collection.

Disc One includes the entire album plus four excellent b-sides added as bonus tracks.  "Late Bar" and "Faster Than Light" are standouts.

Disc Two Features six excellent demos versions of album tracks, four BBC Session recordings and four extended mixes.  You know, I don't dance, but I've always loved the magic of a good extended remix.  You tend to hear little bits and riffs that you might miss on a single or album mix.  Duran Duran remixes are no exception and I've spent plenty of time with these cuts.

The DVD features videos of the album's singles (including the 'naughty' version of the "Girls On Film" video!!) plus television performances made during the promotion of the album.

Ah, an absolute delight and highly recommended with those of you who want to get in touch with your inner Duran!

By the time the Durannies released their third album, Seven & The Ragged Tiger, in 1983, they were international superstars... and teen idols to boot!  The innocence and charm of the first album were gone and the quintet had been transformed into arrogant, jet-setting Pop pin-ups who dated models and lived in high-rise apartments, no longer rubbing shoulders with the common man.  They went from approachable to unreachable.  Oh, and they had become pretentious to boot!  Oddly enough I mean this all as a compliment!

On Seven & The Ragged Tiger, DD had left their New Romantic Funk/Pop hybrid behind and replaced it with a smoother, Electronic Pop-based sound.  Colin Thurston, who had produced both their debut and the record-breaking Rio album, had been replaced by producer Alex Sadkin, who added a glossy sheen to their maturing sound.  While the album sounds exciting, it's difficult to hide the fact that the songs are just not there. In fact, it was painfully obvious that the band needed more time to put together a great batch of songs and they were NOT ready to make this album.  Yes, there are some great moments here ("New Moon On Monday" remains one of their finest tracks), it's painfully obvious that they were short on new ideas.  Tracks like "I Take The Dice", "Of Crime And Passion" and "Shadows On Your Side" regurgitate the same musical ideas that the band perfected on "Union Of The Snake" and "The Reflex".   While the album is far from worthless, its not on the top of any fans' 'favorite DD albums' list.

Disc One features the original album in all it's remastered glory

Disc Two features the absolutely glorious pre-album single "Is There Something I Should Know?", b-sides, remixes and much more.  In fact, this disc has received more spins around Spaz Central than the original album!  It perfectly compliments the album and is worth the price of admission alone!

The DVD features videos of the singles (including both the short and long clips for "New Moon On Monday"), TV performances and the live film As The Lights Go Down.

This set is essential for any hardcore fan and should be purchased at once!

 After the tour that followed Seven & The Ragged Tiger, DD took a break pursued other musical interests. Bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor formed Power Station with vocalist Robert Palmer. Keyboardist Nick Rhodes, vocalist Simon Le Bon and drummer Roger Taylor joined forces as Arcadia. While Roger was one-third of the band and was featured on the album, he had dropped out of the project by the time their videos were made and the band began promoting their 1985 debut album, So Red The Rose
While Simon has referred to So Red The Rose as 'the most pretentious album ever made', it has actually stood the test of time far more than Seven & The Ragged Tiger (boy, it does sound like I hate that album, doesn't it? But I don't!).   The songs on the album are focused, inventive and, while not always immediate, they possess melodies that are just as arresting as anything in the DD catalog.  "Election Day" was the album's big hit single but pales in comparison to other standout tracks like "The Promise", "Goodbye Is Forever" and "The Flame". While not dissimilar to the direction that DD were taking on their previous album, So Red The Rose has very few mis-steps ("Keep Me In The Dark") and even sounds exactly like DD in other places ("El Diablo").  The songs may go on a bit long, but this is one album that sounds extremely dated yet is all the more charming because of it!

Disc One features the complete album plus single mixes, non album tracks ("Say The Word' from the soundtrack to Playing For Keeps) and more.

Disc Two is a treasure trove of excellent (and sometimes rare) remixes, each of which is worthy of your attention).

The DVD features videos to the album's singles plus 'behind the scenes'  documentaries that focus on the making of each of those videos. 

Yes, this is yet another highly recommended must-have for any Duran fan... and for fans of complex '80s pop!   And damn, it's tasty, too!

(NOTE: The Arcadia 2CD/DVD release comes in a thick double CD jewelcase and does NOT include postcards or mini-poster like the two DD releases reviewed above. )

You're welcome!
Stephen SPAZ Schnee