Advantages Good for your collection if you're a Duran fan but not their best. Can get it cheap.
Disadvantages Not their best work. Poor sales.
|Quality and consistency of tracks|
|Cover / Inlay Design and Content|
|Value for Money|
|How does it compare to the artist's other releases||Average|
|How does it rate alongside the competition||Average|
I’ve been a Duran Duran fan since nineteen eighty (yes, that’s thirty two-years, for those of you that find that hard to believe).
This review is a review of the aforementioned album but also a biography of the band as well. I always feel that information about a band is paramount for someone buying an album or listening to them for the first time. The whole point of a review is to give as much information about the subject as possible without being too specific; Duran Duran have been around for thirty-four years, so a few sentences will most definitely not suffice in my book; so for those of you that want to read on, please feel free; for those of you that don’t, I’m sure there are plenty of bunged together sentences that are masquerading as reviews for you to seek out; if that’s your bag. This review is my own tribute to a band that I have grown up with and I think they deserve more than a few sentences.
Nick Rhodes started out dee-jaying local pubs and clubs in Birmingham and one of these clubs was called Rum Runner. Nick and John Taylor would bounce around ideas as to how they could form a band. They finally started playing together with Nick playing synthesiser and the drums coming from a programmed drum machine. John would play on bass in these early sessions. They would play at a club called ‘Barberella’s’ and decided to call their band Duran Duran after the villain in the famous French movie ‘ Barbarella’ in which the villain was called Durand Durand.
After the Stephen ‘Tin Tin’ Duffy left the band in nineteen seventy-nine, Duran Duran would be in an experimental phase and would try out numerous band members and lead singers. One of the lead singers, Andy Wickett would co-write ‘Girl’s on Film’ and was responsible for an early writing of ‘Rio’. He was also the singer on the bands earliest demos that were sent to E.M.I’s recording studios.
Wickett and a number of other band members would come and go in nineteen seventy-nine and the band would struggle to find common ground. Then John would move to lead guitar and Andy Taylor would come in as bass player. Roger Taylor (not Queen’s drummer) would come in on drums and Simon Le Bon would win the boys over with his vocals.
In nineteen eighty-one after some success touring as a support band for Hazel O Conner, Duran Duran were a sought after band and their first album was being touted around numerous record companies. They ended up choosing E.M.I because of its name and the fact that it was the record company that launched The Beatles. They would later come to regret this.
The first album did OK commercially and the video to one of the singles ‘Girls on Film’ caused so much controversy that it would get the band noticed all over the world. The video was intended to be played at night clubs and the bands management asked the video makers to make it a little saucy to get it talked about. MTV had been launched two weeks before the video came out and it would play a slightly edited version of the video to get itself some publicity as well as the band. The video featured scantily clad women who were prancing around in next to nothing and even mud wrestling at one stage.
The second album in nineteen eighty-two was called ‘Rio’ and although successful in the UK and Europe, didn’t really take off in America like the band had hoped. The band changed their image and remixed the album slightly for the American audience, which resulted on them appearing on TV in the states, singing ‘Hungry like the Wolf’ and ‘Rio’ from the album. Once they had re-released the album it climbed to number six on the US charts and stayed there for over two years. NME named it as the sixty-fifth best album of all time in their top one hundred in two thousand and three.
The third album ‘Seven and the Ragged Tiger’ released in nineteen eighty-three saw the bands success rise to new heights, especially in America. On the back of Rio and the first album the band had had four top five hits in the states and ‘Union of the Snake’ from the third album made it five. People had started to throw names around, such as ‘The fab five’ and ‘The pretty boys of pop’. Girls were screaming and fainting at their concerts and the fame thing was shooting through the roof. They were so successful in this period that they all went to hide away in France to escape media attention and also to evade the tax they had to pay on their earnings. Jools Holland would famously film a documentary on the band while they were in France. I remember girls, as we all left school, panicking about whether they would return or not.
The fourth album ‘Arena’ would see a live album and a DVD/documentary spawn from it and it was basically a year with the band on tour. The documentary was called ‘Sing Blue Silver’. John Taylor would get married in Italy and Nick Rhodes back in the UK and the band took a sabbatical. I remember seeing Duran twice in this part of their career and I was oblivious to how drained and tired they looked. Le Bon’s voice wasn’t perfect on the one occasion but you just let the music override you and of course I was young and in awe of this pop sensation. There were also lots of scantily clad young girls surrounding me, which, screaming aside, wasn’t too bad a situation to find myself in.
They performed on the ‘Band Aid’ track ‘Do They Know it’s Christmas’, with Le Bon having major vocals in the song.
By now Duran really needed a break and it was also becoming apparent that there were creative differences within the band. John and Andy wanted a more rocked-up sound while Nick wanted Duran Duran to evolve into their sound in a natural progressive way that nurtured what they already had. Simon tended to agree with Nick. Roger would float between the two groups and become disgusted, in the end, by the inability to sort out the differences.
Andy and John collaborated with Robert Palmer and Tony Thompson and created the band ‘The PowerStation’. They made one album and had a couple of top ten hits. One song ‘Some Like It Hot’ did particularly well.
Nick and Simon formed their own band ‘Arcadia; which also made one album and enjoyed minimal success. ‘Election Day’ was a top ten hit for them. Roger played on the drums so the band was technically a three-piece but he also contributed to The PowerStation and was again caught in-between the two.
In nineteen eighty-five, the five band members would regroup and record the title song for the new James Bond movie ‘A View to a Kill’. The song, by the same name, would reach number two in the UK charts and number one in the States. Duran Duran would not record as the original five again for sixteen years.
After five years of touring and heavy promotion and recording four albums, the band were exhausted, even with the break, which was really took up with the side projects. Roger Taylor announced that he would be taking a year off but this would soon turn into him leaving the band.
Andy Taylor agreed with John, Simon and Nick to record a new album but went ahead and signed a solo contract deal of his own in America. He would release an album on the back of this named ‘Thunder’ that was not a commercial success. During this process the rest of the band were incensed that he was not turning up to record the new album. Eventually they used lawyers to force him into the studio but he only appeared on a few tracks of the finished album and would leave the band in amongst a bunch of bitter arguments and feuds that would take years to heal.
This left Nick, John and Simon without a lead guitarist or a drummer. Steve Ferrone would play drums on the new album and they got a session guitarist in until Wayne Cuccurullo finally joined them as lead guitarist on the album. The album was released in nineteen eighty-six and was called ‘Notorious’. Duran would also make a documentary, which covered the splits, the recording of the album, the tour and all the legal arguments regarding Roger and Andy’s departure. I would see Duran again in this period and I must admit, it was not the same sound and it didn’t seem right without Andy and Roger but the powerful sound of Nick’s synthesiser and Simon’s familiar voice soon made you forget about all the troubles and just enjoy the gig. I was also nineteen years of age and like a lot of the Duran fans had grown up with them through my teens but had matured a little along with their music. The sound had a raw edge and the pop sound was, although still there, taking a back seat to a more serious cut. The problem was that the fans still wanted the upbeat pop music and synth sound of Rhodes and along with the music taking a different turn the band changed their image, which didn’t go down too well with the ladies. Another problem for Duran Duran was the fact that they had had five years of madness from nineteen eighty to eighty-five and now all of a sudden, after the split of Andy and Roger, the band found themselves in the wilderness because most of their fans had grown up and moved on. Notorious did well commercially and spawned three top ten hits in the US and the UK but something was clearly missing from the band’s point of view.
In nineteen eighty-eight, the band released the album ‘Big Thing’. Again they tried to portray the band in its new grown up image and this was reflected in the music. The album would contain many samples and Nick would mix in house and rave to give the band a different sound. ‘I Don’t Want Your Love’, the first single went to number four in the charts but the album was not so much of a success and the band would find themselves in limbo over the next year or so.
In late nineteen eighty-nine it was announced that Cuccurullo was now officially a full member of the band along with drummer Sterling Campbell. The band would release a ‘Decade’ a greatest hits compilation that would sell well. The band however, was becoming disgruntled and the nineteen ninety album ‘Liberty’ was not received well and was a commercial flop. The band had tried a soft rock approach to the album in keeping with the times but it failed to live up to the bands who actually were soft rock bands and left Duran’s fans wondering what the hell they were playing at. Duran didn’t tour on the back of this album, which was something that they had done on all previous albums.
Sterling Campbell left the band in nineteen ninety-one and the band were finding it hard to know what to do next. In this time period John Taylor would marry nineteen year old Amanda De Cadenet at the age of thirty-one. The band then recorded what was to be one of my favourite albums. It was titled ‘Duran Duran’ but because the band’s first album had the same title, this album would be known as ‘The Wedding album’; this was due to the cover which depicted a bride and groom. The record company delayed the release of this album as they didn’t think Duran Duran had the pulling power to produce the sales anymore and they were at loggerheads with the band over whether it should be released at all. The record company underestimated Duran’s fans and the song that was to be the first single from the album, named ‘Ordinary World’ was leaked, which forced radio stations to play it. The record was officially released after good feedback and became a hit. It even won an award for the lyrics and got to number three in the US and number six in the UK. ‘Come Undone’ the second single was also a success. The music company were pleasantly surprised and the band humbled by the huge support of their fans. The album was released and this prompted a massive tour in nineteen ninety-three. It would be the biggest tour the band had ever been on, even taking in the Middle East. Simon Le Bon would damage his vocal chords and need to rest for six weeks before the tour continued. After the tour John Taylor was rumoured to be leaving the band but had a change of heart.
In nineteen ninety-five the album ‘Thank You’ was released. This album would basically be a thank you to fans and would consist of a mish mash of songs which included covers of Lou Reed, T Rex and Melle Mel’s ‘White Lines’. John Taylor was getting itchy feet and created his own record company and reformed The PowerStation, although he did not play with them. He also formed a band called ‘Neurotic Outsiders’ and still tried to record Duran’s next album ‘Medazzaland’. Things weren’t going well for John on the home front and he had to put everything on hold to go through a messy divorce with De Cadenet.
I nineteen ninety-seven John Taylor announced to fans at a convention that he would be leaving Duran Duran. Nick and Simon decided to keep the name Duran Duran and along with Cuccurullo, pressed on to finish the album Medazzaland. John would only appear on four tracks from the original recordings. The album would be another experimental album of songs similar to Big Thing and would not be a commercial success. The album would produce a song ‘Out of my Mind’, which would be used on the movie ‘The Saint’. There was only one single release from the album, which was called ‘Electric Barbarella’ and would go down in history as the first ever single to be sold solely online. Barbarella of course being a further reference to the band name, it being the movie they took their name from nineteen long years ago.
In nineteen ninety-nine EMI dropped Duran Duran from their label. Duran joined ‘Hollywood Records’ for what was meant to be a three contract deal but only completed one album, ‘Pop Trash’, which is mainly regarded by fans as their worst album. They did tour and used session musicians for the bass and drums but things were not going well for the band anymore. A lot of their fans had moved on. There were still a large number of hard-core fans that would stick by the boys, me included and hoped that somewhere along the line that the original line-up would get back together and treat us to a ‘proper’ (Brummy accent here) Duran Duran album.
We would, thankfully, not have to wait long. In the year two thousand Simon and Nick approached John about returning to the band, he agreed and they were overjoyed when Roger and Andy agreed to return as well. A full contract was drawn up and the band were back together. They had to sack Cuccurullo, which didn’t go down too well but I think in the end he understood that the original line-up held no place for him. He completed his tour date obligations on the Pop Trash tour and left the band.
The next three years would see the band building their own recording studio and writing new material. The problem was that Hollywood records had dropped them after the poor sales of Pop Trash, so they were without a record company. No one wanted to risk yet another comeback album and doubted that the band could ever be commercially successful again. The boys put their heads together and decided to do their own tour. It was the best decision that they could ever have made. In July two thousand and three the band played to filled stadiums and the tickets sold out within minutes of going up for sale. If any record company needed proof of how popular the band was, then here it was. It was a master stroke and record companies were champing at the bit to get the boys to sign.
The band was invited to present an award show for MTV and was shocked to find out they had been tricked into receiving a lifetime achievement award themselves. They also won a lifetime achievement award from ‘Q Magazine’ and an outstanding contribution award at The Brits.
On the back of this the band would tour America and Australia and even sang ‘Wild Boys’ live to millions at the American Super bowl.
In the same year, two thousand and four the band would sign a four record contract with recording company Epic Records and the subsequent album release ‘Astronaut’ is one of my favourite albums and I will be reviewing it in its own right, but that is for another time. The album would spawn the hit single ‘Reach up for the Sunrise’, which reached number one in the US and number five in the UK. The second single ‘What happens Tomorrow’ was also a hit. The album was a success and a special edition with a remix and a DVD was released. The DVD contained footage from the tour and a making of documentary, which showed that Duran had really put all their problems behind them. There would also be a separate album of remixed and unreleased tracks from Astronaut called ‘Beautiful Colours’. I love the song Beautiful Colours itself as it sounds like the real Duran Duran. I saw Duran twice on this tour and one of the stand out parts of the gig was the beginning. They kicked off with ‘View to a Kill’, from the Bond movie and the stage had massive white vertical screens at the forefront. Behind each screen was a silhouette of a band member. As the intro kicked in each member came from behind the screen. It was a really cool entrance.
After the success of Astronaut, Duran were asked to headline the Rome section of the ‘Live 8’ concert and they went down a storm.
In two thousand and six Duran had been working on an album which fans had heard leaked as ‘Reportage’ but it never materialised. Andy Taylor had been having problems with depression since his father had died and after arguments with the bands management and feelings of isolation, decided to leave the band again.
So Duran were a four piece again and decided to work with the producer ‘Timberland’ and ‘Justin Timberlake’, who would both feature on a track on the new album. The album would be called ‘Red Carpet Massacre’ and was released in two thousand and eight. By now I had moved to Holland and I would see the boys perform the new album and older material, of course, at The Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam. It was a great gig and the boys were in wonderful spirits and great form. The song ‘Skin Divers’ was the song which featured Justin Timberlake’s beat boxing and the chorus lyrics by Timberland. It was funny to hear Le Bon do the ‘Wicky wicky’ of Timberlake live. They performed at ‘Live Earth’ and at the concert in memory of Princess Diana. Timberland produced three tracks on the album, one of which was ‘Falling Down’, which was to be the first single from the album. Duran performed a special ‘invite-only’ only gig with Mark Ronson and Le Bon performed songs from Ronson’s album ‘Version;, while Ronson specially mixed some of Duran’s tracks for the performance. Despite the involvement of Timberland, the album did not do well commercially. I for one am surprised at that as I rather liked it. Dom Brown had worked as guitarist in place of Andy Taylor on the album and was now a permanent member of the band. I will be reviewing this album as part of this review. See below.
In two thousand and nine Duran split from Epic records and did a lot of charity work including raising awareness and funds for the ‘War Child’ foundation. In two thousand and ten they announced that they would be joining ‘S-Curve Records’ and would be releasing a new album entitled ‘All You Need Is Now’. The title track would be the first single from the album and would sell as a download and reach number one in fifteen countries, including back home in the UK. I love the track and am currently listening to it regularly. The band is currently resting in two thousand and twelve after an extensive tour. I really like the new album and can only hope that they carry on in this vein.
Track One – The Valley – 4.57The opening track is a real pop belter with a catchy chorus and is typically Duran, if not the more grown up Duran; but hey they are getting on now like me! Le Bon’s vocals are really powerful on this track and Nick Rhodes synth is still as virile and pumping as ever, adding a melodic beat to the track. You really can feel the old Duran almost cushioned by the matureness of the guys now and it is testament to them that they can still churn out tracks like this, whether it was well received or not. This track was produced by Danja.
Track Two – Red Carpet Massacre – 3.17The album’s title track is another uber pop track with a catchy bite and lyrics. Also produced by Danja, it has a slight hip-hop sound to it that could easily translate as urban pop with Nick Rhodes at the helm of his synthesiser. The guitar sound is quite bold for Duran and has a real rough sounding edge to it. Dominic Brown is responsible for this and again plays lead guitar for the band although is not credited as a full member of Duran Duran on the album credits as the band revert once more to a four piece of original members.
This track was produced by Timberland, Timberlake and Danja and was the first track to be played from the album on the radio and on a live TV performance. It was also released on iTunes. Justin Timberlake’s contribution is very evident on the track as there is more beat-boxing and sampling. Timberland also joins in on the build-up to the chorus in his familiar deep voice. Justin joins in on the chorus as well. Simon’s voice is quite varied on this track and although a catchy ditty in part it is not one of the stand-out tracks on the album, despite all the input from Timberland and Timberlake.
‘Nite Runner, I think I'm falling for you, nite runner, you got a style that put me under, nite runner, what you gonna do with it now, nite runner, nite, nite runner.’
Another track that starts with some beat-boxing as the beat from Timberlake and you would expect this as this is the track he had most influence on as he produced it solely. The hissing sound under-laying the track from Timberlake’s mouth is quite annoying on headphones to be honest but I do love this track as it is a more typical Duran number. The chorus is really catchy but you are left with a feeling that the track could’ve had more to it. I would rather listen to it without the hissing of Timberlake as well; don’t get me wrong, he’s a talented lad and I like him as a person but listen to this track on headphones and you will know what I mean.
‘Once was a man who consumed his place and time, he thought nothing could touch him, but here and now it's a different storyline, like the straw he is clutching, Why has the sky turned grey? Hard to my face and cold on my shoulder. And why has my life gone astray? Scarred by disgrace, I know that it’s over. Because I'm falling down, with people standing round, but before I hit the ground, is there time, could I find someone out there to help me?’
The fifth track on the album was produced by Danja. I love the way this track starts as there are no frills; just Le Bon singing. The beat builds up with a melodic electric piano and a rhythm guitar. It is a slower track as far as the album thus far is concerned but it fits in nicely.
‘At the sharp end of the view, the edge of me and you, and all good sense that tread no further, and as the ghost will shiver trees. How I'm tremblin' on my knees, but I'm still drawn on by the murmur. Are you laughing at me now? In my circumstance, when still I wear your crown. My life's penitence, for what? What's so funny? A Box full o' honey.’
Track Six – Skin Divers – 4.23Produced by Danja and Timberlake. Again Justin Timberlake provides his beat-box for the chorus but this time it is not as annoying as the hissing from Falling Down. This is a really catchy track and Danja sounds good on the chorus if you can stop yourself from giggling when you first hear the ‘wicky wicky’ sound of Timberlake. The chorus goes together well and Duran sound good on it. A definite pop track, which is what the recording bosses were looking for after all. The track as a nice beat and flows along nicely enough and although not typically Duran it does have a certain appeal.
Produced by Danja and again written with Duran Duran. Starts with a kind of space age intro that builds into a drum beat with a staggered synthesiser accompanying it. Simon’s voice kicks in and the song is in motion. Not really a stand out track but some nice synthesiser work from Nick. The second verse contains Simon’s voice on two different levels, sampled together.
Track Seven – Tempted – 4.22
Produced by Duran Duran and Danja. This track is an instrumental and the shortest track on the album. It reminds me of a cross between an old video game and a horror series like ‘The Munsters’, without being as daft. It is a nicely put together array of synthesiser and guitar and is a brief interlude amongst the lyrical tracks. I like to listen this one when I am working on my art.Track Nine – Zoom In – 3.25
Track Eight – Tricked Out – 2.45
Produced by Duran, Danja and Timberland. The track starts with a pummelling drum beat as Simon’s voice enters, accompanied by a rhythm guitar. Another track that is sadly lacking any real bite and I was always aware of the fact that a Timberland type rap could invade the tune at any moment, but it never materialised, thankfully for me.
‘Now she arrives, in a flaming crash. Like a falling star, heading straight for the dive. Gonna make some cash, with the avatar. You got it all worked out, I know you know , I don't want you to go, but it knocks you out, I'm zooming in on you on you.’
Track Ten – She’s Too Much – 5.30Produced by Duran and Danja. One of my fave tracks on the album and only Falling Down is longer in track length. A nice slow start to the song and some melodic lyrics from Simon. This song is a ballad with a bit of bite to it. Simon has to really use the range of his voice in this one and sings very high in some parts. The track contains a variety of instruments and Nick’s synth and samples are apparent. I like the chorus lyrics and it is a relaxing tune. I particularly like the chorus part were the band all join in in a sort of accapella based section.
Produced by Duran Duran and Danja. A slow drum beat to start, moving into a strumming electric guitar that is background to Simon’s voice when it starts. Electric piano is evident from Nick Rhodes and the background sounds rather like a big band tune. Another middle of the road tune that won’t draw much attention but does its job on the album well enough.
Track Eleven – Dirty Great Monster’ – 3.40
Produced by Duran Duran and Danja. Another track that I like, despite it being a slow one. I like the lyrics and the subtle sound of this one. Simon’s voice is in good form and the music accompanies it well. The sound of Nick’s synth is enchanting and sounds similar to tubular bells or a mix of steel drums and harp sounds all packaged into one. A nice track to end the album with.
Track Twelve – Last Man Standing – 4.05
Well, I know this has been a long review and I will get the inevitable ‘too long’ and ‘too much padding’ comments, but let’s get one thing straight here; I just wrote what I wanted too and if people have a problem with that, then so be it. I will not compromise the size of a review because people think there is an ulterior motive. If that was true it would be very short and I would produce another ten on the same day. I write about something because I have a passion for it and want to make other people aware of it in every possible way and no other reason.
Duran Duran have been a part of my life since my early teens and I am forty-five in October, so I owed them a review at least partly explaining their journey and mine.
The latest album ‘All You Need Is Now’, released at the end of two thousand and ten is a really good album in my opinion and I hope the boys keep going and going.
The highlights of me being a Duran fan are a few of the earlier gigs, especially Birmingham NIA in 1984 and 2005, Live Earth and Amsterdam Arena in 2008. I remember when I was younger how exited I’d be when a new album came out and then joining fan clubs and forums when the internet took off.
Duran Duran sound as good today as they ever have and now they have grown up a little so the problems are few and far between.
Red Carpet Massacre is not a brilliant album and is officially the twelfth best of thirteen as far as sales are concerned, but it still does have appeal if you’re a fan and can be picked up for pennies on Amazon or eBay.
If anyone did bother to read this, then thanks it was enjoyable for me to write and I hope it wasn’t too much of a struggle for you to read.©Lee Billingham
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1. The Valley 2. Red Carpet Massacre 3. Nite-Runner 4. Falling Down 5. Box Full O'Huney 6. Skin Divers 7. Tempted 8. Tricked Out 9. Zoom In 10...
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1. The Valley 2. Red Carpet Massacre 3. Nite-Runner 4. Falling Down 5. Box Full O'Huney 6. Skin Divers 7. Tempted 8. Tricked Out 9. Zoom In 10...
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