Monday, March 14, 2005

Duran Duran, I

Duran Duran-s/t

(The self-titled debut, not the pap-laden wedding album that came out later.)

My first favorite band. By this, of course, I mean the first band whose posters adorned my walls, the first band I ever set the VCR to tape, the first band I ever saw live (I have to thank my dad for taking me to the Centrum for that show, in 1987. He told me afterwards it was ‘too loud.’)

I got the 12” for Christmas one year and promptly devoured the first half. And why not? I was all of ten and the singles were on side A. It’s a pretty amazing running order- four certifiable singles (Girls on Film, Planet Earth, Careless Memories [a minor single, actually] and Is There Something I Should Know? [added to the album two years after its initial release]) and a good album track (‘Anyone Out There.’) My vinyl copy, I’m sure, is worn thin from repeat plays.

It’s a pleasure/bit of a surprise to discover that the stuff on the second side, though not as poppy, is still solid and good. ‘Night Boat,’ f’r example, is a little silly….”Waiting for the night-bow-whoah-WHOAT!”… but redeems itself by displaying a dark moodiness not evident anywhere else on the record. The true gem, though, is ‘Friends of Mine.’ The new wave-est song on the record, with all the sounds requisite of the era and a vocal line in the chorus that is amazingly catchy. A hidden treasure.

Duran Duran-Rio

I had a copy of ‘Rio’ that my dad got for me through his Columbia House tape club membership in probably 1984. Easily the Duran record I listened to the most in my formative years. I remember school vacations where me and Rob Monterio used to hang out in this little patch of woods near his house, listening to ‘Hold Back The Rain’ and dancing on this big, flat rock that kinda looked like an altar. Man, being a kid was fun.

So a few years back I had a craving for the album- my tape copy, of course, long since destroyed. I found the CD at the Newbs and freaked out when I put it on- remastered! Not a single mention to be found on the packaging or artwork.

I could tell, though: there were keyboards in spaces that didn’t used to have any (second verse of ‘My Own Way.’) Some stuff was wisely cut, too, like the bit at the end of the aforementioned ‘Hold Back The Rain’ where Simon LeBon rants on and on about, well, holding back the rain over an extended jam- yuck. The most important and impressive change, though, was the new placement of John Taylor’s bass in the mix. The guy is a fantastic player- his lines are propulsive, catchy and funky. On my record club tape, he was barely even audible under the jacked-up guitar and drums.

So, repeated listens to the remastered ‘Rio’ have cemented the album as having a place in my mythical desert island top ten. It’s that good- nary a dud to be found (although it needs to be said that I think ‘Save A Prayer’ can be a little bit schmaltzy- hey, I’m not ten any more. ‘The Chauffeur’, though, is still one of the best songs the band ever wrote. It’s on the same tip as ‘Prayer’ but isn’t trying as hard.)

(Just as a side note- I was poking around the ‘net the other day, right, checking out some Duran Duran pages, and I found out the real deal regarding the remastering. As it turns out, the copy I have on CD is the original mix of the record. After it was recorded, a record company decision was made to change some stuff up, meaning that the shitty tape copy I had and learned was in fact the remaster, and what I thought was the remaster was the original. Or something like that.)

MIX TAPE: My Own Way

Duran Duran- Seven And The Ragged Tiger

Never before mentioned, dear reader, before now: at the ripe old age of ten, fourth grade in 1983, I got into Duran Duran to impress a young lady. No shit. Jen Hansen, the new girl who just moved to town from Saugus. I had a few tapes my dad helped me dub from kids in the neighborhood- the Police, ‘Thriller,’ Survivor. By and large, though, my life was largely without music prior to her arrival. I was taken, crushed out, and started listening to the radio and watching MTV so we could have something to talk about at recess.

At the time, the ‘Seven And the Ragged Tiger’ singles were all over the place- ‘The Reflex’ and ‘Union of The Snake’ being the biggies, flanked at a distance by the vastly underrated ‘New Moon on Monday.’ I had my copy, recorded off of a neighbor (remember how the record industry used to be so afraid of home taping destroying the industry? Seems pretty silly in the wake of file sharing.) Naturally, I dug the singles and kinda hung tight waiting for the album tracks to end so that I could listen to the next radio smash. You know how it goes.

‘Seven’ is pretty good. Nowhere near as well performed or recorded as ‘Rio,’ but not a total piece of shit, either, which is especially impressive when the level of stardom the band was catapaulted into is considered- they were probably the biggest band in the world for a period of months, or damn close.

The album tracks aren’t terribly ambitious, but they’re solid- ‘Of Crime and Passion’ has a really cool main riff that totally sounds like it belongs in a Bond film- no wonder why they got picked to do one later- and ‘I Take The Dice’ moves along at a pretty good clip, a little more staccato than the usual LeBon vocal fare. The record drags a little bit towards the end- ‘Tiger Tiger’ feels like the band needed an extra few minutes to pad the record’s running length, and ‘The Seventh Stranger’ is even more sap-laden than ‘Save A Prayer,’ if that’s possible. I still maintain this is a good record, but I seldom pull it out, so you be the judge.

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