[…continued from last post]
In the last half of the 90s, Duran Duran lost the big momentum that their eponymous 1993 album, had gifted them with. Their 1995 cover album was a disaster. It’s another album that has nothing culled from it for this compilation [just like “Seven + The Ragged Tiger”]. Then bassist John Taylor left the band and EMI cut the band loose after 17 years and millions of records… but what had they done for them lately? Reduced to a trio of Nick Rhodes, Simon LeBon, and Warren Cuccurullo, they recorded the “Medazzaland” album only to see it picked up for sale in America/Japan by Capitol Records/Toshiba, their labels in those territories.
Michael, You’ve Got A Lot To Answer For
“Medazzaland” was Duran Duran’s attempt at a neo-psychedelic album that was highly irregular, but not without some merit. Which is more than I can say for the album that preceded it. The clear winner for this program was the sensitive ballad that was written for LeBon’s friend Michael Hutchence. LeBon’s performance was bittersweet and the mood was delicate. The lyric “misbehaving in candlelight” must stand as the mildest heroin reference ever, but the intended audience for this song didn’t have long to hear it. Within two weeks of the album’s release, Hutchence was dead.
“Red Carpet Massacre” got a lot of hate for deigning to give the likes of Justin Timberlake, or Timbaland the reins of production, but if we dig into the album, it’s more than just pop du jour. “Box Full O’Honey” opened with just Simon LeBon and Dom Brown’s acoustic guitar right up front. It could have been a campfire song. Eventually Rhodes’ piano joined the fray, followed by the rhythm section. Has Simon LeBon ever sounded this good, this straightforward, before? His vocals here were a treat from start to finish. The air of wistful melancholy that the song engendered certainly want a long way in fulfilling my requirements for this compilation.
She’s Too Much
This track was Duran’s lift of The Cure’s “The Walk” [which was itself, a lift from New Order’s “Blue Monday”] over which Simon sang his most tender lyric ever. The music bed was much more electronic than the previous track, but the lyric was even more heartfelt. Such a song of gentle compassion and devotion is probably not what immediately comes to mind when contemplating Duran Duran, and that’s exactly why it’s here in the company of songs that reflect more kindly on it.
Leave A Light On
This sumptuous ballad from “All You Need Is Now” immediately had callbacks to “Save A Prayer” with the synthloops of Nick Rhodes that manifested in the intro and set the [languorous] pace for the entire song. I can imagine producer Mark Ronson demanding to know where that album’s “Save A Prayer” was and the band offering this up in response. The boy’s just can’t help it. They have a facility with a beautiful mood and melody that has ultimately served them better than their [now spent] videogenic looks. This song got as far as a promo CD-R.
Their 2010 album had more languorous tricks up its sleeve. “Mediterranea” was too simply beautiful to be a UK/Euro download only single. Dom Brown’s guitar licks here were deep enough to tumble head first into. In slow-mo, of course. The scratcher percussion was a new trick for DD this far into their career, but one can’t argue with success. The deeply sustained solo of Brown following the middle eight lays down a précis of the lazy sensuality and warmth that a track called “Mediterranea” simply had to exude.
Next: …The Shocking Conclusion
I admire your ability to sift through the dross to find the jewels. I basically haven’t listened to Medazzaland or RCM since they came out. Definitely agree on the picks from All You Need Is Now.
No mention of the Astronaut album?
JT – “Astronaut” is… okay. I felt that there was nothing on it that lent itself to this compilation, however. UPDATE: scratch that. There was one track that felt right.
Really enjoying this thread, they are definitely a band of contradictions. I’ve always thought Le Bon has the ability to deal with more complex emotions in a sensitive and compassionate manner when the moment requires it. There are lines in Ordinary World that have resonated with me at various times in my life. From Astronaut maybe the sentiment of What Happens Tomorrow?
Let’s face it, writing universally relatable songs in an engaging, but not too complex way, is often what makes you rich.
SimonH – “When the moments require it” indeed. That is what we are celebrating here. The songs where DD “let their hair down,” so to speak. Their first impression was hedonic rock disco, which is fun, in modest doses. But that isn’t everything.
Uhh… have you seen this?
A weird coincidence, no? SDE is cribbing from the Monk!
Shelf – Yes, by now. I don’t habituate SDE on a regular basis but you’re not the first to send this link to me today. Let’s just say that I’m sincerely flattered. As long as Paul Sinclair puts out CDs like “Life’s Hard And Then You Die” he gets only a salute from my direction. It’s not like I didn’t get a lot of shares on FaceBoot on that thread. This confirms that the concept was well-considered and resonant. I’ve been cogitating on it for a decade and I’m very happy with how it turned out. I think it’s a solid playlist that makes a great compilation. Paul’s list has a little overlap but is much more of a deep cut playlist rather than a re-imagining of Duran Duran. I was trying to re-build the beast from the ground up into something very different.
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I always felt like an outlier with my lurve of Winter Marches On and was pleasantly surprised to see the comments praising it.