[…continued from last post]
Throughout it all one could hear Carlos Alomar’s rhythm guitar arcing an elegant line throughout the percussive mix. And it was a very percussive mix with not one but two, top flight percussionists throughout the album. Both Raphael De Jesus and David Van Tiegham. Given the impressionistic writing and recording on the project, it could well be that both were present in the mixes that François Kevorkian and Ron Saint Germain provided on this cut.
The caliber of this production was cemented by the appearance of none other than Grace Jones on the spoken word middle eight. The mix lost density for a few bars to let Ms. Jones take the spotlight only to see it return when she had her say. The song’s languid, slow-motion Art Funk was capped with a Andy MacKay sax solo in its coda.
Sure, sure. It was all a bit over the top for the pop charts, but that was obviously the point. As Rhodes recalled, mixing the album was a complex and time consuming experience. On “Election Day,” one can hear the layers of sound washes, like watercolor on paper, with sonic filigree spread across the stereo spectrum. The results were quite breathtaking even as they flirted with the dread of overworking. Listening on good headphones is, as Carlos Alomar, aptly put it, an “ear candy” experience par excellence.
Kevorian mixed this time with Sigma Sound Studios engineer Mark Jay. After that over-the-top gauntlet thrown up front, “Keep Me In The Dark” was a throwback to a simpler, less dense, but no less beautiful sound. Maybe it was achieved in half the tracks used for “Election Day.” Mr. Rhodes was leaning heavily on the sampled textures here but managed to invest the sprightly intro with a strong sense of dynamics that kept interest high. Plucked guitar strings were doubled and delayed on split channels to maximum stimulation. The modal guitar line coursing through the chorus was close relative to the same kind that Andy Summers had made famous in “Every Breath You Take” but the tone was far more playful here. And finally, Simon LeBon’s sensitive vocal carried the strong melody to the fore to delight the ear and heart.
“Goodbye Is Forever” was the second single in America and sported a percussive funk vamp intro. The synth riff hook strongly telegraphed the very similar one that would come the next year in the title track to “Notorious.” While much of this album was an outlier to the funky approach to come on the next Duran Duran record, the overall vibe here was more ornate and baroque. While the synths and drum machine were paramount here, the subtle bass line that Nick [Pat Metheny Group] Egan instilled in the track somehow kept it moving forward at a languid pace. With all of the clattery percussion that David Van Tiegham had to offer standing in sharp relief to the smooth string patches that Mr. Rhodes was investing the song with.
At first the heavy gating on the beatbox in the intro left one suspecting that this might have been a Power Station track that somehow slipped into the mix? But the sampled metallic percussion managed to dissuade that notion. And the appearance of …Ladies and Gentlemen…Ms. Grace Jones, speaking this time in Italian, no less, brought home the fact that this was indeed, Arcadia.
This time out the distinctive touch of Raphael De Jesus on the conga rolls in the intro let us know that the second percussion star on the album was getting the chance to add his sauce to the tasty mix. Dancing in a tango with Nick Egan’s fretless bass as Rhodes added playful synth stabs as the flirtation with Latin rhythm and vibe was yet another telegraph to the “Notorious” sound to come.
The chorus was heavy on the synth horn stabs from Nick, adding perhaps a threads to the Duran Duran song “A View To A Kill” which sported a similar chorus hook and was recorded prior to the Arcadia sessions. In any case, I’m glad that Arcadia revisited the sound. I never thought that “A View To A Kill” gelled particularly well, while “The Flame” was superior in every way. A redemption of that seemed like a heavy-handed bite of the Art Of Noise’s sampled POV put to a much better use in this far better song.
If the band were going to indulge in metallic noise guitar, how much better was it that they invited the great Masami Tsuchiya from Ippu-Do [and the gent who played on JAPAN’s “Tin Drum” tour] to become a part of the three member core of himself, Van Tiegham, and Egan that propelled the Arcadia sessions? Tsuchiya’s solo on the middle eight swoops and groans with an animal grace as synth stabs and the eternal percussion of the album circle around him to cap off one of the best singles from this fascinating album.
Next: …Missing Inaction