[…continued from last post]
There were two violinists credited on “So Red The Rose.” It was that sort of album, so it’s hard to know if both were playing on the one track that featured them prominently or not. We’ll assume that both Jean-Claude Dubois and Pierre Defaye were duetting on the old world intro to “El Diablo.” The song, having a Spanish title, was picked by EMI Spain for a promo single sided 7″ that will cost you dearly, as shown above. Alas, it never made it to sales status. I have to wonder if the nearly six minute track was edited down to something more pliable for radio play.
But the pan pipes [sampled, I hope] were engaged in a tango with the sinuous fretless bass line of Mark Egan. The first verse ended with Andy MacKay’s sax in concert with more violin for a baroque sort of emphasis previously alien to Duran Duran records. As was the Spanish guitar solo in the middle eight. While there was discernible DD DNA throughout the project, most of the filigree here was a deliberate stab at something outside of the DD sandbox. In particular, the long extended songs on side two of this album were the band stretching for the fullest breadth of their ambition, no matter how many session players it took to achieve the result. To the extent that the bill for this one came to a reputed £1M, and Nick Rhodes has said that the band may have never seen a Pound for their efforts.
It’s amazing. The closing “Lady Ice” opened with the same sibilant seagull sound that The Explorers “Falling For Nightlife” began with on their album… also from 1985. The question arises: who influenced whom? But any resemblances ended there as “Lady Ice” was a darkly cinematic album closer as far removed from the ebullience of “Falling For Nightlife” as possible. The abstract introduction took its good sweet time in coalescing from the disparate threads of melody and percussion that drifted through the long buildup here. I especially liked the sampled sound of sheets of arctic ice falling from glaciers. Leave it to Rhodes to instill the very sound of ice here, among the fog of other atmospheric affects.
Simon did not make an appearance until more than two minutes in as the complex melodic structure was fully content with a vagueness that didn’t get tabled until the appearance of the memorable chorus almost 3:30 into the song. Nick’s solo in the middle eight easily topped the John Barry sound he was legitimately trying for on “A View To A Kill.” And the tenor sax interjections of Andy MacKay achieved a proper “A Song For Europe” gravitas. His oboe solo following the second chorus was heartbreakingly eloquent as it seamlessly mixed with another of Nick’s synth solos. The transition was quite subtle, but subtlety was the Arcadia watchword. Even the curt fadeout on the coda dashed expectations after all of the slow buildup on this climactic song.
In retrospect, considering the expansive and sophisticated sound of this album [where one can hear every Pound spent] it seemed like madness that there was no CD for five years after its initial release! Albums like this one, that sold platinum [1M copies] in America, were built with the CD in mind. I certainly would have bought one much sooner than 1990, as the Arcadia sound was much more appealing to me than the Duran Duran phases that preceded it. It’s a testament to Nick Rhodes aim of making an incredibly beautiful record that it may have cost a small fortune, but they certainly achieved that here.
We’re thankful that Nick Rhodes had this vision of indulging his inner aesthete to the fullest here, as too often he’s slumming in Duran Duran. With just him and LeBon at the wheel, there were a lot fewer compromises than he was probably used to. Musically, it was probably too sophisticated for the Pop crowd that weren’t fully invested in Duran Duran. That the first single sold that well was probably down to pent up Duran Duran demand. But one can clearly discern a thread that wove through tracks earlier like “Tel Aviv”, “The Chauffeur,” and “The Seventh Stranger.” Ultimately leading to this album with artistic momentum carrying through to the Notorious” and “Big Thing” albums with songs like “Winter Marches On” or “Land” all standing apart from the more obvious Duran Duran “rock disco” sound.
Looking back, I can’t believe that I never sprang for the 2010 DLX RM of “So Red The Rose” with 2xCD + DVD of the original home video. It may have been down to a very well mastered pirate CD called “Heaven’s Eyes” with most of the Arcadia 12″ mixes on it that I bought in the early 90s that stayed my hand, but I would like to have gotten those 7″ mixes which were only on the DLX RM. And “The Promise [instrumental]” seemed to be exclusive to the DLX RM. But all of this is available for surgical download, so I’ll probably investigate at one point.
The bigger reason why I should have bought this was that to this day I have managed to find a copy of every Duran Duran related Japanese laserdisc… with the exception of the holy grail “Arcadia” LD. This program was duplicated on NTSC DVD in the package. And now the package is a solid three figures. I only have the DLX RMs of “Rio” and “Notorious” but my esteem for this album should have driven my purchase. Because the days when giants like Imperial Period Duran Duran walked the earth and commanded million pound budgets that saw disparate artists such as David Van Tiegham, David Gilmour, Carlos Alomar, and Masami Tsuchiya rubbing shoulderpads are sadly far behind us.