Back to Basics

Today is Tuesday, and for me – that means it’s a morning of priceless independence.  I leave the house at about 8:25, drop my son off at school (which is literally down the hill from my house…my son is nothing if not spoiled sometimes!), and then I continue on to drop my little one off at preschool for the morning.  It’s a precious 3 hours of time that I have to myself, and typically that means coming home, writing this blog and perhaps perusing the message boards a bit before leaving to go and get her from school.  It’s a short amount of time, but I’ll take it!  Anyway, this morning as I pulled out of my driveway I switched the CD changer to slot #1 – which infamously holds Duran Duran’s newly remastered first album.  Naturally Girls on Film began, and since I had two kids in the car with me, it drifted off into the background noise – which is what typically happens whenever I’m in the car.  After I dropped the youngest off, I did something I rarely have a chance to do anymore – I turned the volume up.  🙂  I skipped Girls on Film (Yes, I like the song, but as happens with any song after 30 years – I’m a little tired of it these days) and went straight to Planet Earth.

First of all, I have to say that it is rare that I have the chance to really LISTEN to any song on my car stereo, much less enjoy it.  I’m never alone, nor am I really in the car for long stretches without stopping 50 times for kid drop-offs, pick-ups and runs to the grocery store, so it could take me hours to get through one single song, I kid you not.  Regardless, turning up the sound and sitting quietly is something to savor, which I did.  I was almost shocked at the clarity.  Funny how much differently an MP3 file sounds from a CD…. it’s nice to hear the song in an uncompressed state for a change, never mind that I had the opportunity to fully appreciate the Mark Levinson stereo system that came with my car!

As I listened, I marveled over just how perfect the first album really is.  Andy said rather recently somewhere that the first album is the best because it all happened before they all had egos. (I’m politely paraphrasing for him)  I can’t really argue that, given that I don’t know any of them personally, but I can definitely agree that it SOUNDS as though it were recorded without ego or judgement.   My personal opinion is that if I can hear each instrument without having to strain…and that none of it (collectively and or individually) make my ears bleed or give me a headache – it’s recorded well.  You’d think that would give the band, or any band for that matter, a wide range of fuck-up-ability (yes, it IS is a word…my blog…my dictionary.), but I can say that this first album is the ONE album where the band gets it totally right.   There is something stunning and beautiful in the way this album comes about.  Planet Earth, for example:  Nick provides this beautiful, exquisite atmosphere, and you can hear Andy playing call and answer with another layer of Nick’s synths, and John has this gorgeous bass groove (and nobody out there does it better) that just ties it all together, yet you can hear every single instrument with complete clarity.  Of course Simon’s lyrics are outstanding and Roger’s drums are as perfect as ever.  The one thing I thoroughly enjoy about this remastering is that you can totally hear Roger’s hi-hat.  I don’t know how to describe it, but you can hear the brass in those cymbals – it’s not just a crash, but it’s the metallic sound to it that makes it perfect.  You never get that in an MP3, or even on the album itself – it’s just not quite as clear.  If you can’t hear what I’m talking about on Planet Earth, try listening to Anyone Out There and you should really be able to hear what I mean.   John’s bass on Anyone Out There should truly be (and IS, in my mind) a testament to his sheer talent as a musician.  Yeah, the groove might be simple to some of you out there – but it’s not just the notes, it’s the accents he plays, and more specifically, it’s the emotion that comes through as he’s playing.  Anyone can play a freaking instrument.  ANYONE.  Not many can be a real musician.  The difference between being able to play a piano or a clarinet or a bass is that where the player plays the notes in front of him or the ones in his head – the musician adds the emotion.  There’s where the true talent comes in.  You can hear that in John’s playing, even at a live show.  When you listen to this album, not only do you get all of that emotion and the great bass grooves he’s known for – the recording is so smooth – there’s a “roundness” to the notes he’s playing.  They don’t have that electric flatness to them that seems to prevail when I listen to an MP3.  It just sounds round and whole, for lack of a better way to describe it. That, my friends, is PERFECT recording, from production through engineering and straight on through mixing.  I miss the days when they used to allow the instruments to speak for themselves.  I think it’s a case, and I’ve mentioned this before, where nowadays they can change anything and everything – there is so much available technology out there, that during recording no one knows how to hold back – they want to put every possible bell and whistle to use, to the point where the song ends up sounding like a wall of noise. (as opposed to a Wall of Sound )  Don’t get me started on auto-tune.  That’s an example of something that was a great idea, a fantastic invention and has been so abused by people that shouldn’t even be allowed in a recording studio that now it’s a joke.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had the opportunity to really listen to their first album like that – and I only got through Planet Earth and Anyone Out There.  I’m really looking forward to getting the CD of All You Need Is Now and listening to that intently for about 6 months on my car stereo, I’m hoping that it lives up to the spirit of their first couple albums.  I know that the MP3’s are pretty good, but I’m betting that the CD will sound even better.  Here’s hoping!

-R

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