Category Archives: Daily Duranie Reviews

The Edge of America — The Daily Duranie Review

This week, we are moving on to review The Edge of America, off of the Big Thing album. The Edge of America is a relatively short song, at 2:37, which blends into Lake Shore Driving (another song for another review). The word is that originally The Edge of America was a longer piece of music at one point, but during the course of recording morphed into what is now Lake Shore Driving.  Let’s look at how The Edge of America works as a song and fits into the vernacular of Big Thing.

Rhonda

Musicality/Instrumentation

I love the simplicity of the beginning of this song. Vocals and keyboard chords mark a particular poignant point on this album. While still very simple, the keyboards and vocals work together to make the moment intimate and special, which I really like. This continues through to the first chorus, where some percussion, bass, guitar, and stronger piano join in. One thing I really appreciate on this album as a whole is that when vocals are meant to be the highlight, the music allows – there’s no “struggle” to be heard. This has as much to do with engineering and production as it does writing – but it really shows the maturity of the band at this point in their career.

Vocals

It is on songs like these, when just hearing the emotion in Simon’s voice nearly brings me to tears, that I am reminded of Duran Duran’s potential. When they are good, they are really that good.  I love the way his voice makes me feel as though he’s singing only for me – and he’s pouring his heart into it. I can’t find a single thing to complain about here, except that the song is so short. I could listen forever.

Lyrics

This is one of those hallmark Duran Duran songs that only the most diehard fans ever really hear, unfortunately, because this is definitely on my top ten list of Duran Duran lyrics. While doing a little research before writing this review, I noticed that there are tons of different interpretations online of what this song means. I think it’s one of the more “genius” pieces of lyric that the band has done because it could mean a variety of things to people depending upon their own life experience, and isn’t that what we really want as writers?? I’ve read it could be about the band’s fall from the tops of the charts; about war; about how America treats it’s veterans. Personally, when I hear this song I think it’s adulthood and how all of those childhood dreams, fairy tales, and aspirations we once had in our hearts tend to wash away to a very gritty reality that we have no choice but to acknowledge and recognize. I love the line, “Learn to love your anger now, your anger here is all you possess, welcome to the edge”. There have been moments, rather recently, where I have literally sung this song at the top of my lungs while listening in the car, and yeah, it’s helped! This song can mean a variety of things, and I appreciate that Simon allows listeners the freedom to think and identify as we wish. It’s funny because when I was younger, I was desperate to know that I had the “right answer”. Somewhere along the line, I discovered that it really doesn’t matter. Music is for everyone. There are no right or wrong answers unless you’re not listening at all.

Overall

I confess, this is my very favorite song off of Big Thing. I still think it’s too short, but it continues to be one of my anthems in life, and therefore my biased self thinks it’s near-perfect. Truthfully, it is difficult to do this review without considering Lake Shore Driving, since the two songs are combined by a driving guitar that I dearly love – alas, that review will have to wait for another week or two.

Cocktail Rating

4.5 cocktails!

4.5 Cocktails

Amanda

Musicality/Instrumentation:

Musically, this song maintains a simplicity as the song starts off  with soft keyboard sounds to ease the listeners into the song.  Of course, more instrumentation joins in only to go back to the focus on the keyboards only and back.  In this way, the instrumentation mirrors the lyrics, which discuss both anger and resignation.  Clearly, though, the instrumentation is held in the background more, allowing the vocals to take center stage.  Of course, the end leads right into the next song, leaving the listener wanting more.

Vocals

Simon’s vocals here are exactly what they should be.  They are crisp, clear and convey the message of the song.  It almost feels to me that he is acting as the conduit to millions of others who are telling their stories through him as the emotion is so pure, so unforced, so natural.  He isn’t just Simon but he is the spokesperson so many others who need to have their stories told.  Magical.

Lyrics

These lyrics are some of the most important lyrics that Simon has ever written, in my opinion.  They are filled with a social commentary but is such that they could apply to many, many issues, especially issues that the U.S. confronts or needs to confront daily.  I have written about how this song seems to speak of my students before here in this blog post.  I wrote that blog in 2013 about how my urban students are filled with nothing but anger and that the nation seems to have turned away from them.  I could write the same thing now in 2015.  Many of my students are still angry, even though I work with older kids now and am teaching history as opposed to special education.  I still feel as though the nation has turned its back on them and on educators as I mentioned in that blog post.  To me, this song, lyrically, is what I experience on a daily basis at work as I see so many of society’s struggles walk in the door in the form of city kids.  This is when Simon is at his best–when he is able to really say something that others can really relate at the core of their beings.

Overall

This is my favorite song off of Big Thing and one of my absolute favorite Duran Duran songs ever.  I like the simplicity of the music and how it allows the vocals and lyrics the room to be as beautiful and passionate as they are.  The only thing I would change, if I could, would be to make the song longer.  I never want the song to end.

Cocktail Rating:

4.5 cocktails!

4.5 Cocktails

Land – The Daily Duranie Review

We continue our attempts to review every single song in Duran Duran’s catalog with the song “Land” from Big Thing this week. There is surprisingly little information out there about “Land”, other than no demos seem to exist (at least not that anyone outside of the band has gotten their hands on!), which may indicate that it was one of the final songs written for the album.

Rhonda

Musicality/Instrumentation

Personally, I think this is one of the prettiest songs Duran Duran has ever written – so there’s my bias right off the bat! The song opens with what might either be a muted guitar or keyboard, and background vocals, which is very unusual and immediately draws the listener in.  The one thing I really love about the music for this song is that even though there is plenty of music to “fill” the space, it also feels simple, clean, and unforced. Yet, there is a lot going on in the song. There is both acoustic and electric guitar, synthesizer, bass, drums, and even what I think is soprano sax going on in the background along with flute! I really love that the guitar solo is in the background tends to blend even though you can hear it soar – it gives a filmy texture to the music that really works for the song and doesn’t detract. Duran Duran achieved something very special with this song because what could have ended up feeling very overdone and incredibly busy still has an “easy” but lush feel, and communicated exactly the right mood. I also enjoy those open, quiet spaces that just set the song off right.

Vocals

I really like that the song opens with the background vocals – it is an usual way to open, and it draws my attention and alerts me to pay attention! Simon’s voice sounds relaxed and clear with a beautiful roundness that I miss when he sings higher in his range.  In this song, the vocals continue to build from those first moments into a soaring chorus, and then immediately come right back down to about where they began. Another effect I like is that if you listen closely to the second verse – you can hear a background track of Simon actually whispering the lyrics, which is ultra-cool and makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

Lyrics

There’s no arguing that these are some beautiful lyrics. When I listen to the song, it reminds me of the sailing that Simon enjoys – and perhaps it’s about his leaving his family behind.  He loves to sail, but he also loves home, and to him – that is his family.  “I need your love to land” Reminds me a bit of traveling in general – it’s always fun to go, and it’s always nice to come home again. Home is comfortable, it’s love, it’s the anchor to the rest of our lives. I kind of think that is what Simon was trying to convey here.  The lyrics aren’t necessarily all that difficult to understand, they don’t feel very abstract, but the message is, once again – beautiful.

Overall

There’s really only one word I need to describe “Land”, and that’s “beautiful”. This is one song that I can put on and drift away somewhere in my thoughts. It’s relaxing, and I think the band completely outdid themselves with the instrumentation on this one. Out of the entire album, this is the song where I can hear the most growth and maturity from the band, and it’s a shame it is stuck in the middle of the “B” side on an album that didn’t really allow the song to shine as it might have otherwise. I wish they’d play it live because it really deserves the highlight.  “Land” is a song that I didn’t really discover or fully appreciate until adulthood, which reminds me why Amanda and I decided to do these reviews to begin with – to reacquaint ourselves with the full catalog. We hope our readers are enjoying the journey with us!

Cocktail Rating

Five cocktails! 5 cocktails

Amanda

Musicality/Instrumentation

The song starts out with very soft instrumentation hidden behind the chorus of vocals.  You can hear what sounds like some beautiful soft guitar with keyboards.  I like how the notes the keyboards plays holds on for a long time until the sound just fades.  Bass and drums are present along side the other elements of the instrumentations during the verse.  If that wasn’t enough, some sax can also be heard, very quietly, in the chorus and to transition back to the verse.  Overall, the music is definitely designed to be quiet, calm, and somewhat serene no matter which instrument one focuses on.  No instrument is meant to be loud here.  This softer instrumentation allows of the vocals to stand out for the majority of the song.  Perhaps, the only time that the instrumentation takes the front seat is during the bridge when different instruments are heard, including what sounds like an acoustic guitar solo and some percussion that reminds me of a slight Middle Eastern musical flavor.  This instrumentation is very unique in the Duran catalog and definitely enhances this song to musically be something different and something special.

Vocals

The song begins with a lovely female chorus, featuring Carole Fredericks, Yvonne Jones and Beckie Bell, that lets the listener know that this song is going to be a very different Duran song but one that is soft and beautiful.  Simon’s initial vocals reinforce this idea as his vocals are so soft that they are almost breathy.  The words are gently sung with little need to finish the ends of the words.  Instead, the focus is to move smoothly to the next word, next line.  Even the chorus, which features a stronger vocal doesn’t spend a lot of time clearly saying every word.  Simon’s vocals in this song remind me again that his vocals can and do become another instrument as the vocals are perfect to match the music and the mood of the music.  I especially love the very breathy end to the song with the repetition of the line “love is land”.

Lyrics

This is not a song that I typically focus on the lyrics as I usually pay more attention to soft music.  Plus, the line that always sticks out in my head is “Your love is life, for love is land.”  This line, especially in isolation, means nothing to me.  Yet, this line takes on a more significant meaning when you glance at the entire song.  There are many references to leaving (“my ship will sail”, “Before I leave”) and this leaving appears to be through travel (“Standing, across the ocean stream”).  Could it then be that land isn’t a noun but a verb, as in to land, to make a step on new ground?  Could it be that this is a reference to commitment?  Could it be the opposite?  Could it be that one person in a relationship is leaving the other?  Maybe.  The first line about being sorry could indicate that.  No matter the actual meaning as the lyrics still meet my general requirements as I want lyrics that make me feel or make me think.  Lyrics like this with a potential metaphor definitely makes me think.  I would go so far as to say that the lyrics match the mood of the music, too, with a soft, slightly melancholy feel.  Well done, Simon.

Overall

When I think of the individual parts of this song, everything seems to be working.  While the instrumentation might be different, it is really beautiful as are the lyrics and the vocals.  Yet, I struggle to give this song a 5 cocktail rating.  I think that, for whatever reason, when I want to listen to a ballad, this one does not come to mind.  There is something that allows it to fade into the background too much.  Perhaps, this had nothing to do with the song but with the listener.  The ballads of Duran’s that are my go to are ones that I have made a personal connection to and this song I just haven’t.  On paper or in this review, it is fabulous but it hasn’t totally hooked me yet even with the additional, focused listening for this review.  That said, I suspect that if I had a chance to see it performed live, it might push me to that 5 cocktail rating!  😉

Cocktail Rating

4.5 cocktails!

4.5 Cocktails

Flute Interlude & Interlude One (Big Thing) – The Daily Duranie Review

Yes, we know it’s been a few weeks since we reviewed something from Big Thing…so today we’re trying to get back on schedule! Remember the 33 second pieces of music that pop up on Big Thing, first between “Palomino and “Land”, and then again between “Land” and “Edge of America”?  This is our super short review of both “Interlude One” and “The Flute Interlude.”

Since these interludes are pretty short – we’re not going to structure this review like most others, as you’ll read below. It’s a quickie!!

Rhonda

Each interlude is each incredibly short, as in, “Yawn for too long and you’ll have missed the entire thing.” To be fair, they are snippets that, unless I am paying rapt attention – I don’t even notice. I feel badly about that, because obviously the band felt strongly enough about each of them to include on the album, but it just doesn’t add enough power or punctuation to “Palomino, “Land”, or “Edge of America”, for me to really sit back and notice.  It begs an answer to the question of why they may have been included. Each piece is very experimental in nature, and likely the most experimental bits of music the band had included on an album to the date of Big Thing. “Interlude One” has a very cartoon-like sound to it – reminding me very much of something I’d heard on one of the Chipmunks albums I had as a kid.  I don’t really hear how the sound helps to usher in “Land”, but perhaps if the music were slowed down I’d recognize something. “Flute Interlude”, however, sounds much more comfortable in it’s musical place.  I can see how it fits right between “Land” and “Edge of America”, because if you listen to the fade-in, it begins with flute – very light and airy in nature, which truly isn’t that dissimilar from “Land” in some respects.  This flute is very much layered with other sampled sound effects, and then it fades back out as an electric guitar fades in, thus signaling the beginning of “Edge of America” – which, I don’t want to give anything away since we’ll be reviewing that song soon – but it’s a song with a pretty hard-edged guitar.  So the “Flute Interlude” serves the purpose of blending those two seemingly juxtaposed songs together.  It ends one statement while beginning another. I struggle to say the same for Interlude One, to be honest. Even so, I like the way the piece seems to snap a listener out of daydream at the end of “Palomino”, opening the door for “Land” to begin.  While I do like the way the pieces seem to not only mark the end and the beginning with a sort of punctuation mark, I still stand by the fact that if I’m not paying full attention, I almost don’t even hear them most of the time. The punch isn’t powerful enough, and so I have to wonder if it was really that necessary or effective. I’m left feeling that if the idea had been developed for just a little bit longer, perhaps a little more given to the length, the interludes would have met a fuller potential.

Cocktail Rating: 2.5 cocktails!  Two and half cocktails

Amanda:

These interludes are so short.  Of course, it won’t be the last time that Duran includes super short instrumentals on their albums.  Yet, unlike songs like “Return to Now” on All You Need Is Now, these don’t grab my attention in the same way.  I’m not sure why.  The length?  The instrumentation used?  The fact that they are both so experimental vs. more classical, in nature?  Anyway, I always welcome these reviews so that I take the time to REALLY listen and pay attention.  When I listen, I am grabbed by the most obvious aspect of both, which is how the volume starts out slow and gets louder until it changes again towards the end.  As far as “Interlude One” goes, once there is enough volume, you notice how random the instrumentation/sounds are.  It almost reminds me of a record being played on the wrong speed combined with some extra keyboard sounds thrown in for good measure.  It isn’t the most pleasant of sounds, really, as the track is really pretty jarring.  What is interesting, then, is its placement between two slower tracks of “Palomino” and “Land.”  Did they do that to break up the quietness found in those songs?  Did they worry that those songs would be missed or overlooked otherwise?  “Flute Interlude,” on the other hand, comes after Land and before “The Edge of America.”  While “TEOA” is somewhat of a slower tempo, it isn’t as ballad-like as Land and Palomino.  What is interesting is that this interlude ends with a lot of guitar and “The Edge of America” features a lot of guitar.  Is that the connection or the reason for this song’s placement?  Like the previous interlude, this song builds in volume and intensity.  It almost feels like a rapidly increasing heartbeat.  As it grows in intensity, the flute is very much present as is other instrumentation until it is not, leaving only guitar and some additional sampled sounds.  In general, I much prefer this one over “Interlude One.”  The instrumentation is just much more pleasant.  While it is still somewhat jarring at the end, it is not like the sounds of a record being played backwards, which is what the first interlude reminds me of.  Both of these very short tracks, though, remind you that the band really was experimenting with sound in a very different way than they ever had been before.  Overall, these tracks are interesting but still can be easily overlooked.  More importantly, I’m not sure that they really enhance the album much, especially “Interlude One.”
Cocktail Rating:  2.5 cocktails Two and half cocktails

Daily Duranie Video Review for Pressure Off!

Anyone see any good videos lately?  Anyone??  Anyone??  Bueller?  Obviously, we might have taken some time to watch a certain little video for Duran Duran’s Pressure Off a time or two thousand.  Then, of course, we took some more time to bring you all another of our ridiculous, why-don’t-we-ever-stop-talking video reviews of it!  While we could go on and on here in writing, we won’t.  We’ll just let the video speak for itself…after all, we talk enough for the video AND a written blog.  (Yes, it seems we are always very wordy!)  Enjoy!  snort

Now, you probably want to watch something much more…fun so we thought you might enjoy seeing Pressure Off again for the 38,456th time and then the 38,457th time and the 38,458th time…You get our point!

-A&R

Palomino – The Daily Duranie Review

Palomino is on the “B” side to Big Thing. It is one of their dreamier ballads and may not have gained much notice from casual listeners, as it was not released as a single.  The song was derived from another called “Welcome to the Edge,” during recording sessions, and has an entirely different set of lyrics.

Rhonda

Musicality/Instrumentation:

Aside from some background synthesizers, the song opens only with Simon’s voice, and it makes you feel as though you’re in the beginning of a dream. I really like the background sounds of what sounds like drumsticks being hit on the floor or on metal just for timing. The guitar doesn’t really come in until the second stanza of verse, and even then it is used very sparingly, only to add a bit of texture…and then during the chorus you hear bass and drums to round out the rhythm.  During the break, the synthesizers come in with some random (and echoed) partial note successions – not quite a real solo, but not really melody either, just very unique, and it works. This is a case where not one instrument aside from Simon’s vocals are the highlight – everything else is perfectly balanced, and yet there is an incredible amount of tracks and layering. I think the song is a perfect example of how Duran Duran felt comfortable with musical “quiet”. The spaces were as important as the notes, and the result is a beautiful number.

Vocals:

All I can think of to say right now is how much I wish they’d play this song live. Simon’s voice is incredible, and as I listen with my earbuds I would swear I could feel him whispering words in my ear.  There is no straining, and the dynamics he uses – going from singing loudly to dramatically whispering – really add to the song. There are really no critiques I could make here, except to say that this is Simon at his finest.

Lyrics:

According to an old Ask Katy found on Duran Duran wikia – the chorus lyric comes from a quote from Picasso.  Apparently when Picasso was asked during the height of his blue period what he does when he runs out of blue, he replied, “Why, I use red instead.”  I love this anecdote…and it is a great example of where Simon seems to get his inspiration. (From everywhere!!) As for the rest of the lyrics, I am not sure what they mean. I know what I draw from them – and the line “If there’s secrets she has to be party to,” kind of makes me think of hiding something.  How this person puts on an act, maybe pretending to be happy and content when in fact she’s not – and during the moments when she’s able, she runs free. I especially like the line Simon uses from the Picasso story “When I run out of blue, give me red instead, now let me run.”  That line speaks to me and reminds me of when I escape reality once in a while.  I love the lyrics because I don’t necessarily understand what Simon was really trying to drive home – but I’ve found my own meaning for the song.  (Yes Simon, your lyrics are for thinking people, which I love most about this band!)

Overall:

Here’s the strange thing about Big Thing and this song in particular…I don’t think I really appreciated the B sides until I was in my thirties. I’m not sure if it’s life experience or my tastes have generally changed, but when I listen to this song, I just wonder what critics are missing. (Brain cells, most likely.) Everything we want from Duran Duran is evident right here.  There is so much here to like, and really nothing I can find fault with – typically I might complain about the lack of guitar, bass and drums, but in this song it feels natural and perfect as is.

Cocktail Rating:

5 Cocktails!5 cocktails

Amanda:

Musicality/Instrumentation:

The music is very subtle and is very much in the background in the beginning of the song.  The music reminds me almost of wind chimes until some more instrumentation comes in around the minute mark.  Even with the addition of guitar, bass and percussion, the music remains subtle and calm until the chorus kicks in.  Then, there is more of the full instrumentation that we are all used to.  The song has a definite balance with keyboards getting a little more of the spotlight in creating some of those extra sounds that are heard, especially in the bridge.  The music, no matter if it is quiet and subtle in the beginning or more full-blown instrumentation, is very beautiful.  I like how the music changes from quiet to louder as it works to keep one’s attention in a slower number.

Vocals:

I really love the vocals on this one from the humming to the beginning to deep, breathy verses.  I’ve always been a fan of Simon at his lower range and a lot of this song seems to hang out there, at least in the verses.  The chorus also has a nice touch with the backing vocals.  It adds a layer that deepens the song.  The only part of the vocals that I have never been sure of is the “talking”, “chanting” said in a rather abrupt manner in comparison to the rest.  I just think those parts work to break the mood a bit too much.  Other than that, the vocals are fabulous.

Lyrics:

This is one of those songs that could be about a woman.  It could be about a horse.  It could be a metaphor for something completely different.  It is a beautiful lyric that really matches the mood of the song.  Of course, the focus on colors makes sense after knowing that it comes from a quote from Pablo Picasso.  The quote came after he was asked about what he would do when he runs out of blue and Picasso said that he would use red instead.  Beyond the focus on color, it does definitely bring up a sense of culture outside of the Western world with the mention of “Arabia” and the sense of a desert.  I almost get the sense that the song could be about mother nature hearing all of humanity’s secrets and needing humans to speak for her and for her needs.  I adore lyrics like this one.  Not only are they beautiful by just reading them in a straight forward way, but they also make me think.  They make me wonder what is it all about.

Overall:

Palomino is one of those songs that could be easily missed on an album.  It could be one that floats into the background, easily ignored.  Yet, that would be a mistake.  It features really subtle but beautiful instrumentation that coincides with the poetry of Simon’s lyrics and his deep vocals.  There isn’t much that I would change about this song other than maybe the way the word “talking” and “chatting” is said in the song.  I like that the lyrics make me wonder while it creates a mood of calmness.

Cocktail Rating:

 4.5 cocktails!
4.5 Cocktails

 

Do You Believe In Shame – The Daily Duranie Review

We don’t know about anyone else, but it feels as though we’re doing twice as many reviews as normal these days….and we are NOT complaining one little bit!

This week, we are going to dive right into “Do You Believe in Shame”. This was the 19th single from Duran Duran, as well as the third and final single off of the Big Thing album.  The song only made it to #30 in the UK, #72 in the US and a whopping #14 in Italy, in spite of the single’s extra-long running time (it runs 4:24 – well beyond the “magic” 3:30 of a typical radio single). As most know, the song was dedicated to three special friends in the Duran Duran “family”:  record producer Alex Sadkin, Andy Warhol, and Simon’s childhood friend David Miles.  The song also had its share of controversy in a legal challenge due to the melody resembling that of Dale Hawkins’ “Suzie Q”.  The writing credits were changed, although Duran Duran has continually insisted they never intentionally copied, instead claiming that the similarity is due to a basic blues progression pattern found in both songs.

There will be no blues progression test at the end, or a determination of copyrights, but let’s jump in and see what the song has to offer!

Rhonda

Musicality/Instrumentality

This is a song that I often forget about until I hear it, and then I wonder why I don’t listen to it more often. There is a strong drum beat to begin with, and you barely notice the other instrumentation (synthesizer, bass, and guitar of course) until after the first chorus, which is a little unusual for a Duran Duran song. I appreciate that particularly in this song, the instruments act as more of a backup for the vocals rather than trying to compete with Simon’s voice….the vocal message being more important than the music here. That said, there is still balance here. The synthesizers are really no more or less prominent than the bass or the guitar, and all are kept at rather subdued levels.

Vocals

Simon outdoes himself for this song, keeping his voice in the lower portion of his range, and singing with all of the emotion one might expect for a song such as this. The timbre of his voice is gorgeous and full, and reminds me of just how talented he is. As much as I love the rest of the song, the brightness he reaches with a bridge about midway through the song is in direct contrast has an almost hopeful quality, which really gives the song even more dimension. Definitely one of the best and under appreciated Duran ballads, particularly vocally.

Lyrics

There are very few Duran lyrics that swell up the emotion as well as this song for me. It isn’t easy to have people die, and I think that everyone experiences regret about things they should have done or should have said, even under the best of circumstances, and this song conveys those feelings perfectly.  Lines like “So why your eyelids are closed, Inside a case of rust, And did you have to change
All your poets fire into frozen dust”  convey an eerily familiar feeling for me, an make the ever-present feeling in the pit of my stomach surge back to life.  Anyone who has ever lost anyone should be able to find that emotion here in this song.

Overall

I think part of the reason I don’t listen to this song more often is because of the intense emotion it conjures up for me. That alone makes it a brilliant piece of work.  The music and vocals work together beautifully, and I appreciate that the song is subdued without losing emotionality. This isn’t the type of song you dance to, yet the band has played it live and it’s gone over brilliantly.  Do You Believe in Shame is a fine example of the depth that Duran Duran is capable of, something that I feel continues to be completely missed by media.  Their loss.

Cocktail Rating

4.5  cocktails!

4.5 Cocktails

Amanda

Musicality/Instrumentation

The song’s instrumentation, to me, is such that it is definitely felt rather than heard.  It works to create quite a mood of melancholy and does not appear to have significant changes throughout the song.  Yes, there is clearly, musically, a chorus but isn’t that much different the music of the verses.  The instrumentation clearly has all of the usual Duran instruments present but none is front and center.  The instrumentation works in the background.  When there are slight changes or additions, particularly keyboards, they work to make the song, the feeling more intense.  Truly, the musicality of this song matches the focus of the song.  It really feels like grief that is  ever present.

Vocals

I want to love Simon’s vocals here but…I don’t.  While I appreciate that Simon also wanted his vocals to represent the grief and match with the instrumentation, I find myself wanting something different each time I listen to it.  I have a hard time picking out the words and, while I know that I’m getting ahead of myself here, they are too good to miss.  They are too beautiful not to be understood and I always struggle to understand each and every line.  I do love the part about 2/3 of the way through when he declares how selfish he is.  The power of that section is great and I wish the entire song sounded like that.  All this said, I do give him credit for truly sounding like he is grieving in this song.  He definitely channeled everything he was feeling with the loss of his friend, David, when he recorded this.  I give him a ton of credit for that.

 

Lyrics

When I think of Duran Duran songs, I struggle to think of ones that we know truly relate to a real life experience of Simon’s.  Most of his lyrics tend to be some broad observation of some aspect of society or relationships or they tend to be more poetic.  I don’t often think personal when I think Simon’s lyrics.  These lyrics are very personal and yet they truly do capture what grief is like.  It is a song, lyrically, that everyone can relate to.  Everyone has experienced loss and the classic five stages, many of which Simon alluded to here.  Yet, like the best of Simon’s lyrics, he describes the emotions he felt in such a poetic beautiful way.

Overall

This is one of those songs that touches everyone who hears it.  It captures the experience of grief and loss well.  The instrumentation makes the listener aware while the lyrics explain the complexity of grief with confusion, angry, sadness as well as the attempt to move on.  The only part of the song that doesn’t work as well as it could is the vocals, in the verses, in particularly.  The lyrics and the message loses a  little bit when the vocals aren’t easily understood.  That said, it demonstrates the depth of Duran and the band’s ability to really create a mood with their music.

Cocktail Rating

4 cocktails!

4 cocktails rating

Drug (It’s Just a State of Mind) – The Daily Duranie Review

After a brief hiatus where we may or may not have forgotten to do a review…we’re back this week to review Drug (It’s Just a State of Mind).  At some point, we really will make it past the Big Thing album, we promise!

Drug was originally known as “Take Me” during the initial recording sessions for Big Thing, and is widely rumored to have created a fair amount of discord within the band. The tale goes that John preferred Daniel Abraham’s mix of the song, to which he was outnumbered and outvoted, and as rumor has it, he nearly quit the band.  Many of you probably know that Abraham’s mix was released as a bonus track on the CD version of Big Thing, and it did appear as a B-side on copies of “Do You Believe in Shame” that included the John Taylor picture sleeve. Coincidence??

That may be more than any of us ever thought about with regard to the song, so let’s move on to the review!!

Rhonda

Musicality/Instrumentation

My first thought upon listening is that this song could have been on Notorious, with the background vocals and horns. Guitar is incredibly way way way down low in the mix, so it really functions as a rhythm guitar, and even then, very limited. The song is very synth-heavy, which is balanced by strong bass (both by a synth baritone sax and electric bass, courtesy of John Taylor). I struggle to understand why Duran Duran chooses to use their guitarist in such a limited fashion – something that goes on even today.  Regardless, the song is very funky, helped along by the slight Chic-like rhythm in the background as well as the well-placed staccato horn fills.

Vocals

The song is very background vocal-heavy, and at times it’s difficult to even hear Simon. I have to say that for the most part, it doesn’t work for me. I’ve never been a fan of songs that are so heavy on the female  backgrounds, and Drug is no exception. The female background voice serves as a sort of “whisper in the ear” or “devil on the shoulder” for the song, telling the listener to “use me”, “take me”, etc….and I have to admit that it is slightly amusing that the band would choose to make that voice female.  That said, I think the effect is used way too heavily throughout the song and tends to be a distraction.  Simon’s vocals are fine, just not prominent enough in the chorus for my taste.

Lyrics

There are times when I have no idea what the lyrics mean…and then there are songs like this. There’s no doubt that the song, at least on the surface, is about drugs. That said, I kind of think there’s more to it than just that. The song is also about how there’s a drug of some sort out there for every single emotion or state of mind they need.  “A hit to fit reality”…any thing they need to feel, they’ve got something to fix that. I think the song is also about how robotic it all was at this point for them. Going through the motions, doing whatever had to be done to get through it all. “It’s more than just an axe you’ve got to grind” It’s as though the life had gone out of it for them, and the only way to feel at that point was to take something to change their state of mind to get there. Once again, I like how the words can mean one thing if taken literally, but they also have the potential to paint a slightly different (and deeper) picture.

Overall

For me, the song is mostly a miss. I desperately wish the band would have used the guitarist more effectively (something I continue to wish for even today), and I think the more electronic nature of Big Thing really takes away from the full-experience of the BAND in general. It tends to become more of a showcase for synth, and while I love Nick as much as anyone, the one thing Duran Duran had going was a real balance between synthesizers and guitar, and that seems lost on this record. While there’s definitely some funk to the music, I’ve always felt the song is a bit boring, musically. The lead vocals are incredibly overshadowed by the female background voices, which do nothing to help the strength of the song; and lastly, could we have some damned guitar??

Cocktail Rating

2.5 cocktails!

Two and half cocktails

Amanda

Musicality/Instrumentation

This is one of those songs that you can’t ease into it at all.  Right away, there are horns blaring in your ears, which does connect to previous Duran (i.e. the Notorious album, in particular).  The song is interesting in that there feels like there is a lot going on, instrumentation wise; yet, it is hard to pick out much beyond the synths, creating very much of a dance/club feel.  Of course, there are moments when you can hear the bass or various percussion but those are hard to separate from all of the keyboards.  Interestingly enough, if you watch live clips of this song from the Big Thing era and how they decided to perform it, there are a LOT of keyboards (Nick and an additional musician) and Sterling Campbell (drummer) works hard but there isn’t much going on with Warren and John at all.  John only adds some bass at the end, in fact.

Vocals

Every time I listen to this song, I think the same thing.  Too much!  I want some quiet or at least less vocals!  Perhaps, part of my problem is that I think there is just way too much backing vocals–whether those vocals join Simon’s or are by themselves!  I want to hear Simon and I don’t hear him nearly enough.  Then, at times, when I do, I find myself wanting him to articulate or enunciate his words more.  Overall, the lyrics don’t really work for me.

Lyrics

The question with these lyrics is a simple one?  Are the lyrics about drugs?  They sound like they are but could they be about something else?  Could it be about quick fixes?  Could it be about society’s obsession with taking pills for every ailment under the sun rather than being patient and seeing if the ailment goes away or if something else could be done about it?  The one thing to note about the lyrics is the amount of repetition.  The song basically has about the chorus repeat about 4 times with 2 verses that are basically the same minus a few lines.  My point is simple.  While the lyrics could be a metaphor or a larger statement about society or something deeper than just drugs, they are too short and lack variety.

Overall

I wish that this was a song that I liked more.  It has a lot of energy as there is a lot going on from the non-stop keyboards to the lead and backing vocals to the repetitive lyrics.  That said, I feel all elements aren’t quite right.  Keyboards are too dominant.  The vocals don’t work for me as I miss Simon.  Likewise, the interesting part of the lyrics are lost by the lack of variety.  Clearly, the song isn’t a favorite.

Cocktail Rating

2 cocktails!

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Paper Gods – Daily Duranie Reviews

As a treat, Amanda and I decided that we’d do the review of Paper Gods as another video, the link is below.  We tried to be succinct with the actual review; but this is a warning to get yourself a snack and a beverage, and don’t blame us for being willing to dig a little deeper into the meaning of Paper Gods!

-A & R

 

Through the Barricades – Spandau Ballet at Pacific Amphitheater

Last night I joined about 8,000 of my newest friends to see Spandau Ballet in concert at the Pacific Amphitheater in Costa Mesa, California. I don’t want to brag (actually I do), but Spandau says that it was one of the best if not the best amphitheater show they’ve done.

First of all, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to this venue, and they’ve completely improved the gates leading from inside the fair. What once felt like a back alley was open and inviting, which is nice. The amphitheater has it’s own set of unique problems though, some of which are that it’s attached to a fairground, not permitted to run year-round, and there’s some nasty rules about noise, curfews and horrific fines if a band should happen to go past their time-limit.  Even so, I love it when bands play here…especially when those bands are named Spandau Ballet, Tears for Fears, or Duran Duran.

I recently saw Spandau (by recently I mean earlier this year and you can find my review here), for a show at the Wiltern Theatre in LA and it was fantastic, far exceeding any expectations I may have had. I was a fan who had never seen them live, and I still can’t quite believe my luck at having them play twice in a single year. From what I could gather between the LA show and last night – they have an amazing, fun-loving, and supportive fan base, and it’s a shame it had gone thirty years (according to Tony Hadley, whom I’m assuming knows these things) since their last show in the OC, otherwise known as my backyard.  So, I was curious to see how their shows might differ, especially after long months of touring. Would fatigue get the best of them? Would their music feel a bit tired, or polished?

Once again, Spandau blew me away. In retrospect, the show in LA felt almost a bit stiff compared to the warm, friendly and loving nature of the show last night. While the band certainly interacted in LA, it couldn’t even compare to having Tony Hadley and Gary Kemp decide to literally go play Empty Spaces in the audience….only to follow that up with a brief sing-a-long a cappella version of Gold before going back up to the main stage. We were treated to Steve Norman getting right down to nearly eye-level as he played sax with those in the front rows, quite possibly giving Krista Blade (Richard Blade’s – the KROQ radio DJ and 80’s music guru wife) the show of her life.  Martin and Gary Kemp traded sides of the stage several times throughout the show as well. But it wasn’t just those moments that made the show feel special or intimate. Tony Hadley commented not just once, but several times as to how great the audience was; and I have to say – in all of my years of attending shows, I have NEVER heard an audience sing in quite the same way as we did last night. We sang along to Gold and of course True…and no matter where Tony would hand off the singing of a line to the crowd, it was picked up and beautifully finished with enthusiasm. I think in a lot of ways, True is sort of Spandau’s Hungry Like the Wolf, and rather than the song being tired or boring, which let’s face it – by this time is absolutely a possibility; the band has worked to give it new life and make it something that the fans can sing together with the band as sort of a sentimental moment. It worked beautifully.

The crowd was willing, open, warm…and even had a few self-named superfans present. One such person was in the front row. I noticed him throughout the show because he knew every word to every song, which made me smile. He danced and sang right along with the band, and reminded me of the time someone announced to Amanda and I that they’d never seen more enthusiastic fans at a show. (I don’t really want to know what we must have looked like that night….) In any case, the band went offstage from their main set at precisely 10:01 by my watch, and came back out to do “Through the Barricades”, which has got to be the most romantic song ever written (and I adore Steve Norman’s sax on this one). It was about this time that I glanced down to the front row and noticed that the guy I’d seen earlier was wearing some sort of, well…hat and feather get-up. It was canary yellow…which I’m assuming he wore because he was insistently hoping that the band finished with “Gold”.  They did…but not before Tony Hadley had to turn away from said superfan because he was laughing and couldn’t sing. I have to give the guy credit, he wore that little number (and I’m sorry I don’t have pictures – I was too busy enjoying the song!!) for the entire song, and then the band literally pulled him onstage during their goodbyes as Steve Norman carried him…yes CARRIED him in his arms.

  1. Spandau Ballet loves their fans. A LOT…and they’re definitely not too cool to show it.

  2. Steve Norman can carry a full-sized man. So my hope of someday having him show up and carry me away is still on!!!  😉

  3. I don’t suppose my showing up in a wolf-suit to a Duran Duran concert is really going to help anything…so no one need worry.

  4. I wish I’d bought tickets to see them in San Diego tonight.

  5. It’s not REALLY cheating on Duran Duran. It’s training for the next tour…I swear!!

One last thing: prior to the show, Richard Blade did a DJ set with his buddy (and Duran Duran fan), Steven Wayne.  Steven actually played the songs, and Richard always likes to do the trivia and contests.  The coolest part of his set before the show was when he dramatically said a line from When In Rome’s song “The Promise” (the point was to guess what song the line was from), and Clive Farrington, the lead singer of When in Rome, was planted in the audience with a microphone. He came down on the stage and actually SANG the song. Gotta tell ya, When in Rome was another favorite band of mine from way back when, and I nearly fell out of my chair when literally he rose up from his chair to go sing RIGHT DOWN THE AISLE from me.  He still sings with stunning beauty, and I can cross one more thing off of my lengthy bucket list.  I felt bad for him because people continually stopped him throughout the show for pictures, but I didn’t need any….the memory of having him sing is going to stick with me for a long, long time. Loved it.