It’s review time again!! This week, we are moving on to Too Late Marlene. This song, along with several others, stand out in solid contrast from the previous reviewed tracks on this album that seem to be in more of a “house” type genre…did the contrast help or hurt the album and/or song? Let’s find out!
I love the way this song opens with just a simple piano/synthesizer loop. It’s got a very smooth-jazz feel to it, and just feels easy, which is of course in wonderful contrast to the frenetic, “rave” styling of songs like All She Wants Is or even Big Thing. You can’t help but take a deep breath and slow down for this one. The drums and percussion on this are near-perfect with plenty of subtle high hat. The point is to feel it, but not necessarily be jarred awake by it. I also have to comment on my favorite part of the entire song – the sax solo. It is GORGEOUS. Short, simple and to the point, it really drives home the jazz feel to this song, and I appreciate the simpleness to the instrumentation. There aren’t a lot of layers going on and that keeps the music clean and true.
Simon’s voice is excellent on this one. Yes, I know – we all think he’s excellent all of the time, but I would say especially so on this one. Deep, full and easy, this is when Simon is at his best. No special effects needed here, there’s no need. I also really appreciate the female backup on this one, it adds just enough to keep the song lush without taking away. If only they could all be like this… (then of course it wouldn’t be Duran Duran, would it?)
Hear my words: this is a gorgeous song. I love the lyrics because they describe just about every single relationship I’ve ever had. Dream or reality, fantasy or real-life…I love the way this song describes relationships. I like that this person is described as coming out of nowhere, and that he thinks he knows the person well enough to show a little bit of himself…because when you’re beginning a relationship, there’s always this little sense of being unsure. Yet further in the song the lines “Send down your rain, then who’s to blame, then you’ll understand it’s much too late to change.” and then very clearly “I won’t leave”…it’s kind of his “No matter what, I’m staying” statement. I love it. Yes, deep down I’m a sucker for good relationships and happy endings. Poetic? Maybe not…but I don’t think poetry is what necessarily makes a good song.
For being included on an album that is well-documented as being the band’s foray into house and club/rave music….this song sounds (delightfully) more similar to Save a Prayer than say, Big Thing. I really love the way it slows down, and I must admit that it has always been a standout on this album for me by far. The bass and rhythm does a terrific job balancing out the melody, and the song is just incredibly well-written and recorded. This song reminds me, and probably any fan who has listened to it, that yes, this really is the same band who came to us with Save a Prayer…and about the time this was released, we really needed that reassurance that yes, even though this band likes to try new things and at least partially recreate their musical “space”…they’re still the same. So. Much. Talent. I wish they’d include it in their show every once in a while, just to freak out all of the Duranies in the audience. You know, for kicks?? The band would see all of our jaws hit the ground in surprise…and I’d practically start swooning at the sax solo. Who doesn’t want to see that?!? In all seriousness, it’s a great song, definitely among the best on this album, and yet it’s severely overlooked, which is a shame.
This song is so clearly different than the first three song on the Big Thing album. It is slower with less intensity. It reminds me of how long dance songs featured in clubs are intense, intense, intense for long minutes before there is a break in the middle of the song to give people a chance to catch their breaths before the intensity picks back up again. Anyway, in this song’s case, the most notable instrumentation is those keyboards, which are really beautiful. Of course, the rhythm section works well to create a solid framework. The song does not have a lot of extras–it is allowed to be simple and clean. The one significant extra is the sax solo about two-thirds of the way through. Its placement in the song is where typically a bridge is placed and functions in a similar way. The use of the saxophone is definitely something Duran has done throughout their career with positive results. While the instrumentation is beautiful and creates a calm feeling, the question becomes: is it too calm? Too quiet? Does it get lost in the shuffle of the rest of the album?
Simon’s vocals are something special here, aren’t they? They are very smooth with little straining even when hitting the higher notes of the song. I appreciate that he demonstrates such a range in this song as well. He is able to transition from lower notes to higher notes with ease. As for the background vocals, generally, I like them but I’m not fond of the additional “too late”s that come in by the backing vocalist. To me, it distracts and takes away from what Simon and the instrumentation is able to do.
This is one of those songs that I would have to stop and think really hard about the lyrics besides the chorus. It isn’t one that people learn the lyrics to easily. The words don’t get stuck in one’s head beyond the chorus. I just never really stopped to listen and consider them. I think the beauty of these lyrics is that everyone can take some part, some line, some verse and relate to it in some way, in terms of their own lives and their own dealings with people and relationships. For example, the line about how “the ice is thin” is one that everyone can relate to as we have all had relationships (romantic, friendship or otherwise) that could crack at any second. That said, I always wondered why they settled on the name, Marlene. It isn’t the most common of names and there is a part of me that always wondered if the name doesn’t hurt how much people could connect to the song since a name implies something individual rather than universal.
There are songs that we have reviewed that I think are both beautiful and are ones that people choose to listen to a lot. Then, there are songs that people think are fun and want to listen to but don’t show off the band’s skills in a significant way. This song, on the other hand, is a beautiful song. Yet, I fear that it is one that gets overlooked frequently by many Duranies because of the slowness, because of the poetic lyrics, because it wasn’t played over and over in the way that other ballads from their catalog have been. While the instrumentation is beautiful as are the vocals, I do think the use of the name and the female backing vocals, at times, impact, at least, my enjoyment of the song. That said, this is exactly the song that was needed to break up for the intensity of side A of the Big Thing album.