Category Archives: Shadows On Your Side

The Seventh Stranger — The Daily Duranie Review (R)

We begin our big finish of Seven and the Ragged Tiger with Rhonda’s review of The Seventh Stranger this week.

Musicality/Instrumentation:  I will say one thing about the music on this album – it flows extremely well from one song to the next.  The same basic elements and sound are found on virtually every track, and this last track is no exception.  The song is not especially fast in tempo, and the song tends to have more of a lead-in (intro) than many others on this album, beckoning the listener in for one last round. While the amount of track layering on other songs was bothersome for me – there’s just too much texture to sort out – on this song, I found the layering and mixing to be just the right amount, with the exception from about 4:30 to about 5:00, where it tends to end up sounding a bit more like cacophony.  There is a really clean guitar solo that reminds me the tiniest bit of Andy’s work  to come much later on the Astronaut album, and the signature call and response between keyboards and guitars is very much present as well.  What I don’t hear a lot of on this particular song is bass.  I’m sure it’s there, but it’s not the driving rhythm we’re used to hearing along with drums. Those instruments are far more subtle, with a lot more percussion used as background.  Overall, the music is interesting without being obtrusive – it’s a good sound for a closing track, letting the listener down easy as opposed to dropping them flat.

Vocals:  One thing I really like about this song is that Simon’s vocals are in the lower part of his range, highlighting his versatility. After hearing song after song with soaring, stacked harmonies that range to the upper part of his vocal range, it’s a welcome change to have something a tinge darker and more mellow.  It is apparent when I hear songs like this that Simon has had classic training – I can almost hear him dropping his jar as he tackles some of the lower notes to create a fuller sound.  If there’s ever a question of his abilities, one does not have to go far to find the answer, that is for sure.

Lyrics:  So many of the lyrics on this album seem to follow in the same theme : learning how to deal with fame.  This makes sense to me because during this time – Duran Duran was the biggest band in the world, and to the band, it probably very much felt like it all happened overnight.  To me, this song seems to express Simon’s desire to find someone to trust in a crowd.  Different faces, every single night – who to turn to?  It certainly describes a feeling of complete loneliness in a crowd of thousands, which seems to be incredibly daunting.  As a fan, I can’t imagine what international fame must have felt like back then – all five went from being “regular guys” to being on the cover of every magazine, on our TV’s, radios…and pursued in every corner on the planet.  In some ways, it almost seems as though Simon is commenting on the fact that he is one of the most recognizable people on the planet (at the time), almost no one really knows him, and yet I get the sense from the song that he is searching for that comfort of knowing and being known.  Great lyrics.

Overall:  Admittedly, I spent much of my youth skipping this one…or at least only half paying attention when the song would finally play on the turntable…fading into silence after it ended.  There is a lot right with this song: the lyrics are great, Simon’s vocals are among the best on the album, and the music isn’t at all overpowering.  But, I still feel as though some of the best parts of the band: bass, drums – are nearly completely overlooked on this one.  Balance is what this entire album left behind, and I think that they never quite find it again until much later in their career.

Cocktail Rating:   3 cocktails!

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-R

Shadows On Your Side — The Daily Duranie Review (A)

This is my turn to go ahead and review Shadows On Your Side as Rhonda did her review last week.  This is one song off Seven and the Ragged Tiger that I liked as a kid but never really thought about much.  It got hidden by the “hits”.  So, now, that I’m taking a long look at it, what do I think about it?

Musicality/Instrumentation:  This song starts like so many others on the album.  It is pretty immediate and inescapable.  There is no significant lead in, no time to get used to it.  No, it is full sound all at once within the first few seconds.  It is hard to discern individual instrumentation, except for the obvious keyboards and very occasional guitar when Simon seems to take a bit of a breath.  When it is played, the guitar is very cool.  At times, you can sense John’s bass but it is fleeting and subtle.  Again, like so many others, it feels like there was an effort to ensure that every little second of the song was filled with layer upon layer of sound.  The only time it does not completely feel that way is when the tempo slows down during the bridge and allows for some highlighting of guitars and keyboards.  I have always liked whenever highlighting seemed to be featured.

Vocals:  Classically wonderful vocals from Mr. LeBon here, I must say.  The thing about the song is that it always, ALWAYS makes me want to sing out loud.  Yes, that isn’t anything new when it comes to Duran or Simon, specifically.  Yet, there is something about THIS song that always gets to me.  Simon’s vocals feel like they are soaring just like the lyric.  The passion is clearly felt, especially during the chorus.  Then, I adore the low notes of the very end when he sings “shadows on your side” over and over again.  There is something haunting and emotional about it.

Lyrics:  These lyrics like so many on this album seem to focus, at least on some level, on fame and the effects of fame.  Lines like, “shining crowd”, “the music is louder than all of their roar” indicates crowds, fans, fame.  Yet, at the same time, there is distress about this fame with lines like “everybody to say that you’re having the time of your life when your life is on the slide”.  The shadows imply darkness, being hidden, at some level.  Obviously, at least how I’m interpreting it, the shadows are good, in some way.  Perhaps, they are good in providing denial.  Maybe, they are good in removing the spotlight.  If this interpretation is accurate, the fame the band was dealing with wasn’t always a party.  I have to say that I adore these lyrics.  I love that I’m able to analyze them and, maybe, get an insight into their lives then.  On a personal note, I have always felt like this song was something I could relate to.  As someone who deals with her own darkness, at times, I understand how the darkness can feel like it is on my side.  There is a comfort there.  I get it.

Overall:  There is much about this song that I really like.  The lyrics are fabulous and Simon’s vocals are great.  Musically, I like the guitar parts and feel like they add a very nice touch.  Yet, I struggle with being overwhelmed with all of the musicality coming at me.  As a kid, when I first got this album, I loved that.  Now, as an adult, I wish for more subtle, less tense.  I prefer the music to breathe a bit more.  Is this a result of the writing?  Possibly.  I suspect it is due more to the production.  All that said, I would SO love to hear this one live as it is one of the better tracks off Seven and the Ragged Tiger, in my opinion.

Cocktail Rating:   3.5 cocktails!

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Shadows On Your Side – The Daily Duranie Review (R)

We continue reviewing the Seven and The Ragged Tiger album today with Shadows on Your Side.  This week is Rhonda’s week to review, followed by Amanda’s review of the same song next week.

Musicality/Instrumentation: I like the quick drum intro to this song because it’s just different….it’s just a two beat pick-up, but it works. What immediately strikes me about the instrumentation as recorded is that it’s very top-heavy with very little noticeable bass to support. Yet, if you really listen – the bass is there in the mix, down very deep, and it’s a groovy bass line besides. Not at all boring, the bass work sounds intricate, with John’s hallmark playing. Once the song gets to the chorus, there are very noticeable guitar riffs that keep the structural integrity of the song, but adds just a touch of grit to what could end up being a very glossy song otherwise – the guitar gives just the right amount of texture to keep it interesting. It’s the ying/yang effect between Simon’s voice and Andy’s guitar…which works really well. The song is upbeat, and keeps that driving beat throughout. If you know what you’re looking for, you can hear a rhythm guitar during the chorus as well, which just goes to show that in this band, a versatile guitarist is not only needed – it’s an integral part of the recipe. I especially like the bridge where you can very much hear Andy and Nick playing off of one another – giving the song their best.  No friction there, simply playing melody and background together, and it’s beautiful.

Vocals: I find myself wondering what I can really say about Simon’s vocals here.  They’re good and strong.  He has emotion without overdoing it, and I do love the way he quietly sings “Shadows on your side” in a deeper part of his range here.  I really can’t find anything wrong – it’s Simon singing the way that Simon does best.  

Lyrics: I don’t think I ever stopped to consider what these lyrics meant until today.  That really is no testament to the quality of the lyrics themselves as much as it is a statement of my own lack of attention to detail on this one.  No matter, as I listen today, I find a similar element in this song as I do to other songs on this album.  Simon sings “Shackled and raised for a shining crowd, they want you to speak but the music is louder than all of their roar, with the heat of the planet’s core…” Those words seem to indicate that things looked a whole lot better from the crowd than they might have felt from the stage back then.  I almost imagine Simon as a puppet during the shows – doing his job, singing the lyrics, entertaining the crowd but almost wishing he were anywhere else at the time.  The relief comes at night, when he is whisked away from the crowd to someone waiting – someone or something in the shadows, hiding from prying eyes.  Maybe it’s not even that there’s someone there for him, it’s that he can retreat back into where he’s most comfortable, away from the public.  It almost seems as though references are made to the discomforts of fame throughout the entire album in various lines of lyric – something I’d never really picked up on before.  The next verse continues with “Promises made with a distant friend, truth should be known it can only bend to a tune of its own, hey you’ll never hear that voice again.”  I find these lines to be really interesting.  Is this a comment to the “friends” Simon has made along the way? The girls he’s met after shows?  Someone else entirely?  Hard to say, but very intriguing.  Everyone has a safe-place.  Somewhere they go when they need to get away or hide.  “With everybody to say that you’re having the time of your life, when your life is on the slide.”  Well then.  Doesn’t everything always look better from the outside than from within?

Overall:  This is an easy song to overlook on this album – it was on the B side (oh, remember the days of B sides?!?), it wasn’t a single, and as such it probably was never one of the most mentioned.  What strikes me most is that individually – the elements of the song are very good, and they work well together. However, due to what I would blame as a poor mix – I feel as though a lot of the impact is lost or at the very least, difficult to hear.  This is not only something found in Duran’s music of the time, but is also a defining element of the period, and it is what truly “dates” some of this music because it is not well-balanced.

Cocktail Rating:  3 Cocktails!

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 -R