I bet that many of you are/were expecting us to talk about John Taylor’s return to Twitter. We promise that we will, but we didn’t want to interrupt our regularly scheduled review to do so. Besides, this will just build anticipation about what we will say about it, too. Ha! Until then, we will take time to review a fan favorite, the final song on the album, Rio. The Chauffeur is our focus for this week’s review. Is it worthy of being a fan favorite?
Musicality/Instrumentation: Musically, this is really not one of Duran’s most complicated songs. The instrumentation is really very simple, which makes it unique and unlike anything else on Rio. The keyboards come in very quietly, almost tentatively…and admittedly my favorite part of the song is when the bass comes in – it gives depth and adds an almost dark and pensive quality. There are a lot of other effects and sounds to the song that add interest, but unless you’re really listening – you miss, like the car sound after the first chorus. It sounds like an an engine being revved and then fades out. Then of course you start to hear some high hat cymbal, but all of this takes a backseat to Simon’s vocals and the keyboards. As a listener, I don’t feel as there there is nearly the amount of track layering as there is on other songs on this album. It’s much more simple. Not raw…but simple. It does have a sort of slightly dark and moody feel to it that is more reminiscent of the earlier album, but with a more mature and polished sound. Of course, I don’t dare do THIS review without mentioning the ocarina that everyone knows, yet probably never heard of prior to Duran Duran. Who knew a potato-shaped instrument could add such an effect…and more importantly, how on earth did Simon or anyone think to play it here? This is why I’m the listener and they are the writers/musicians, apparently. And I have to admit that I love the ringing bell at the end. I don’t know why. I don’t even know why it’s there…but I like it.
Vocals: There is no arguing the strength of Simon’s vocals here. How many of us have stood there in front of the band belting out “Sing Blue Silver” right along with them?? I don’t even know what in the hell that means – but the strength of those words is apparent. It’s like a Pavlov’s Bell for Duranies. Simon sings with an incredible amount of emotion – you can tell how strongly he feels about this song and the words he’s written. It’s impressive. For me personally, the vocals are the highlight of the song, and the very fact that they are juxtaposed to Nick’s keyboards seems to only bolster that fact.
Lyrics: This is one of those songs where I know every word, and yet I don’t feel the words. I feel Simon’s emotions, but I am disconnected from the actual words. No one is arguing that they aren’t poetic, but this just doesn’t happen to be a song where I really feel much. It’s a beautifully written song, no doubt about it – I just don’t have that personal connection to the words that others may. Yet this song has incredibly fabulous lines such as: “Sweating dewdrops glisten freshen your side”, “What glass splinters lie so deep in your mind”.. you can tell he’s describing the woman he’s sitting next to, and how deeply he admires her and wants her for his own – the emotion is right there on the surface. I like the way the lyrics take something so inane as a ride in the car and breaks it down to the minute moment – and describes it so beautifully. I wish I could write like that.
Production: I like the little extras that production gave to this song. The spoken vocals about “color and shape”, the engine noises…the bell at the end…they give audible interest and add some texture. Up until today I didn’t even hear a lot of them – you have to really listen and pay attention to get the full effect. There isn’t a lot of guitar on this song, nor is there a ton of drums or bass. It’s mainly keyboards and Simon. Simple. The song probably called for simple, and it’s not one where I sit back and say “Wow. This would have been so much better with some cowbell.” (OK, I’m joking about that. I don’t typically say that about any Duran songs…at least not yet.) But truthfully, I don’t necessarily miss the full instrumentation, but I do notice that the song is very, very different from the rest of the album. That is not a good or a bad thing – it’s just noticeable. Does it break the continuity of the record? No, but I do think it’s the beginning of a noticeable change in the way the band records. Certain instruments are simply put lower in the mix in favor of others…and this continues on from here.
Overall: Truthfully, this has always been a song that I’ve been relatively “meh” about, yet I know it is a traditional, sentimental fan favorite. People love the Chauffeur…and there are many remixes out there that prove it’s worth to people. The song is well-crafted, but I feel as though it leaves many of the good things that the band had to offer at this point behind. I do like the style of the song, even if I can’t come to complete grasp with the substance…and I do understand that this is one of those songs that people will applaud forever more, and I think it’s because it IS so unique and was very different from anything else that is out there. I wouldn’t argue against any of that. However, the personal connection is missing here for me, and I prefer their works that better utilize the full band.
Cocktails: 3.5 cocktails!
Musicality/Instrumentation: This is one of those songs that the instrumentation isn’t what is thought of first. Instead, I would say that the focus is always on the lyrics. Thus, it was interesting to me to take the time to just listen to the music. Of course, out of all the instrumentation on this song, people tend to focus on the use of an ocarina, which I, openly, admit that I had never heard of before this song, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The song starts out rather quiet as the volume increases to reveal delicate keyboards followed deeper notes and additional sounds of what could be something rolling before the vocals starts. Thus, there are some layers and added sounds. Once the vocals starts, those high and low notes remain with an additional rhythmic sound coming in before the chorus begins. Instead of following the usual Duran pattern of having Roger’s drums transition from one part of the song to the next, there is more spacey keyboard sounds to transition. In fact, the song is heavily keyboard focused throughout without the more standard layering of all instruments that we are used to from the rest of this album and the previous album. The ocarina appears about halfway through the song as the tempo increases, creating more drama. As the song moves to the end, it is a constant repeat with some additional sounds from the likes of Mr. Rhodes’s keyboard until it quietly ends.
Vocals: Like other songs in a similar fashion in the Duran catalog, Simon’s vocals are strong and heartfelt. I think that every Duranie recognizes and feels the heart pulled a little by hearing Simon belt out the line about “sing blue silver” after using this phrase to title the 1984 world tour and documentary that followed. He not only gets to showcase the quality of his vocals, he gets to do it with passion here. We could all tell that these lyrics for whatever seemed to matter to Simon. These vocals, in fact, despite the fact that they don’t fill up the entire song, still seem to dwarf the musicality of the song. In this sense, along with the lyrics, really shows how this song is all Simon with some Nick.
Lyrics: I think a lot of Duranies out there know that Simon wrote this song during his time in Israel and has talked about how the song is about how unrequited love. Of course, many fans consider this some of the best of Simon’s poetry and the song is filled with images of everything from “tar plains” to the “aphids” in the “drifting haze” to, of course, the most well-known line of all of “sing blue silver”. I don’t think anyone could argue that these lyrics aren’t poetry. While we get that there is a woman in a car who clearly is moving away, emotionally, from the narrator of the song, it isn’t a straight up storyline. This reminds me of the more recent, Before the Rain, as this song is also filled with lines that feel like imagery filled poetry. For me, the lyrics are the strength of the song.
Production: Every time I hear this song, I wonder how the discussions about it went in the studio. It doesn’t feel like the rest of the tracks on the album. The song does not have many of the features that early Duran had. I don’t hear the same standard of having every instrument featured with some shining more than others, at any given time. Instead, it is very much a song focused on keyboards. Was there a push to add more instrumentation from the rest of the band? Plus, how did they decide when to add those extra little sounds? How did they decide they had enough without doing too much? There definitely could have been a fine line to those little touches. Another producer, I’m sure, would have failed. The song would have either turned out boring or overdone. Yet, in this case, Simon was able to shine with Nick supporting.
Overall: I totally get why Simon fans would love this song. He has poetry filled lyrics and a strong vocal performance. Yet, that isn’t enough for me. I missed the strong performance from the other band members. While I enjoy the poetry and I do, I don’t connect to those lyrics. I can appreciate them but I don’t have an emotional connection to them at all. Likewise, the song focuses so much on the keyboards, which, in this case, doesn’t totally work for me. Thus, while the song focuses on Simon and Nick well, I just wish that it highlighted all the band more.
Cocktail Rating: 4 cocktails!