Tag Archives: Duran Duran song reviews

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

 

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

 

Too Late Marlene – The Daily Duranie Review

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!

Rhonda

Musicality/Instrumentation

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.

Vocals

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?)

Lyrics

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.

Overall

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.

Cocktail Rating

5 cocktails!!

5 cocktails

Amanda

Musicality/Instrumentation

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?

Vocals

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.

Lyrics

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.

Overall

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.

Cocktail Rating

4 cocktails!

4 cocktails rating

Daily Duranie Review – So Misled

This week, we return to the Notorious album to review “So Misled”.  Even though, this song was just an album track, do we think it is a quality song?  What are the positives?  What are the parts that we thought needed to be changed?  Read on to find out!

 Rhonda’s Review of So Misled

Musicality/Instrumentation:

So Misled begins with a fantastic drum breakdown and then bass enters, creating a great funk. It’s unusual for a Duran song to begin that way, so it interests me immediately. I love the way they’ve got the bass up a little louder in the mix this time, because with the brightness of the horn section, the bass and drums add the right balance. The guitar, while still very present, is not overpowering and again, does not act as a true lead guitar.  What I don’t hear much of, which in some ways is almost refreshing, are synthesizers. I know they are there, because there are parts the very beginning where they act as melody, and they do present themselves for a quick instrumental ad lib section just about 2/3 of the way through the song, but for the most part they are way underneath the other instruments, coming out just to highlight.

Vocals:

There are two distinct sets of vocals on this song: Simon’s and those of the backup singers. Simon’s voice is bright and unchallenged, and it blends well with the melody of the song, as well as with the backup singers, which feel a smidgeon overpowering to me.  Many times throughout the song I feel as though Simon struggles to be heard over the top. The back up vocals do bring a sort of jazz or R&B element to the song that would likely be missing otherwise, but they just feel a little overpowering at times. I’m not a huge fan of the ad-lib vocals at the end where Simon just hands it to them to finish out, either.

Lyrics:

Here’s my main problem with this song: there is literally one full stanza of verse, a chorus, about a half-stanza worth of another verse, and then the chorus along with some ad-libbing jazz vocals at the end. The song feels half-finished and tends to highlight instrumentals and back up vocals, which isn’t a bad thing  on it’s own merit, but that doesn’t stop the song from feeling as though it was never quite finished with whatever message it is trying to send.  As for the actual lyrics themselves, I think it’s pretty clear that the song is about being mistaken over someone’s intentions, but it’s definitely not a very deep or insightful message.  Oddly, other descriptions I’ve seen for the lyric on this song say that it’s about a conversation that a glamorous woman is having with her (dark) alter ego.  Personally I don’t think there’s enough lyric here to even draw that from the words, but if that was Simon’s intention, then there you have it. That said, I can’t knock the song for not being deep – after all, this isn’t meant to be Shakespeare, on the same token, compared to other pieces of lyric from this band, I can’t help but feel this song lacks a bit of substance.

Overall:

I struggle with So Misled. On one hand, I do like the instrumentation. I love the slight jazzy/R&B/fusion feel, and I think the bass line is fantastic. It’s hard to say “No” to any of that. On the other hand, I’m just not a big fan of the loud backup vocals and I don’t think this is Simon’s finest hour when it comes to lyrics either. It isn’t a song that I necessarily skip, but it also isn’t a song I ever seek out to really listen either. So Misled tends to fade into the background.

Cocktail Rating:

3 cocktails! 3 cocktails

 

Amanda’s Review:

Musicality/Instrumentation:

There is lots of instrumentation right away with this songs, especially before the vocals kick in.  Drums certainly call attention to themselves as does the bass.  Keyboards, as always, are present but less noticeable than they often are and the horns have returned for this one.  The guitar feels very buried or pushed to the back.  That said, the instrumentation catches your attention right away, that’s for sure, but I have to wonder if it is almost too much.  The activity of the instrumentation isn’t like Seven and the Ragged Tiger which has just lots of layers and additions added to the song.  No, in this case, there is just a lot going on musically, at all times.  In general, the musicality of this song almost overwhelms even the vocals.

Vocals:

Like the instrumentation, I feel like there is just too much going on.  At times, Simon is on his own with the vocals but there are a lot of times when those backing vocals are present.  I don’t mind backing vocals if they enhance the song or the performance but here the purpose seems to be to get attention.  Maybe, that attention is needed as the instrumentation of the song somewhat shadows the vocals.  It reminds me of my classroom when the kids are working in groups.  One group gets loud and the other groups have to either get louder or do something to make music in order to get attention.  In the case of the song, more does not always mean better.  Frankly, even when it is Simon on his own, I don’t think it is his strongest performance.  Perhaps, that is because of the emphasis on repetition or staying at an elevated key.  Then, I don’t really need the part with “do do do” and “la la la”.  The vocals just don’t work for me.

Lyrics:

I have to admit that I have no real idea about what this song is about.  The only thing that comes to mind is advertising.  Is the purpose of advertising to mislead people into thinking that they must have a product?  Of course, there are a couple of lines directly related to advertising:  “Saw an advert in a magazine safe it said.  With the satisfaction guaranteed to cool your head”  Is it about something that seems like an easy cure to something but isn’t, really.  No matter the meaning, these lyrics don’t meet my basic standards for great lyrics.  Those standards are that the lyrics are either great poetry or move me to think or to feel.  These lyrics don’t really make me feel anything and the thinking stops at trying to figure out what they are about.  They definitely aren’t the best poetry Simon has ever written.  Thus, the lyrics are disappointing.

Overall:

As I listen to this song, I have to wonder if the main issue isn’t either the production or the mix.  It feels like so much of the song is overwhelming. There is so much instrumentation, so much going on with the vocals.  It is like each element of the song is fighting for dominance but not in a way that makes me want to listen over and over again.  This isn’t about allowing each part to breathe or have space or take turns.  It is like they are all fighting to be heard.  That said, the song doesn’t bother me, either.  I just wish that it was different—less in your face and maybe then the elements could shine.

Cocktail Rating:

2.5 cocktails!

Two and half cocktails

American Science — The Daily Duranie Review

This week, we are continuing our review, our thoughts about the tracks off of Duran Duran’s 4th studio album, Notorious.  This time, we focus on the song, American Science, the second track on the album.  According to Duran Duran Wiki, this song was, at one time, rumored to be a fourth single off of Notorious, but that idea was shelved after the second (Skin Trade) and third (Meet el Presidente) singles did not do well.  Do we think it would have made a good single?  Read on and see!

Rhonda’s Review:

Musicality/Instrumentation: Even compared to Notorious, this song is strikingly different. Tons of horns, lots of slow, syncopated rhythm going on…definitely more of a “Nile Rodgers” feel than say…”1984-style Duran Duran”…but this is definitely Duran Duran. Grown-up Duran Duran.  It is slow, sultry with a jazzy, slightly R&B feel.  The instrumentation here is also completely different than on previous albums – the guitar, which is prominent throughout, takes on much more of a “guitar solo in the background” sort of sound…just like mellow jazz.  You can hear John’s bass in the mix, and the bass line isn’t nearly as frenetic as on previous albums, but still makes it’s mark with smooth rhythm. There is little in the way of stacked harmonies a la Rio, or the layers upon layers of sheer sound as found on Seven and the Ragged Tiger…or the darkness-tinged vocals on the first album.  American Science stands on it’s own, marking a new way for the band.

Vocals: Admittedly, I like Simon’s voice on this one.  There is no strain, and his voice sounds far more relaxed on this song than countless others – the song allows for the true genius of his voice to shine through.  I personally think the “oooohhh’s” at the beginning of the lines of chorus really do something to bring your attention to the words, and remind me very much of some of the better jazz tunes I’ve heard over the years. They work well with the parameters of the song and don’t sound at all like filler.

Lyrics: I’ve never understood this song on any sort of personal level. When I hear the words, I recognize the song to be about wanting a woman, and the things this woman makes him feel (the “daze” mentioned) I get the feeling that he feels like the woman controls him to a certain degree…but the title??  Is he talking about an American woman? I feel like a complete idiot even typing the words, but I don’t get it. I give, Simon. I give!! My favorite line is “A little megalomania becomes you evidently”…I’ve loved that line since before I really understood what “megalomania” even meant.  What can I say? I was a kid when this first came out!  Truthfully though, I never understood the words enough to really feel any connection with them.  They’re not bad, I just don’t feel anything from them.

Overall: I think this was a song where I had to grow up in order to really appreciate. I like the mood and I think the production is spot on. Not too much, not too raw…just enough. I wish I had a better feel for the lyrics, but the smooth and sultry rhythm makes up for it. It’s a song that I put on when I want Duran Duran but don’t know if I really want to listen to 80’s Duran Duran.  It is certainly a departure from their past, and opens the floodgates to the diversity we find in their catalog for decades to come.  It isn’t a close favorite of mine, but a solid effort nonetheless.

Cocktails:   Three cocktails!

98490-threeglasses

Amanda’s Review:

Musicality/Instrumentation:  As soon as the song begins, you know that this isn’t going to be the Duran Duran of the early 80s.  Oh no…times have changed and it seems clear that Duran wants to sound more mature.  Thus, they included horns and lots of them.  They aren’t featured just in a bridge or in the background.  They are front and center to introduce the song and during the chorus.  Interestingly enough, after the first few seconds of the introduction, they give way to an almost mellow (in comparison) sounding verse with noticeable bass and keyboards.  The keyboards, in particular, are fascinating as it seems like every note is being held on to, again, not only helping to give that slower tempo but, perhaps, to seem more mature.  Once the vocals start, the instrumentation feels pushed to the back and every element seems more subtle, more muffled in a way.  This is not the 1st album era where different instruments are vying for attention at different times.  This isn’t the Seven and the Ragged Tiger era where there are layers upon layers of sound.  It is different.  Even the guitar solo to end the chorus and bring on the next verse is very different.  It seems clear that it isn’t Andy Taylor on guitar anymore.  Of course, there are also those moments when horns and guitars dominate the song.  The question then becomes is this change for the better?  Is it preferred to the past?  This is where it comes down to a matter of taste.

Vocals:  To me, Simon’s vocals are relatively smooth and match the mood of the song well through the verses.  He is at a good range and is able to really show feeling, as Simon is so known for.  The chorus, on the other hand, does not work for me.  There are way too many “ooh”s for me especially with the way it reaches towards higher notes.  I have always been way more of a fan of Simon’s vocals at a lower range.  Why fill up so much of the chorus with “ooh”s rather than words?  It is showing a problem with the lyrics?  Possibly but I never felt that Simon shows his real strength as a vocalist when he sings non-words.  Hungry Like the Wolf, anyone?

Lyrics:  This is one of those songs that the lyrics have never really caught my attention.  What is the song about?  Is it about a woman?  After all, there are lyrics about there is a “she” who can “two step and sway”.  Is she an American?  Is is a place?  If so, it is “lonely”.  Then, it seems like the narrator is in a “daze” because of this person or this place.  Now, typically, I like lyrics that either create an emotional response in me, for some reason, or really make me think.  This song isn’t going to cause an emotional response but it could certainly make me think (as in what the heck is he talking about?!).  Yet, for some reason, it has never captured my attention.  It is possible that because the music has never caught my attention, the lyrics have just been ignored.  They aren’t bad lyrics.  I just can’t get into them.

Overall:  I want to really like this song.  I want to embrace the new Duran Duran, the more mature Duran Duran that uses horns and has a different style.  Yet, there are too many things that don’t click with me.  I am not a fan of the horns in this song.  They are too dominant and detract from the cool instrumentation of the verses.  Likewise, all of the oooohs in the chorus take away from a solid vocal performance otherwise.  It is likely that these song elements distract me from really connecting, lyrically, to the song as well.

Cocktail Rating:  2.5 cocktails!

20c1c-twohalfglasses