Tag Archives: Liberty Album

Serious – The Daily Duranie Review

Hey hey hey, it’s just past the middle of February and we’re already to “Serious”, off of Liberty. You’d think we weren’t slackers!!

The song is the 22nd single from Duran Duran, which reached a staggering #3 in Italy, and a disappointing #48 in the UK. We won’t even discuss the US. By the time Serious was released, interest in Liberty had already cooled. Unfortunately, Serious was the band’s least receptive single to that date.

Something Rhonda discovered as she did some background research for this review was that the sales of Liberty were so poor that plans for a third single (“First Impression” in the states, “Liberty” for Europe) were shelved.

We have to ask, was the song really that bad? We already know Nick wasn’t a fan of making this song the second single, but maybe it’s time to give it a listen again!

Rhonda

Musicality/Instrumentation

There is something about the guitar groove of this song that just sends me. I hear the hook and immediately think of warm, sunshine-filled summer late afternoons on the patio, and I really don’t know why. Maybe it’s because the song feels so easy and natural, just like a summer weekend afternoon. The guitar is almost but not quite a jazz groove, and it drives the whole song. As the conductor of my orchestra says, “There are tempos that are meant to be played dead on, others that are meant to feel like they are dragging just the tiniest bit, and still others that move the song ahead.” This one does the latter, thanks to the guitar. It isn’t a strong driving beat in the same way that JT drives the tempo in Careless Memories, but the groove keeps the song from being a slow ballad, if that makes sense.

In this case, guitar is the star of the song, and does the job well. That melodic groove sets the tone, drives the tempo, and steers the ship. I think my one complaint is that there’s this whole bridge section that sounds to be nothing more than a dreamy sequence with some syncopated drums to open it. There’s no real purpose, as no instruments are being shown off, and it isn’t as though the tone of the song suddenly changes. It’s just…there. The song didn’t really need it, other than to fill space and time.

I love that the rest of the instrumentation is balanced. I can hear the bass in the depths of the mix, the drums bring it together, and synthesizer/keyboards are only there to help anchor the lyrics to the music. There aren’t many songs when I can say that keyboards really take a backseat, but in this one – they do. Musically, I think it’s one of their best, but perhaps on the wrong album at the wrong time.

Vocals

I’m sure it’s not the case, but the vocals sound so effortless and easy that I’d swear they recorded them in a single take. (That is a compliment, I promise!) No whiny falsetto, there aren’t layers upon layers of vocals beyond a few tracks in the background to do a sort of call and response, it just feels easy breezy and natural. Hard to imagine going from the “sounds like he swallowed gravel” in Violence of Summer or even Hothead straight to some of the smoothest crooning I’ve heard from Simon, but he does it with style and grace.

Lyrics

These are not the craziest lyrics ever written, nor are they that complicated, or hard to understand. They’re very simple, with an easy message…which may or may not appeal to long time fans. It’s the love song that doesn’t quite play like a love song. It’s not slow, it’s not overly gushy or sweet. In fact, the words are quite playful in parts, which I can appreciate. I know that die hard fans look for those slightly more intelligent, less black-and-white lyrics. On this album, I think they’re hard pressed to find them, and that just might have been about where the band was in their career at the time, or where Simon was in his life, too.

Overall

I love being able to go back and review Duran Duran’s catalog. We try our best to be fair, but I think it’s very difficult to replicate how I might have rated the music when first introduced to it. For example, I like this song, but I can’t remember what else I was listening to in 1990. What was on the radio? Did Serious fit? I had to consult Google and see what else was popular in order to truly address why this song didn’t hit the charts or receive radio play (and in fairness, the answer is far more complicated than I can address here). To my ears, there’s no reason why this song wasn’t at least a mild hit, except that maybe it was a bit too easy, a bit too jazzy compared to what was on the radio.

In 1990, on one end of the gamut there was Warrant with
“I Saw Red”, or “Silent Lucidity” from Queensryche, then on to “Man in the Box” by Alice in Chains…and on the opposite end…”Step By Step” by New Kids on the Block, or “Giving You the Benefit” by Pebbles, or even, “It Must Have Been Love” by Roxette. Admittedly, that song is the closest to what Duran Duran was bringing with “Serious”. Was there really space for them? Roxette was still semi-new, and Duran Duran had already been huge in the early to mid 80s. It would have taken something much more monumental for a resurgence on Top 40 radio at that point (which came a few years later!) There wasn’t a lot of places for Duran Duran to go, other than be relegated to flashback lunches on KROQ or elsewhere. Yet Liberty was a new album, and “Serious” was nothing like the 80s New Wave that Duran was known for. I can see where this became a problem of identity for Duran Duran during this period. While yes, it’s advantageous to have the space to recreate sound and never be pushed into a box, I would also say there has to be something to connect a band with identity, and in my opinion, however great Serious is, that identity is something that is lacking in both the single and the album.

Cocktail Rating

Amanda

Musicality/Instrumentation

In thinking about the musicality/instrumentation of this song, I am struck by the guitar of this song. Typically, it is not my favorite instrument but I really like it in this one. It definitely is the dominant instrument without being drowning out the others. It is taking the lead, but allowing the others to play the supporting role that they should. It feels secure in the lead and doesn’t need to prove itself in the way that too many songs with a guitar focus do. I also really like the drums in this one as well, which feels weird to me. Warren and Sterling are not typically the ones whom I praise but I think it is worthy here.

Vocals

This vocals to this song very much match the lyrics. Both are simple, straightforward. Simon’s range doesn’t vary in some crazy way and there is very little layering. It is just Simon being at a comfortable range with little, if any complications. This makes for easy listening as no one has to worry about what is going to come next or if there would be a surprise, vocally. It allows for people to relax and just let the song be.

Lyrics

These lyrics, unlike many Duran Duran lyrics, would fit into the more obvious, straight forward category. As I listen, I can definitely see a couple who are struggling to figure out how to really communicate with each other, how to deal, how to figure out what is important (or serious) and what is not. While I doubt that these lyrics really make anyone ponder a deeper meaning, I suspect that many might be able to relate to them. Sometimes, people need that just as much as they need to pushed to think or feel deeper. In this case, it might even cause people to feel better knowing that their relationship isn’t the only one who struggles with this.

Overall

This song makes me smile as I think it does for many Duranies. For me, I cannot help but to think of the video with the very cute JoSi moment and Nick so obviously chewing gum. It is a song that just makes people feel good. It isn’t super deep or as complicated as so many others. The song doesn’t require a lot of deep thinking. Instead, you can sit back and just enjoy it. All that being said, I’m not sure why this song doesn’t rank higher than the 3.5 cocktails that I’m giving it. I feel like it is good but it isn’t great. I’m not sure why. Maybe, in my own bias, I feel like a song cannot be great if it isn’t something more than just a feel good song. I know many, many people who love it and I get it. For me, though, it just cannot reach that level.

Cocktail Rating

Cocktail Rating

Hothead – The Daily Duranie Review

Here we are. We have indeed arrived at the time to review Hothead. Produced by Chris Kimsey, featuring spoken word by none other than Simon Le Bon, there isn’t much written about Hothead. The song does not seem to be a fan favorite, so let’s get to the bottom of it!

Rhonda

Musicality/Instrumentation

The first thing I notice is the guitar, which quite frankly for a Duran Duran song, isn’t always the norm. Not buried too deeply in the mix, not an esoteric enigma, vaguely floating up in the stratosphere – for this track, the guitar helps ground the track like a root in the soil. The synthesizer takes on it’s old role, creating atmosphere and answering the guitar in the chorus.

The thing is, the music is kind of catchy. I like the slight grit to the guitar posed against the silky texture of keyboards. The semi-haunted house feeling of the descending synthesizer chords during each verse help to create interest, and it lends a bit more meaning to the point of the song. I picture wandering down into the proverbial rabbit hole, or falling into a pit while in a forest! This is the first DD album, to my knowledge, where the band samples from newscasts and television, incorporating those bytes into the background of the sound. I like that they did that, because those samplings give the song context. It isn’t difficult as a listener to understand the time frame in question, or why the song was written. Given that triumph, I don’t hear much bass though, which is strange – I think it’s in there, but during this period of time I think bass was more “felt” than heard. The band seemed to have backed off from the more complicated bass lines of Rio days and before. The drums are solid, no with no-nonsense, which probably is appropriate given the texture and point of the song.

Vocals

So, this is where things start to go sideways. The very first voice I recognize is that of Former President George Bush (the first one). That can’t be a good omen, can it? You hear news report snippets, which are sampled and as I said before – give context to time and setting of the song, and then Simon begins. Not quite spoken word, not quite singing…but then he does sing the chorus, doesn’t he? That’s followed by a stop gap, more than a little cringy, yet oddly appropriate, “hothead” sung in high-soprano by backing vocalists. I can’t decide if the cringe is meant due to the meaning of the song, or if that’s just *my* take on it. Before I can decide for sure while writing, I hear Simon’s rap section.

This may not be a popular opinion, but the words “Simon” and “rap” really don’t belong in the same sentence. It is very difficult to get past the sing-song aspect and take it seriously. Some artists rap well, and some just don’t. It’s my (possibly unpopular) opinion that Simon does not.

Lyrics

I’ll admit something right here and now: I’ve never read the lyrics to this song before. Lyrically, the song is strong, and arguably, more “political” than Paper Gods. The words were timely then, timely now, well-written, and (still) have a great message. They’re not dated, and they’re definitely not vague. He wasn’t wrong that governments use media and propaganda to change the mind of the public, and that whatever they say today might totally change tomorrow depending upon whatever view they wish to spread at the time. There is absolutely a message warning us to wary of those with the loudest microphones. I can’t argue with any of that. It isn’t the words that are the biggest problem.

Overall

While I can’t say it is a favorite song, there are a couple of things I liked. The guitar line is great, and I love the call and answer with synthesizer. I do give credit for innovation. The sampling of the news bytes was something that we may take for granted in 2020, but in 1990 was still fairly new. Overall, the music is pretty good. The lyrics themselves are solid, although I know they’re not the poetic ramblings that fans enjoyed in earlier albums. The real problem, at least for me, are the vocals and their delivery. I’m not opposed to rap or spoken word – but the sing-song delivery that seems to accompany the way Simon raps does the song an enormous amount of injustice. It cheapens the message and makes it out to be far more of a game or joke than I think was intended. I feel like the song started off to be a great idea, but during recording, it went ass-over-teakettle.

Cocktail Rating

two cocktails!

Amanda

Musicality/Instrumentation

This song definitely starts out in a non-typical Duran way with extremely obvious guitars. While I cannot say that I’m the biggest guitar fan, I think the jarring nature of the intro guitars is fitting with the theme of the song. You cannot talk about politics like this with a pretty synthesize sound, for example. Speaking of synthesizer, I really like the keyboards that pop up more when the guitars are pausing. The drums are solid with nothing too crazy going on. I don’t hear a lot of bass, though, which is a bummer. One thing that I notice about the musicality of this song is how the instrumentation is strong until the vocals and soundbytes begin then it almost feels as if the music takes a backseat.

Vocals

I’m not even sure where to start about the vocals. I guess I will start with the soundbytes of news headlines. I don’t mind them. In fact, part of me finds it fascinating what they chose and makes me wonder why those. To me, they fit with the theme of the song. Then, there is Simon’s vocals. At first, they aren’t terrible. I don’t mind them. Then, the first chorus happens. What the heck is that all about? Why the shouting like of “hothead”?! Why have a female vocal singing “hothead” for far too long? What is the point?! I don’t get it. Then, Simon’s vocals take a noticeable change for the final verse. It is more spoken word but not really. I don’t get that either. The vocals just make the song feel disjointed, lacking cohesion. It feels like they couldn’t decide exactly what they were going for so they did a bunch of stuff. It doesn’t work.

Lyrics

I have to admit that I find these lyrics pretty interesting but then again I spend a lot of my life involved in the political sphere. One thing that I find most interesting is how the overall message about media, politics, propaganda, etc and so forth is not dated at all. These issues are still relevant. In fact, they might be more relevant now in 2020 than in 1990 especially with the rise of social media, fake accounts, interference from other countries, etc. I look at other lyrics that might fit in the same category and feel like some of them feel more dated than this. The biggest example is Too Much Information. It definitely feels like the focus is on the Gulf War of the 1990s. Again, I give a little shoutout to the soundbytes as I found them to be interesting, too.

Overall

This song is definitely not a fan favorite and I totally get why. While there are elements that are interesting like the lyrics and much of the instrumentation, the vocals really detract from the rest especially since they are so front and center during the majority of the song. I do appreciate the fact that the band decided to do something political in nature but because of the vocals, specifically, I think it turned a lot of listeners off. They did not get the message or did not or could not think about what the lyrics might mean. That said, I do give credit for even mixing things up, musically, by having the guitar start it out and in such a dramatic way. I have to just wonder that if they had tweaked things a bit if the final result would have been significantly better.

Cocktail Rating

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two cocktails!

Liberty – The Daily Duranie Review

Here we are, fresh into a new year, and we’re getting back on a reasonable schedule with our review series, we promise! Today, we’re going to check out the second track off of the Liberty album, which coincidentally is titled “Liberty”.

There isn’t a lot of background on the song that is readily available. The same could be said for the album, produced by Chris Kimsey, as a whole. It was the first DD album that the band didn’t schedule a tour behind, and it seems that the whole project lost a lot of steam upon its release. John has openly admitted his struggles with drug addiction during this period, stating that he does not remember much about the making of Liberty. This was also the first album that Warren Cuccurullo was made an official band member, along with Sterling Campbell (he left in 1991). Both were also given songwriting credits.

Simon has been quoted saying that he felt like the band had lost it’s concentration during the writing and recording, as though the band just stopped paying attention. This period of the band’s history, in hindsight, seems somewhat chaotic and scattered. Perhaps that feeling contributes to the lack of love fans tend to have for this album.

Rhonda

Musicality/Instrumentation

The beginning of the song still sends chills down my spine (this is good), and I think the opening synthesizer chords going into the keyboards sounds great. This is a band that has learned a lot from the days of Notorious, taking away the great jazz, horns, and syncopated rhythms from that album. There is a great down and dirty rhythm going on, just bubbling under the surface.

The bass is easily as good, if not better, than anything else John has done – I especially appreciate it on this song because while it isn’t quite as forward in the mix as on past albums, it can be felt. The drums, while pretty basic, are good and clean, although they feel fairly autonomous to my ears – it isn’t like when John and Roger play together, but by the time of Liberty it had been five years and two albums since Roger played with the band. Even so, I can recognize the difference.

What I don’t hear much of, is the guitar. It is there, but it’s not out front. You can’t miss the guitar solo at the bridge, although it isn’t meant to be an “in your face” solo. It’s far more about creating an aesthetic, which seems to be pretty thematic for the band during this period.

Vocals

As soon as I heard Simon’s voice come in with the lyrics, I felt that pang of missing the band. I guess that’s something. Throughout the song though, I go from really enjoying Simon’s voice – it starts out like honey dripping down the side of a glass, to wishing he didn’t rely on falsetto. I’m a fan of his lower range, I guess – but the midrange is the Simon we know and love.

Lyrics

The feelings seem the same as in other songs – unrequited love, breakups, wanting what one can’t immediately have, and that sort of thing. I have no doubt that there’s a deeper message to be read here if one is so inclined. In some ways, I wonder if the love note isn’t more about the band members they’ve lost along the way. At this point in the band’s career, I would imagine the notebook filled with Simon’s poetry had been used up. The words are a lot less vague or symbolic, but the feelings still work.

Overall

As it turns out, there’s a reason why I never became a music critic. When we do these reviews, I listen to the songs we’re writing about over and over. The first time, I listen to the full song. The second, I try to focus on the music. The third, it’s for the vocals and the lyrics (I pull up the lyrics and read them along with the song). Then I tend to listen to the full song one more time, and finally – I write the review while listening to the song over and over in the background until I’m done. If it’s a song like “Hothead”, which will be our next review, listening over and over is an incentive to HURRY THE F***K up.

So, when I say that there’s a reason I didn’t become a music critic, it is because I’m too biased. I didn’t even know I *had* feelings about Liberty until I turned it on the first time. Hearing the keyboards and then Simon’s voice made me remember how much I miss them. I miss seeing this band and smiling up at them as they play. That feeling stuck with me the whole way through the review. How can I give the song a fair rating with that going on?!? I digress…

Liberty isn’t a bad song. There was the potential for something great here, and it is still lurking in the depths of the song. I wish they’d fleshed it out a bit more. The groove is good. I appreciate the jazz and syncopation. I think that instrumentally, Nick carries it and everyone else shows up as an “also appearing”. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I did have a moment when I thought about the Duran of the past – of the 80’s – and how things had changed. If I were an unbiased, unfeeling journalist, I don’t think I would have even considered that. I’d have listened to the music and let it stand on it’s own. With DD though, I can’t do it, though I try. Simon’s voice, when it is deep and passionate, does something to me. When it’s falsetto, high and thin, well, it *also* does something to me. I’ll be kind and leave it at that!

Cocktail Rating

Three cocktails!

Amanda

Musicality/Instrumentation

Musically, there is a lot here that reminds me of old school Duran. While the keyboards get the focus in the very, very beginning, soon there is a nice mixture going between the instruments. I especially like how the bass really forms the backbone with the keyboards periodically chiming in to get noticed. It isn’t like the instruments are fighting for dominance like we once heard in early Duran but more like complimenting each other. Interestingly enough, though, is that I don’t notice a lot of guitar until the song is more than half over. I’m not sure that it is super effective, though. I think the purpose was to act as a sort of bridge but, to me, I find it distracting. I think the song was fine without that.

Vocals

The vocals feel like a mixed bag to me. On one hand, I love Simon’s vocals in the beginning as they are deep and draw the listener in. I also love the layering of lines like “If you want to stay with me” which creates a depth of sorts. Yet, the song does not always stay there. At times, Simon moves to a pretty high range, which confuses me. I don’t really understand why that was needed. Was it to create a certain feeling? To make the listener think that the main character’s mood or feelings change as he tries to deal with the changes with his relationship? I’m not sure but I think it detracts from the quality of the rest of the vocals.

Lyrics

I remember the first time I listened to this album and this song, in particular. I was struck by how much Simon’s lyrics had changed from those early 80s lyrics. Back then, I struggled to understand exactly what the heck the lyrics could be talking about. It always felt like some sort of mystery or puzzle. (Union of the Snake, anyone?) With this song, though, it seems so straight-forward. To me, it always read as a song about a relationship on the verge of ending with lines like, “Thank you for fine times.” Of course, the person is willing to keep the relationship going but has put the ball in the other person’s court, so to speak, with lyrics like, “If you wanna stay with me, At your liberty.” Could it be about something else? Could it be that I’m supposed to look deeper? Maybe but nothing has ever hit me about it except for exactly what I said earlier about the obvious story. Interestingly enough, I thought that I would hate lyrics like this when I just read/heard them but I didn’t. I found the change acceptable even though I liked the way it was before.

Overall

Looking at each of the sections of the review, I notice a theme. Liberty features some good elements but also some parts that take away some of the awesomeness. It feels like there is inconsistency there. I have to wonder about some of the choices that were made in the studio. Why decide to be so obvious in the lyrics? Why include the guitar where it did? Why have Simon sing so high, vocally? If they worked more on this song, would those pieces be adjusted? Maybe they needed to work less on it. I don’t know. Now, this isn’t to say that the song isn’t enjoyable. I really do like the song and it easily gets in my head when I hear it. It just isn’t a song that my appreciation grows for it once I listen more carefully.

Cocktail Rating

Three cocktails!

Question of the Day: Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Yesterday’s winner: Seven and the Ragged Tiger

Which album would you prefer to see/hear performed in entirety: Big Thing or Liberty?

Coming Soon
Which album would you prefer to see/hear live in entirety?
Big Thing
Liberty