Tag Archives: Liberty

Back to the Sugar Shack: Liberty Turns 29

Another Duraniversary popped up this week on the socials. Has it really been twenty-nine years since Liberty arrived, somewhat uncomfortably, in our lives? Often dismissed as the band’s worst album, it was a difficult album for me to grasp upon its release. The 80s were over, that much was clear and where the new decade was headed remained unclear. Caught between decades, Duran Duran’s Liberty remains an important piece of the band’s history, and might even be a more consistent listen than the commercial juggernaut that followed it.

As far as album openers go, Duran Duran has done far worse than “Violence of Summer (Love’s Taking Over)”, and it made for an effervescent first single. The 12” single was a wonderful introduction to the band’s new direction. The artwork and the video clicked for me, and I was excited about the album. Ultimately, it never wormed its way into my bloodstream like previous albums had. Some of this was the new decade and exciting new bands arriving on the scene. However, Duran Duran also bears some responsibility for putting forth an album where insecurity and over-confidence lock horns.

Overconfidence or insecurity?

The over-confidence comes through in the guitars of Warren Cuccurullo and the lyrics of Simon LeBon. Playing against the melody, as if to prove a point, Cuccurullo’s work disrupts the otherwise perfectly pleasant “Liberty” while LeBon’s socially charged lyrics on “Hothead” are all a bit silly coming from a band that capitalized on the decade of excess better than most. While the band revisits that sentiment a bit on “Too Much Information”, the song rocks so hard that I give them the benefit of the doubt. A cola company is sponsoring the war? Well, they also sponsored your biggest tour. We are winking at each other, right? 

The insecurity comes through whenever LeBon tries to sing about sex. Unless your Prince, rhyming jism and catechism sounds creepy and desperate. “Take Me To Your Water” doesn’t exactly conjure pastoral images of an English countryside and “Read My Lips” unfolds like a drunken come-on by a once cool geezer in a once trendy club. Listening almost three decades later, I hear a writer trying to recapture his mojo by becoming edgier. While it worked in 1990 for Madonna with “Justify My Love”, LeBon’s poetry was never meant to be so direct and explicit.

Liberty and The Wedding Album, side-by-side

It isn’t hard to pick “Serious” and “My Antartica” out of this album as the crown jewels of Liberty. I’d trade “Ordinary World” for “My Antartica” in a set list each and every show. It is more “Duran” than “Ordinary World” even if it didn’t re-ignite their commercial fortunes. The sophisticated “Serious” ranks up there with some of the best music on Notorious and still sounds like a hit single to me. Having hung my heart on the importance of Andy Taylor’s guitar, the rock-n-roll stomp of “First Impression” remains an absolute high point even if the song is, ahem, a bit like this Lords Of the New Church song (https://open.spotify.com/track/3Em6rJJUdozR2qj6jnAZ5u). If nothing else, it finally gave Sterling Campbell’s youthful energy room to move.

But, really, is Liberty a more consistent listen than the wedding album as I hypothesized earlier? Side by side, I find about six songs on each that I am excited to hear more than a few times a year. The production of Liberty is, even by the band’s own admission, dreadful. The rumor of demos being out there on a bootleg sounds tantalizing (someone hook me up!). Much like the fabled Reportage, a different production might have yielded a far different result for the album and the Duran Duran story could be totally different. However, the wedding album has some filler on it and the cover of “Femme Fatale” should have been enough to sink the whole idea of a covers album. 

For your reconsideration

Without Liberty, the band would not have been forced to reconsider everything. Commercial flops have a way of doing that. Returning with a hit single in “Ordinary World”, the confidence of a band rejuvenated was enough to sell us on an album that wasn’t a huge artistic leap from Liberty. If anything, revisiting Liberty on its 29th anniversary makes me appreciate how important it was in shaking up the band. We learned that Campbell was not a good fit, that LeBon’s lyrics were best when shrouded in metaphors, and that the band could write sophisticated pop songs when they didn’t push too hard to fit into the foreign landscape of a new decade. For their so-called worst album, that is a pretty fabulous outcome! 

Keeping the Rhythm Going 28 Years and Counting: Liberty

Liberty was released on this date in 1990. My excellent math skills tell me that adds up to birthday #28 for this album. Back on the 25th anniversary, Simon posted some thoughts about Liberty on dd.com.  If you haven’t read it yet, you really should.

Liberty is one of those albums that feels like a guilty pleasure. I have been known to blast “Violence of Summer” on long drives, some of which may or may not have taken place at like 2am on the way home from gigs at the Key Club in Los Angeles. The word “overproduced” has been used in tandem with this album frequently over the years. At one point, I suppose I might have agreed. I tried to be one of those critical listeners that might be taken seriously. These days, however, I’m far more apt to say “So what??? I think it’s fun and I like it!”, than anything else. Life is far too short to worry about explaining why a song or two makes my heart sing.

The album is 28 years old. I think it might be fair to put the criticisms aside and just love the music. Frivolity and fun are not bad qualities. I happen to agree with Simon on “Serious”. It is by far one of the best Duran Duran songs ever recorded. It ranks right up with “Ordinary World”, and I applaud its simple beauty. “My Antarctica” is another stunning example of the band’s songwriting genius.  I don’t know what Simon meant by the lyrics, but when I think about them, they remind me of the saying “life happens when you’re making other plans”.  Simon seems to call out a relationship with someone who is set to have the public see his/her life one way when in fact it is completely another. I love the vagueness and how the words allow themselves to tell your own story. It is absolutely some of Duran Duran’s best work, and hits home with me far more than some of their major hits. It is a song I wish they’d play live.

There is plenty on the album to love. While Simon wasn’t fond of “All Along the Water”, I adore the song, even with its fair amount of cheek. Again – it’s FUN. It keeps me moving, and I’m certainly smiling. Is it lyrically captivating? Probably not as much as others, but not every song needs to punch me in the gut with emotion. I love it.

When I think about Liberty and this period of time, it makes sense to me when Simon says it felt like part of The Wedding Album. On my own Duran Duran timeline in my head – there’s not really much I remember about the time period for Liberty, only that it was released, and before I knew it the band was on to something else. Maybe they needed that album as a creative precursor to what came next, but I believe it is worthy of standing on its own and not be known as the “also appearing” album of the 1990’s. In fact, I’m going to give it a listen today!

-R

 

Do you remember gum-chewing? Of course you do!

It has been awhile since I’ve sat and watched a Duran Duran video.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but it seems like I rarely get a chance to sit down and relax, much less watch anything. So today, I treated myself. I watched “Serious”, because truly – if you’re going to watch a Duran Duran video, why NOT catch glimpses of a naughty Nick Rhodes chewing gum??

Did you know that on this date in 1990, Duran Duran filmed part of “Serious”?  It is true. If the story behind the gum proves accurate, Nick was not necessarily on board with the idea of “Serious” being a single from Liberty. In fact, he felt so strongly that when it came time to film the video, Nick decided to show his feelings, ever so-not-obviously, by chewing a piece of gum throughout the video. Because you know, Nick is a chronic gum-chewing keyboardist in real life, right?

I’m going to guess “No” on that.

I suppose his thought was that he looked silly, and that’s how he felt about the song being a single. It was his idea of a protest, which kind of makes me laugh…because LISTEN TO THE SONG.

Of course, that whole thing (if in fact true) backfired when Duranies, ever-dependable as we are, went NUTS over the gum chewing. Who knew that by attempting to ruin a video, he actually made the whole thing that much more appealing (leave it to Nick to turn gum-chewing into an artful statement). I only question the validity because it goes along with the theme of the song. It doesn’t have to be serious, right?

Here’s the video. Let’s watch it again!

Happy Tuesday!  -R

 

 

My Own Way: Album Ranking

Welcome to Monday. It is my first day back after a nearly a week of festivities, and so I’m going to start slow…by doing my own ranking of albums.

In full disclosure, I read diffuser.fm’s take on Duran’s career, as well as Amanda’s, prior to making my own choices. Both gave me a little more to think about, but neither swayed my decisions. I know we’ve done this before, but as Amanda mentioned, I haven’t even considered it since Paper Gods came out.  Why not revisit?

My own countdown is devised so that I mention the album and the reasons for where it sits. Some albums may have a paragraph, others might have a sentence or two. I left Arena off of my list completely as it only has one studio song on it and if I were to rank live albums I would do them all.

I’ve learned that I cannot hem and haw around while I am ranking things or picking favorites. I feel a little like I’m mowing down the field of Duran Duran albums as I go through the process, quickly deciding what should go where and why – but I go with my first instinct, my gut, and don’t look back. I do fine as I begin, but somewhere around #8 I start worrying, but remind myself to go with  my gut. I look back over the list as I’m finishing and realize that for now – today even – it’s how I feel. Tomorrow?  Who knows.  That’s kind of how it’s always been for me as a fan.

Perhaps it’s really gotten to the point that I identify so closely with their career – each album marking a particular point in my own life – that it’s difficult to be objective anymore. I don’t know, but I tried. I’m sure I’m not the first fan to be stumped by ranking albums or picking favorite songs. In fact, I know I’m not!

Thank You

I just never felt they hit their stride here. While some songs, such as Perfect Day or Lay Lady Lay are so silky smooth you can’t help but enjoy them, others, such as 911 is a Joke, make no sense at all.  Then there’s White Lines, which is great live, but on the album it tends to fall flat. I can’t fault the band too much for trying something few other bands of their calibre have done, but it just does not rank high on my list of favorites.

Red Carpet Massacre

Anyone who knows me probably saw this coming, and I’m sorry for being predictable. I don’t think this album can or should be swept under the proverbial carpet and forgotten – because it is how we got here, to this place we all currently occupy. I can certainly see and hear the parallels between this album and Paper Gods. I’m glad they tried out some of the things they learned from RCM over again to get them right.

Pop Trash

I would characterize Pop Trash as the fast food of Duran Duran’s career.  Perhaps fitting? While the album is nowhere near “bad”, I never felt that there was a lot for me to sink my teeth into and devour.  It lacks the depth of some of their other work, which is why it ended up in this place on my list.

Medazzaland

Ah, Medazzaland.  If there were any album that had changed for me over the years since it’s release – it would be this one.  I just didn’t get it when it first came out. In fact, I listened to the album in full one time before shelving it for many years. Lately though, I’ve listened to it, and I’m finally starting to get it. No, I’m still not a fan of the title track (sorry Nick), or Silva Halo, but I do really like Big Bang Generation, Who Do You Think You Are, and Midnight Sun. There’s a lot hiding amongst the shadows on this album, and I think it’s worth a revisit.

Liberty

How can I rank this above Pop Trash or Medazzaland? 2am drives from Hollywood, that’s how.  Our personal experiences shape our listening choices, and for me – that’s why Liberty works. It kept me awake many times during college and beyond, so I’m going with it.

The Wedding Album

I have to admit that I agree with Amanda – while there are two songs on this album that are iconic for Duran Duran, the album as a whole isn’t nearly as impressive as others (which I recognize is tough to do when you’re Duran Duran and have had so many successes).  So it’s not that I think the album is bad – it’s that the band has too many great ones!

Astronaut

Oh yes I did rank this one about The Wedding Album. Please see the line about personal experiences.  For me, this album is all about the Fab Five. I can’t ignore it, I can’t get past that, and it was a dream come true for me. Yes, it’s pop. Sure, there are songs on it that I didn’t love and I still take it personally that they didn’t include Beautiful Colors, Salt in the Rainbow and Virus on it. Even so, I’ll take it.

Notorious

I am pretty sure that at one point or another, I ranked this lower on my list. Again, I didn’t get it. But just a week ago, I pulled the album out and gave it a good listen. What is most remarkable to me about Notorious, is that it came after Rio and Seven and the Ragged Tiger. Those albums were hugely successful. Then they had two band members leave, and rather than sticking with what they knew, they took the opportunity to blaze new territory. It was like deciding to take a giant left turn out of nowhere. As a child, I had little respect for that sort of thing. In fact, I don’t think I really understood.  Even as an adult I sometimes get caught up in what I think DD should be or should sound like – but I’m working on it.

Big Thing

Another album I didn’t really get until adulthood. The first half is as dance music as I’d expect from DD, and the latter is the culmination of some of their finest songwriting moments. The emotion that comes across threw the B side of this album is astounding, and in my opinion, it is the best DD album that no one has really heard.

Paper Gods

Here’s the thing about Paper Gods for me – I like it. I don’t know that I love it, although I’ve tried. It ticks a lot of the boxes for plenty of people, but it is also an album that I really needed to come to terms with. I didn’t fall in instant love, but I would say I’ve grown to respect each song and the work that went into making the album overall. I can’t fault an album that hit top ten, if only for a brief, shining moment.

Seven and the Ragged Tiger

This goes bad to personal experiences for me. This album is my seventh grade wrapped in vinyl. Awkward, sometimes overdone, but still well-loved. Sure, it might not be their best songwriting, but I love it all the same, and that’s why it is near the top of my list. All I have to do is hear the opening notes to Union of the Snake and I’m back on the lawn with my friends at recess, gawking at the latest edition of Tiger Beat. For me, those memories are priceless, and that is what makes music so powerful.

Rio

I know what you all are thinking.  Yes, I really did put Rio third. The trouble is, it could easily be second. Or first. The final three on my list here are probably interchangeable, if not completely tied. I cannot think about Duran Duran without thinking about Rio. If there were ever a reason why Hungry Like the Wolf is played at every single DD show – it is because of Rio. Try as we might, we simply cannot separate Rio (the album) from the band, in the same way that we cannot separate HLTW from them either. I get it. I may not always like it, but I get it. And I respect it.

All You Need is Now

It pains me that the band left this song, and many songs from this album, off of their set list this past year. For me personally, this album is easily as iconic as Rio. It describes the band, and their relationship with their audience, to a T. To think that Duran Duran wrote this album during their third decade together simply blows me away. It is an album that never got it’s justice, and it is still one of my very favorite.

Self-titled Debut

I really don’t think it is all that surprising that one of my favorite albums is the one that started it all for them, and for me. I love the rawness, the lack of expectation, and the realness of the music. There is no ego here, no trying to outdo what has already been done. It is simply music from  a band ready to take it’s place in the world.  This is an album from Duran Duran before they were DURAN DURAN, and it is the most real we’ve ever gotten from them. that is why it remains number one for me.

My choices weren’t all that surprising, but the exercise was fun. I don’t anticipate others to agree with me – in fact, you shouldn’t. We all have had our own journey, and that is what makes it all fun.  I’m no music expert, and I only have my own taste to rely on, so by all means make your own list and have fun with it.

-R

 

 

Happy Birthday to Nick Rhodes

It is that time again, isn’t it?

Today is June 8th, which means it is a very special date on the calendar,  and we allow ourselves to take a moment to celebrate National Best Friends Day!!!

Ok, I’m kidding. It’s Nick’s birthday!! Happy birthday Nicholas.  I suspect you’re spending it well in Verona Italy, where I hear it is very hot today. (Actually, I read that from a friend who visiting there from Finland, and I suspect that her idea of “hot” and mine may be quite different. But just in case, I hope you’re enjoying the lovely weather.)

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems as though with each passing year, we are celebrating these dates at a far more accelerated pace.  I would swear I just wrote one of these blogs – and I think I completely missed Roger’s birthday altogether!!  (thanks to our writing schedule)

So, since we are celebrating, I decided I would share a few of my favorite Nick videos today, so here we go!

Pressure Off

Arcadia – The Flame

Serious

[Reach Up for the] Sunrise

 

A very happy birthday to you, Nick with many wonderful and healthy years ahead!  See you in July!

-R

Question of the Day: Monday, February 15, 2016

Based on yesterday’s poll, there are not many people who have seen songs from the Liberty album performed live in concert.  In fact, the only songs that people indicated that they have seen live from that included Serious, Violence of Summer, Liberty and All Along the Water.

Today, we wonder how many songs from the Wedding Album people have seen live.

Question of the Day: Sunday, February 14, 2016

Yesterday’s poll showed that most songs from Big Thing have not been heard live by very many people.  For example, no one who participated has heard Interlude One live in concert.  In fact, the only songs that many people have seen live in concert from that era are I Don’t Want Your Love, All She Wants Is and Do You Believe in Shame.

On that note, which songs off of Liberty have you seen live in concert?