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I Believe/All I Need to Know – The Daily Duranie Review

We have some good news and some not so good news. First, we are back with another review! Unlike last time, there were not years in between. This is the good news. The not-so-good news is that we’re super late in getting it posted. This was to be Friday’s post, but due to a series of mishaps and illness, you’re seeing it today. Cheers!

The previous review focused on Lake Shore Driving, so you would think that we would move on to the Liberty album. However, we cannot forget about the b-sides of the Big Thing album. Interestingly enough, many of the extra songs during that era were what we might call remixes of sorts, such as Burning the Ground. You know, tracks that used previous Duran songs, mixed and mashed together in some new way. While we will tackle those in our own way eventually, we will be skipping them for now. For today, we’ll focus on “I Believe/All I Need to Know”.

Before we dive into what we think about the song, let’s give a little background to it. It was the b-side to All She Wants Is. According to Duran’s Wiki page, “On the aforementioned single, the song is listed as a medley, presumably referring to the two halves of the title, “I Believe” and “All I Need to Know”. “I Believe” comprises the main instrumental part of the song and can be heard on its own in bootlegged form on The Medicine. “All I Need to Know” however is so far not known to exist in any form.”

Rhonda

Musicality/Instrumentation

I love a balanced song. There is deep appreciation from me for a well-written piece of music. Not one instrument speaks louder than the rest, and the sum of all parts creates a gorgeous, delicate sound. The chords are what keep the song sounding full and lush, but they allow Simon’s vocals to take center stage. That’s how I would describe I Believe/All I Need to Know. The song is packed with instrumentation – everything from bass and drums (and a beautifully recorded hi-hat cymbal) to harmonica and a sampled piano on the keyboards. The guitar is there, but isn’t recorded as a lead guitar, it’s more rhythmic, which suits the song. I love that it’s not really one instrument (aside from vocals) that creates the full melody, which is unusual – even for Duran Duran.

Vocals

Simon’s vocals for this song really accentuate his range during this period. He goes from the lower, deeper notes up to soaring heights in the chorus. There’s no sense of strain, no falsetto, and he sounds incredibly relaxed. Say what you will about Big Thing, but this song fits incredibly well with others from that album, such as Land, Palomino and even Edge of America. He has a sort of melancholy to his voice here, and while it does sound easy and relaxed, there’s also a little bit of wistfulness which really lends itself well to the song. His vocal quality is at it’s best, and I find myself wishing that they would record more songs in this range. Simon sounds brilliant.

Lyrics

One thing I want to comment on before looking at the lyrics is that Amanda each read the lyrics and attempt to make sense out of them in our own way. That means that we don’t always (or often) come to the same conclusion of what they mean. That’s really the way lyrics are supposed to work, too. You (the listener) are supposed to find your own meaning to the words. This is is also why Simon chooses not to explain his lyrics, because he doesn’t want to influence whatever sense the listener gets out of them. In our case, we have certainly tried to explain lyrics, and we include our thoughts on the them in our reviews. For the most part, this is because we enjoy looking at the words ourselves, and we hope that we are not ruining the lyrics for anyone else in the process.

Funny thing about Duran’s lyrics. I don’t know that I ever really paid that much attention to them when I was younger. Maybe I did, and I just didn’t understand them. Or, more likely – I was too busy daydreaming to notice. Regardless, I sit here and read through the lyrics, realizing that a lot of their songs, at least in my ears after the first album, seem to have everything to do with their experience of fame.

The taxman’s in the pocketbook

The pressmen are at the bar

And all the world is at your door.

Just those three lines remind me of what it must be like for them. Unlike most of us who come home from a day’s work, they can’t get away quite as easily. Even in 1988, Duran Duran was an all-encompassing gig. By then, they’d already seen the world, toured it extensively, said goodbye to a couple of original members, and had reached the summit of fame. I think there’s a sense of the frustration Simon must feel in the lines:

I’m just the ordinary guy you used to know,

I’m not after your money,

or even your advice

I believe you’ll follow me,

it’s all I need to know

I read this as though he can’t really get away (although he sings of walking away…or maybe he’s telling other people to walk away!). There’s also a line about turning your head away now and don’t think twice, and I go back and forth about whether that’s a reminder to himself (which I could certainly see), or if it’s an admonition to the listener. Either way, I read the song similarly as I do others of this period – the struggle with fame. As I read them, it seems to be an ongoing theme in their lyrics, even during Big Thing, which takes place well after the insanity of the early to mid 80’s. While no, I wouldn’t say the lyrics are necessary of the same vague, poetic, obscure nature as say, The Reflex, I feel like I am able to have more of a connection to them. Perhaps because I’m better able to draw something out of them? I don’t know for sure.

Overall

I like the way the song conveys a certain feeling. for me, I get a sort of wistfulness, or even melancholy from it. The song feels easy, not at all angry or brooding – but maybe just a tinge sad. I don’t know that I’m surprised by that, given the time period of it’s writing. (although at the time, I am certain I would not have picked up on it!) Regardless, I appreciate the way this band has always been able to convey it’s feelings through music. I also like the simpleness of the sound. It’s a good, solid B-side for the album, although I personally think it could have been put on Big Thing and done very well. I saw somewhere that the band says that some of these extra songs that somehow escaped the album were made all the more special as a result – and I would offer this one in particular as a prime example.

I don’t listen to this song often enough. It is one of those songs I fail to think about or give enough appreciation to in their catalog. I don’t know why that is – but I’m going to fix that and add it to a playlist.

Cocktail Rating

4 Cocktails! 4 cocktails rating

Amanda

Musicality/Instrumentation:

Listening to this song, more intensely than I normally do, I realize that there really is no lead in. The next thought that follow quickly after is how this really is a classic Duran Duran song. I love that all instruments are present with some taking on more noticeable moments like the keyboards after the chorus. I also really enjoy the fact that the bass creates a strong steady undercurrent throughout the whole song. It makes a strong foundation, allowing the other instruments to come and go as they need. In many ways, it has the feel of more old school Duran songs as opposed to the more dance-orientated songs on Big Thing. It doesn’t feel like the ballad tracks from that album either. It is a good go between in terms of tempo and overall musical vibe.

Vocals

Whenever I think about this song, the vocals are the very first thing that comes to mind, especially the chorus.  While I love the deep vocals of the verses, there is something so smooth about the chorus that really catches my attention.  Perhaps, I like the contrast between the slower, deeper vocals of the verses as opposed to the lighter, more melodic aspects of the chorus.  Of course, the backing vocals here help to add to the lush feel of the chorus in the second half of the song. It is like the emotions and the voices build up until so much just bursts through.

Lyrics

You know what is funny?  I have listened to this song countless times and even sang along with it a lot and never really looked at the lyrics.  The line that always grabbed my attention is, “I’m just the ordinary guy you used to know.”  Now that I have really examined the lyrics, I cannot help but to wonder if this wasn’t the lyrics of a very specific story.  It sounds like someone who used to be trusted and connected with someone who broke that trust, but is now pleading their case and hoping for some understanding.  Could this be an experience that Simon had?  Someone else in the band?  Maybe the band member wasn’t the one asking for understanding but the one who determines if there would be a new understanding.  The line about not being after one’s money could definitely be a person trying to reassure a band member.  So, what do I think of these lyrics?  I don’t know that they excite me like many Duran lyrics that lend themselves to interesting interpretation or act as poetry.  Yet, they don’t turn me off either.  

Overall

Overall, I really like this song. Musically, it fits well within the standard Duran catalog with the balance of instrumentation. I believe the music is enhanced with the quality of Simon’s vocals. The only area that I question is the lyrics. While they are not bad, they are almost too specific for my liking, but do fit in well for a b-side.

Cocktail Rating:

3.5 Cocktails

Proposition — The Daily Duranie Review

We have finally hit the last song on the Notorious album.  This week, we take a look at the song, Proposition.  This is one of those tracks that is often overlooked.  Is that fair or should people pay more attention to it?  Read to find out what we think!

Rhonda

Musicality/Instrumentation:

There is no mistaking that this song is off of Notorious from the very first notes of Nick’s keyboards. Anytime I hear a horn section, I know that chances are – it’s from Notorious. I like that I can really hear John’s bass, and there is one small section where you can actually hear the guitar, imagine that! I find myself missing the days when the guitar actually mattered to this band and was used for more than just texture, which is one reason I tend to struggle with the entire Notorious album – it is not one of my favorite Duran moments. I know they were struggling to find a new identity without Roger and Andy, but I do miss a more audible and noticeable LEAD guitar. Musically the song is incredibly funky and jazzy…and when the guitar is allowed to be up in the mix, it provides a good deal of rock to balance the sound. The drums are good and I love the fill/pick up at the beginning of the song.

Vocals:

I must be in the minority, but I really do not love the moments when Simon is singing in a high register. He loses all depth and dimension to his voice, and it becomes falsetto…which really doesn’t work at all, and it weakens the entire song. I think it would have been far more effective to have Simon sing in a range that actually played to his talents rather than have him do falsetto. He has such a strong voice, why not use it?

Lyrics

This song is tougher for me to really understand, but for some reason I get the feeling it is about society forgetting about their children.  We promise to take care of our children, and yet somehow – so many end up starving, dying, getting into trouble, left for the streets to raise as their own. The song makes me uncomfortable, which probably means the lyrics do their job – they make me think about subjects none of us may want to consider, but we really should. Whether that’s really what Simon was getting at or not, I’m unsure..but isn’t that part of the fun with Duran songs?

Overall:

I struggle with the Notorious album. It is very funky, and I know that is as much a part of Duran’s history as is punk…but I struggle. The album really marks such a huge departure in sound, in personnel and even in the band themselves as they go from being the number one band in the world to something a little farther down on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts. The song itself has some good: the bass, a guitar part that doesn’t mind being in the background and adding texture, a cohesive rhythm section, but it’s never been a favorite. The chorus quite honestly ruins the song a bit for me with the falsetto and tough to hear words, and the lyrics, while potentially interesting, never seem to hold my attention. I fade away whenever the song is on, which is disappointing.

Cocktail Rating:

2.5 cocktails! Two and half cocktails

Amanda

Musicality/Instrumentation:

As soon as the song begins, Nick’s keyboards are right there, front and center. As soon as the rest of the instrumentation jumps in, you know that this is a song off of Notorious. The guitars have the same style, for one, and horns are present and drums to help with transitions. Even with all of the instruments present, Nick’s keyboards still seem to play a major role. They are funky, for sure, and remain even when other instruments like guitar take the spotlight. One thing that is interesting to me is how little change there seems, musically, between verse and chorus. The only time there seems to be a real change is during the bridge about two-thirds of the way through. Then, the guitar really takes the spotlight along with keyboards. The funk is on high for most of the song.

Vocals:

I really like Simon’s vocals during the verse. It is at a good range for him and love how he emphasizes the last word in most lines in a very subtle way. Unfortunately, he totally loses me during the chorus. Why must the word “Proposition” and other part of the chorus be sung at that higher range? It doesn’t make show off Simon’s talents much. Why make Simon sing in such a high range? I find the words in the higher range even hard to understand. It is such a shame, too, since the verse shows great vocals. I have to wonder if the range of this song is the reason that I have never seen it on a setlist. (If you have, please let me know! I would love to know when and where they played this one live.)

Lyrics:

Before I take a look at the specific lyrics to this song, I refresh my memory about the specific meaning to this word. The meanings I found: a statement expressing a judgment or a suggested plan of action. Which definition matches the song? It seems to me that this song is about a crime. Is the baby dead? The baby’s head is cold, after all and this woman is to “pay for the crime of feeling”. Then, the next verse seems broader—more society and less individual. No matter who is to blame, the person is feeling guilty for something. I’ll be honest. I’m not sure what the song is really about. Could it be about a judgment? Maybe. I, generally, like lyrics that make me think, make me wonder, make me what to figure it out. Yet, these lyrics don’t intrigue me. I don’t know why. Maybe, it is the mentioning of the baby. Maybe the only interpretation I can come up with isn’t one I relate to or appreciate. Nonetheless, I find the lyrics disappointing.

Overall:

I want to like this song. I’m not a huge fan of the funk found on this album. If I was, I would probably love the instrumentation as it is full of the funk. The lyrics seem intriguing but the intrigue doesn’t last long. They are unable to keep my attention for some reason. Perhaps, the instrumentation and the lyrics don’t keep me into the song because of the chorus, which I don’t like. I want Simon to stay in the range of the verse. Yet, the chorus is at a much higher range and such that I can’t follow or sing along. I think the song has potential but doesn’t fulfill that potential.

Cocktail Rating:

2.5 cocktailsTwo and half cocktails

Union of the Snake – The Daily Duranie Review (A)

If you read the blog last week, last Thursday, in fact, you would have learned of our new review process.  For now, each Thursday will be a review.  First, Rhonda will tackle the song; then, the following week, I will take my turn with the same song.  Last week, Rhonda started with Union of the Snake.  This week, it is my turn.  Will we agree or do we hear this song very differently?  If you want to review hers, go here.  Also, we decided to incorporate the production part of our review to the overall section.

Musicality/Instrumentation:  This is one of those Duran songs with the very distinct beginning.  As soon as we hear the opening notes, Duranies can all recognize the song.  I’m not sure if they intended it that way but it is that way now.  I know it certainly works to be instantaneously recognizable live as some of their bigger hits are that way (Rio and Girls on Film, in particular).  The beginning of the song really feels like the focus is on Nick and Andy.  I always enjoy those moments of musical conflict or musical back-and-forth between the two of them.  John’s bass is felt, at times, but isn’t a standout.  Neither is Roger, really.  Of course, as the songs moves closer to the chorus and through the chorus, Nick’s seems more dominant.  Even there, though, as with most songs of this album, there are always extra sounds, extra elements added.  It is multi-layered.  Likewise, the bridge of the song also holds some interest as there are definite extra percussion instruments included and very noticeable sax.  Truly, this is one thing that I have always admired about Duran.  They never shy away from using instruments outside of their standard guitars, drums, bass and keyboards.

Vocals:  Like a lot of this album, once the vocals begin, they certainly take center stage, seemingly mixed a bit louder than the already loud sounding instrumentation.  The vocals are a solid performance of Simon’s with some particularly interesting moments in which certain words are emphasized with the use of back-ups singers.  These words are obvious including “singers”, “radio”, “borderline”, and “climb”.  What could have been a cool way to add drama simply becomes over the top and too much.  I think it would have been fine if that had been done for a word or two but they used the back-up singers a lot here.  Too much.

Lyrics:  Ah, this song is one of those songs off Seven and the Ragged Tiger with very cryptic lyrics.  There have been many attempts to decipher what this song means or is about.  Is it about sin?  Is it something sexual?  Is it about losing it and having a nervous breakdown?  Is about the pressure of fame?  I have no idea.  I just know that I never connected to them.  I have had moments that the song seems to fit a situation, but those moments are short-lasting.  What do I think of the lyrics?  On one hand, I like that the lyrics aren’t clear and obvious.  I want lyrics that I either need to figure out or that I can create an interpretation that works for me.  On the other hand, I, sometimes, think that Simon tried TOO much to be clever.  He wanted to demonstrate that poetry.  In previous albums, he showed that creative side without it being or feeling forced.  In this song, it feels a bit forced to me.

Overall:  The song has a lot of potential.  I like the play between the keyboards and guitar during the verses.  The use of the saxophone and extra percussion sounds were a nice touch that showed that Duran wasn’t afraid to use other instruments beyond what the members traditionally brought to the table.  The lyrics could be interesting and the vocals could have been great without the overpowering backing vocals.  Likewise, the production seemed to really push the vocals over every other element of the song.  This enhances the two parts of the song that seem weaker to me (vocals and lyrics).  Also, when thinking about this song as a whole, I can’t help but to think about the more recent live performances of this song that I saw.  It seemed lifeless.  I’m not sure why that is.  The band didn’t seem all that into it and neither did the crowd, for some reason.  Perhaps, if the song was given a very long rest, there might be more appreciation for it.

Cocktail Rating:  3 cocktails!

Union of the Snake – The Daily Duranie Review (R)

This being the first review of 2014, we have decided to mix it up a bit. Since we have fewer breaking stories from the band…*coughs*…we are going to break up our reviews into two parts. Each week you can look forward a review: one week will feature my review of a particular song, and the next will be Amanda’s review (of the same song). Additionally, instead of doing a separate category for production, we have incorporated production into the “Overall” section – found at the end of each review just before our final cocktail rating.

For the next two weeks, we are going to examine “Union of the Snake” off of, yes…Seven and the Ragged Tiger.  This was the lead single off of the album, released in October of 1983 and peaked at #3 on both the US and UK charts.  Rhonda will start off the review, followed by Amanda’s next week.

Musicality/Instrumentation:  The introduction to this song is intriguing to me, purely because of the dichotomy of Andy on guitar verses Nick on synthesizers. This is one song where there is a real “call and response” happening between the two – which I find plays into the theme of the song beautifully.  What I did not notice much of, though, is bass. There are moments when I can actually hear John’s bass, but it’s very faint (in my opinion). I think the sound would be better supported with a touch more of him in the mix, and it wouldn’t sound quite as top heavy. One element that I love in this song though, is Andy Hamilton on both soprano and tenor saxophone. He can be heard throughout the song, and rather than a guitar solo, we hear Andy Hamilton on soprano sax about 2/3 of the way through the song. The tenor sax is heard in several places and helps to provide some much needed depth and dimension to the overall sound. I also really appreciate the extra sounds – like the click/clack sounds of percussion that take place throughout – it’s an added element without being too intrusive and overwhelming. Speaking of percussions brings me to the drums.  Truthfully I would have not necessarily noticed Roger’s drums – they are there without being overly obtrusive.  However, I read that Roger took this beat from David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”, and now that I listen to the song – I very much hear that influence, which works well with the instrumentation.

Vocals: I really like Simon’s vocals on this song – what I don’t enjoy quite as much though is the very loud backup singers in the mix.  They seem to overpower Simon, and I don’t know that it adds as much as it detracts. I’ve always imagined Simon singing the entire song with a sneaky smile on his face – as it very much sounds that way when I listen. He sings the song with emotion, but not so much that it becomes comical.

Lyrics: Ok, who here can tell me what in the hell this song really means?? In doing my initial research for this song, I ran across several suggestions online ranging from “tantric sex” (apparently Simon offered this up as a reasoning behind the lyrics) to the borderline being the area between the conscious and subconscious minds. Again…this courtesy of Simon Le Bon, who just loves to toy with us all. Thanks, Simon. I must fall to my own reasoning, which sadly in this case, is very much lacking. I think that I always felt the Union of the Snake was the band, and the line “The union of the snake is on the climb. It’s gonna race, gonna break through the borderline” was about the band’s upward movement. World domination and all.  “If I listen close, I can hear them singers…”  “voices in your body coming through on the radio”…I don’t know why, but I always felt that was about the fans. That if he listens, he can hear us.  We’re loud, you know. I joke, but I find these lyrics in particular to be a good example of the prose-type lyrics that Simon was famous (infamous?) for writing during this era.

Overall: As I mentioned, we are incorporating production into the “overall” category – which really is meant to be a survey of how the different elements fit together.  With that in mind, this is one of the songs off of this album that I feel was produced rather well. The overall sound is not overwhelming, and I can hear most of the instrumentation pretty clearly.  However, I do find it odd that John was not worked into the mix better to add more of a “grounding” to the sound.  I still think the background singers are incredibly loud at times, and while I can understand the reasoning for having them there – I don’t think the intention was to overpower the lead singer. I like the call and response between synthesizers and guitar, and I feel like entire song is more of a “it’s us against the world” type of anthem, which plays out well through the instrumentation and lyrics.  Overall, I have to wonder if this was truly the best song on the album that could have been the lead single – it was done at the last minute, with mixing taking place up to the last minute before EMI took the tapes for pressing, although to be sure, the song does not sound as though it was rushed together – and perhaps in that regard, the song was well-executed.  The song was never on my list of favorites for the band, but I believe that since this song was the first released from this album, Duranies were starving for new music – and this song met the need.

Cocktail Rating:  3 Cocktails!

-R