Duran Duran/Arcadia: The Special Editions

After testing the waters with last year’s super-expansive relaunch of Duran Duran’s seminal 1982 album Rio, Capitol plays the ‘reissue, repackage, repackage’ game with the rest of the big sellers in the band’s catalog, and to their credit, they have been extremely thorough in their archiving. Most modern-day reissues are fond of providing ‘unreleased’ content like crap homemade demos in favor of assembling a comprehensive collection of released but rare material. (The Cure’s The Head on the Door, we’re looking in your direction.) Capitol does not make that mistake here; every remix, B-side and even 7″ edit that Duran ever released is here, along with some unreleased remixes and demo versions that, in one instance, are absolutely mind-blowing.


Look at those pups. Leather pants! Warhol bed head! Don’t let these old pictures fool you, though; these guys could play. Indeed, they even rocked at one point in time. Time to get in the wayback machine. First stop: 1981…

Duran Duran: Duran Duran

RIYL: New Romantics looking for the TV sound

Rio is largely considered to be the Duran Duran’s watershed moment, but one could make a very strong case for their eponymous debut as the best album they’ve ever done. There isn’t a duff track in the bunch, and the album’s three singles (“Planet Earth,” “Girls on Film,” “Careless Memories”) are pound for pound the best batch of singles from any album in the band’s catalog. The most interesting facet of the album in retrospect is how well balanced it is; everyone gets their chance to shine, from John Taylor’s slinky bass lines to Nick Rhodes’ icy, flanged keyboard treatments to Andy Taylor’s forceful guitar riffs. It is the marginalization of that last one that would prove to be the band’s undoing down the road.

The new remastering job adds the high end that the original recordings lacked, though it feels as though the songs lost a little groove in the process. Still, as iPod-era mix jobs go, it works. And if the remaster job wasn’t enough to get people to pony up for a new copy, the bonus disc surely will. We’ve never found demo versions or unreleased recordings of songs to be particularly interesting (the lone exception: the Beatles’ Anthology collections), but the AIR Studios versions of “Girls on Film” and “Tel Aviv” have to be heard to be believed. Recorded in the summer of 1980, the specter of ’70s rock, both of the classic and art variety, permeates these tracks. “Girls on Film” is filled with gargantuan guitar riffs, and “Tel Aviv,” well, it’s not even the same song that appears on the album. It begins as a wistful ballad in 6/4 time, only to morph into a full-scale Roxy Music freakout at the two-and-a-half-minute mark, and back to the 6/4 stuff 90 seconds later. It’s a jaw-dropper, and one wonders if that version of the band still exists in some parallel dimension. The other demos are not too dissimilar from the final versions, though the version of “Planet Earth” here has a third verse. Who knew?

If you’re enticed by the claim of “unreleased” remixes of “Planet Earth” and “Girls on Film,” relax. They’re nearly identical to the Night Versions that you know and love. The DVD contains all of the videos from the album, all of which are on the “Greatest” DVD, along with a handful of TV appearances, most of which are lip sync jobs. The band’s appearance on “The Old Grey Whistle Test,” though, is a keeper.

Duran Duran: Seven and the Ragged Tiger

RIYL: Using it, bruising it, losing it

Only two years removed from their debut, Duran Duran’s third album completes the transformation from rock band to pop act, and while the band was never more successful than they were here, time has not been kind to Seven and the Ragged Tiger. The backup singers, the percussionist…it all seems a little silly now, doesn’t it? In truth, the band could have released any old piece of junk at this time – and some would argue that they did – and it would have sold like hotcakes, but in their defense, the band did brew up a few truly great tunes. “New Moon on Monday” is arguably the band’s most underrated single, and “Shadows on Your Side” contains that dark edge that made earlier songs like “Night Boat” so haunting. And “The Seventh Stranger,” for all its bombast, is still a hell of a closer.

Ah, but whither Andy Taylor? His presence is seriously downsized here, to the point where repeat listens to “I Take the Dice” – not recommended for the faint of heart – do not reveal a single guitar lick. His power chords were replaced by scratch guitar riffs, and he gets one solo. No wonder he was so eager to form the Power Station. Also, while “Union of the Snake” and “The Reflex” are two of the band’s biggest hits (the latter is one of their two #1 singles), neither has aged well, at all. Nile Rodgers did a great job of giving “The Reflex” some punch for the 12″ single, but the album version, well, is pretty lame.

Why give the album three and a half stars, then? For the bonus bits. Every remix and B-side from the period, including in-between single “Is There Something I Should Know?,” is here, and the DVD includes all of the music videos (and two versions of “New Moon on Monday”), as well as Russell Mulcahy’s film “As the Lights Go Down,” which chronicles the band’s tour supporting this album. The album itself is a three-star affair, but the extras kick it up a notch, as it were.

Arcadia: So Red the Rose

RIYL: Art for art’s sake, money for God’s sake

In stark contrast to Seven and the Ragged Tiger, So Red the Rose, the Duran spinoff group formed by Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor while John and Andy formed the Power Station, has held up remarkably well. Yes, Alex Sadkin’s production leaves much to be desired, namely the lack of a bottom end to these songs. (Once again, Nile Rodgers came to the rescue and remixed third single “The Flame.”) But “Side II” of So Red the Rose remains a fascinating listen. With Andy out of the way, LeBon and Rhodes were allowed to explore their art rock tendencies without resistance, and in the process created three songs that bested half of the album their idol Bryan Ferry released the same year. “Election Day” and “Goodbye Is Forever” were the radio hits, but they’re the least interesting moments here. “Keep Me in the Dark” is the band’s love letter to Roxy Music’s Avalon, and “El Diablo,” which inspired the pen name for “Juno” screenwriter Diablo Cody, is as theatrical a moment as the band’s ever made.

Keeping with their goal to include everything from the era, the 7″ mixes from the album’s singles, even the import singles, are tacked onto the end of Disc I, along with “Say the Word,” which appeared on the soundtrack for “Playing for Keeps.” Disc II is remixes, remixes and more remixes, including the import mixes of “The Promise” and “Rose Arcana.” (On a personal front, we were thrilled to see the Yo Homeboy mix of “The Flame” and Early Rough mix of “Election Day” included.) The DVD contains “The Making of Arcadia,” which features lengthy pre-production footage of making each promo video, and then the video in question. This includes the videos for “The Promise” and “Missing,” which MTV never showed at the time. This is worth watching for two things: the video for “The Flame,” where LeBon plays the Barry Bostwick character in a murder mystery, and the pre-video footage of “Missing,” where director Dean Chamberlain is wearing one of the gaudiest shirts ever made.

Next up: Duran’s next two albums, Notorious (1986) and Big Thing (1988). One has to think they’ll stop there, though they could certainly fill a bonus disc and DVD with material from their 1993 Wedding Album. Either way, we’re guessing that Liberty will not be given the reissue treatment, and to be honest, it’s just as well. (Capitol 2010)

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Click to buy Duran Duran: Special Edition from Amazon
Click to buy Seven and the Ragged Tiger: Special Edition from Amazon
Click to buy So Red the Rose: Special Edition from Amazon