Duran Duran has had as colourful and long-lived a history as any other band born out of the late 70's New Wave crowd. Five years of global success were followed by the loss of two members and a period of reflection for Duran. Post Live Aid, the band would always struggle to recapture the popularity of old, their image tarnished by over-exposure and blatant self-promotion. To the critics, the problem with Duran was their apparant arrogance, extreme self promotion and slavery to image.
'Notorious' is the start to what is widely regarded as the Duran 'lean years', which only ended with 1993's successful 'Wedding Album' release (before they descended again with the 'Thank-You' covers album). But what makes 'Notorious' so special is that it combines a rich blend of funk and rock, with Duran's characteristic ambient melodies and harmonies to produce some classic songs. Nile Rodgers co-production allowed the band to deliver a polished, yet still warm and emotive sounding album.
Notorious, Skin Trade and Meet El Presidente were the three single releases, picked for their obvious radio-friendly appeal. Skin Trade remains an under-rated classic, released at a time when the global public were starting to bore of Duran and expressed themselves by staying away from this record.
But as with all classic albums, the real diamonds lie away from the single releases...
Two songs, Vertigo and American Science are sublime with their sombre atmosphere and harmonies. Vertigo in particular is an album highlight with ambient synths, mid-tempo rhythm and a heaving bassline, interspersed with powerful, deep and mournful guitar. The haunting and chilling Winter Marches On is almost an Eno or Sylvian composition; this is followed by Proposition, once again playing to the band's strengths of strong guitar melody and heavy drums. But the up-tempo track highlight on 'Notorious' is reserved for Hold Me, a song if it was composed and released pre-85 would surely have been a global million seller. The layered harmony textures above a thumping, guitar driven rhthym section, result in Hold Me being one of Duran's best compositions to date.
So why buy 'Notorious'? For some people, Duran Duran will never be anything other than a pop group who composed throw away, early '80's bubble gum songs. All their albums, when listened in their entirety would challenge this view. But it is the 'Notorious' album that has the maturity missing from their early albums and a breadth and more importantly, depth, missing from many of their later albums. There were indeed classic Duran tracks on later albums (Ordinary World and Come Undone the most obvious), but these were often between 'filler' tracks.
'Notorious' is one of the overlooked albums of the 1980's. It requires a fresh listen from those music fans who disregarded Duran for more 'adult', album selling artists of the time such as Sting, U2, Dire Straits and Simple Minds. And younger music fans today will hear a classic album that can only be created by Duran, the likes of which will never repeated by more contemporary musicians from either the UK or US. Forget what you think of Duran Duran's image, listen without prejudice and this album will give you many years of pleasure.
On the re-form of Duran John, Simon and Nick were the only band members remaining following the departure of Andy and Roger.
John had always wanted to record a funk record, and this album certainly comes across as being of this genre.
At the time of release I hated everything about this album - the music had lost the input of Andy's American style riff playing, and had instead been replaced with Warren's very clean English guitar sound.
Having been a big fan of the group, to loose two of it's members was a big lose, but listening again some years later my attitude has been totally reversed.
On a couple of tracks - American Science and Proposition, we're taken back to the Duran of 1980-85 as Andy steps in to play guitar.
Focusing on the album itself - the sound and style of the music is a major turning point for the band, but as with each of their albums, Duran are able to adjust to a variety of music styles which is what makes them so unique,
and on reflection some eighteen years later this album to be one of Duran's best post 1985 efforts.
For me the stand out track is Skin-Trade, even though this only got in to the 20's of the UK chart at the time, still sounds great with John's awe inspiring bass riff .
You don't need to be a big Duran fan to enjoy this album, so buy it now!!
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