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on 1 February 2005
Where to begin?
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.
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on 1 July 2004
The 1986 release of Duran's Notorious album saw a great deal of change both in the band themselves and the kind of music they were now recording.
It had only been a year and a half prior to the release of Notorious that Duran had been the biggest band in the world - playing sell out tours and producing no.1 records.
To get escape from all the financial leeches and general pressure of Duran, Nick, Simon and Roger formed Arcadia, while Andy and John formed half of the rock group Power Station.
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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on 15 April 2006
Originally released in 1986 it marked a turning point in Duran Duran's history. Roger Taylor had left and Andy Taylor only appeared on a handful of tracks. It also saw a slight decline in their chart fortunes. Nevertheless "Notorious" stands out as one of the finest Duran Duran albums ever made. The title track gets it off to a excellent start and is pure classic Duran Duran. It sets the tone for a album that has a great mix of rock/pop. Furthermore with Chic's Nile Rodgers (who remixed "The Reflex" for its single release) on production duties it adds an extra element of funky dance. "Skin Trade" and "Vertigo" are among the many highlights in this regard. Yet there's more than just dance floor tunes on this album. "Winter Marches On" and the sublime "A Matter Of Feeling" showcase Duran Duran's more sensitive side. "A Matter Of Feeling" is especially good and ranks close to such ballads as "Ordinary World" and "Save a Prayer". Overall a essential album for Duran Duran fans and for me the second best they ever made (after "Rio").
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on 8 October 2010
Most of the other reviews here refer to the regular 1-CD edition of the album released 23 years ago. Amazon.co.uk has created confusion by putting those reviews here at this product listing. My review refers to the October 2010 2-CD + DVD set.
After the harsh, compressed, distorted sound on "Disc One"of EMI's 2-CD + DVD reissues of "Duran Duran" & "Seven & The Ragged Tiger"(and EMI's obliviousness to the faults and defiant refusal to replace/correct the bad discs), it's unfortunate that many fans will be unwilling to take a chance on the new 2-CD + DVD reissues of "Notorious" & "Big Thing", because the good news here, is that this time, EMI have(after numerous release postponements) taken the care to get things right.
On the two CD's in this set, the audio mastering quality is excellent, with no significant changes in equalisation or dynamics versus previous releases of the material. These discs are much easier on the ears than the masterings in the previous CD + DVD sets. Abbey Road Studios must be feeling paranoid after the justifiable criticism of the "Duran Duran" & "Seven & The Ragged Tiger" CD + DVD sets, and so the mastering engineer is kept anonymous this time. As for the video program "Working For The Skin Trade"(a concert filmed in Brazil), it always had rather poor video quality, yet as poor as it looks here, it does look better than the UK VHS tape or the Japanese Laserdisc. The program's faults which include poor resolution, grain and smear/afterimage during rapid movement, are things that are difficult for DVD's MPEG data compression system to cope with.
As for the music, which includes two major hits("Notorious" & "Skin Trade"), the group is already moving towards a more adult sound, and the videos show the group moving away from its' former teenybopper-oriented image. The album establishes, that at least initially, the group could do fine without ex-members Andy Taylor & Roger Taylor, though Andy appears as a sessionman on several unspecified tracks. Sales figures of subsequent albums don't lie: many fans won't accept the group without Andy, even when the group does(as it does now in 2010) have 4 of the 5 original members.
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on 12 October 2010
As probably every Duran fan knows, the deluxe editions of the first album and Seven and the Ragged Tiger released earlier this year were extremely over compressed and poorly EQ'd, resulting in a distorted trebly loud sound. EMI certainly have responded to the critics in the release of this and Big Thing - but rather than re-do the mastering they have simply lowered the overall volume of the CDs. The peak level is now approximately 60%. This results in the CD on first listening not sounding significantly louder than "normal" CDs. However - this means that the dynamic range of the music has not only been squashed by over compression, but has been reduced further. Think about it - if the range was 95-99% before, by the reducing the top level to 60% the range is now 60-57.6%. 5% range reduced to 2.4%.

So even worse sound quality.

The cover of Notorious shows unbelievely strong moire patterns - as if whoever put the graphics together simply scanned the previous CD cover. There are ways of reducing this - the best being to scan at a higher resolution than required and then reducing. So an old vinyl cover could have been scanned. Or one of the many large posters of the same photo that can be found on ebay. This is assuming of course that the original negative or a print of the photo is lost in the EMI archive, and not that nobody could be bothered to search for it. This is graphic design basics, how to avoid moire when scanning.

Embarrasing.

The terrible thing is that these deluxe editions are still worth buying because of the DVD discs. Just don't throw away the original CDs of the albums. EMI - if you're reading this and are planning the Liberty, "Wedding Album" and Thank You deluxe versions, get in touch. I'm a qualified sound engineer and professional graphic designer. And Duran fan, happy to work for free to get great stuff out there.
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on 19 August 2011
Unlike the previous reissues for Duran Duran and Seven and the Ragged Tiger, it seems that EMI may have got this one right!

It's great to have the mixes, the b-side and the Working for the Skin Trade video all in one collection. Just wish they would have released the entire MasterMixes collection on this boxset as well, as opposed to mixes here and there (there's a couple on here as well as a couple on the Strange Behaviour remix collection from 1999).

The box content is a bit sparse, but I'm not sure what else I would have put into it to increase value. A hard cover picture book or similar would have only jacked up the already pretty steep price.

Great content, and pretty great packaging.
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on 7 September 2010
This album is bittersweet for Duran Duran fans.

I can still recall my disappointment that there were only three members remaining after, what seemed like a very, very long break, and that did taint my initial listening way-back-when. I found Notorious cold and a little distant on release.

However, this album is one of their best. I love Notorious, American Science, Skin Trade and, particularly, Winter Marches On.

It is typical of classic Duran Duran in that it has a combination of funky pop and longer atmospheric numbers. A schism I have always approved of.

Notorious has improved with age and at the moment I am listening to this along with their debut and Arcadia in equal measure.

It is still sad that this marked the beginning of their chart decline, especially since it is so much better than Ragged Tiger but the world had moved on. Looking back, this is part of the soundtrack to my youth and a reminder that nothing lasts forever. Where Rio reminds me of long summers and my first interest in music, Notorious is like that day, at the tail end of summer, where you first notice the nights getting darker.
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on 3 July 2015
Despite the loss of two members, one before the recording had even started the other one midway through it, Duran Duran do not come across on this album as a group in crisis. But there are two reasons for this. Firstly, the group had come up with their strongest material yet and, secondly, there was a strong guiding hand production wise from Nile Rodgers. Both he and the remaining three band members seem to be on the same page where the material and production are concerned. Although this is the album where the group transformed from being a singles band into an album band, in that the other album material is as strong and in many cases stronger than some of the singles, the singles that were released from this album are still incredibly strong, 'Skin trade' being one of the best Duran Duran singles ever released and Notorious not far behind! But it is with the other tracks were we see the group spreading its wings musically with songs like 'American science', 'Hold me', 'Vertigo' and 'Proposition' proving that the band had come of age musically. With Andy Taylor leaving halfway through the proceedings, guitar duties are shared out between him, Nile Rodgers and, later to become group member, Warren Cuccurullo. However, even if, as I have read, the first guitar solo in 'American science is by Andy and the second by Warren (or is it the other way round?) there is a strong sense of direction on this album in still being very guitar orientated but pursuing a much more funk rock orientated direction musically and it really pays off as this was their strongest album to this point! They may have been down to 3 members but this and the next album, 'Big thing' (where despite not yet being a group member Warren's influence in the guitar department is clear for all to hear) proved Duran Duran were not just a bunch of pretty boys but had much to offer musically!
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on 29 August 2000
The original Duran Duran line-up was never to appear again after the Live Aid convert in July 1985. When the band re-emerged as a three-piece in 1986 (guitarist Andy Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor having quit after Live Aid) this was Duran Duran's first (and very bold) attempt to move to a more cross-sectional audience. This album also signalled a change in direction away from the glossy pop of their early albums. For many years this has unfairly been a much overlooked album and perhaps only now is it starting to get the respect and recognition it rightly deserves.
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#1 HALL OF FAMEon 21 August 2003
I'm not a major fan of Duran's early albums, i.e the origina line-up, though they had moments: Girls on Film, Hungry Like the Wolf, The Chaueffeur. Seven & the Ragged Tiger was an absolute creative low- though I was cheered by their flirtation with Burroughs (Wild Boys) & Bond (A View to a Kill)Come 1985 and Duran have split into two- one producing the yawnworthy Power Station debut, while the other produced the brilliant Arcadia album So Red the Rose. Along with So Red the Rose, I consider Notorious to be the peak of Duran-related albums.
Roger Taylor vanished following Arcadia/Live Aid- though he has returned to the freshly reformed original line-up currently at work on a new album. Nile Rodgers- who had been the architect of The Reflex and Wild Boys- brings the funk/rock edge from The Power Station album (& of course Chic!) to the post-Arcadia incarnation of Duran. Andy Taylor still plays on this- though is credited as a guest musician alongside Steve Ferrone & Nile Rodgers. Notorious is basically a wonderful blend of funk and rock, the missing link between Chic and the Chili Peppers could be argued...
Both the title track and second single Skin Trade come in longer versions than the single release- the former was brilliantly used in recent 80s set timetwister Donnie Darko (2002). The latter extends on the funk/rock of 1985's Goodbye is Forever and feels very Prince-inflected; even better than that is the brassy-funk of American Science- which really should have been a single...
Duran even rock out a bit here- Hold Me, Proposition and "Meet El Presidente" which appears to also offer an almost coherent take on politics, quite at odds with the apolitical yuppie age often associated with Duran (& laudable lines like "You're about as easy as a nuclear war"!). Vertigo is another Hitchcock inspired song title and another of the highlights- like a harder Cupid & Psyche 85. The oddest track, and one closest to Arcadia, is Winter Marches On- which veers toward ambient climes and avenues common to people like David Bynre, Brian Eno & David Sylvian. Proposition is a suitably robust exit-point, sure it sounds a bit 1980s, but it shows Duran at the height of their powers...Pity that Notorious wouldn't be as popular as the commercial peak from Rio to A View to a Kill. Next album Big Thing would be a bit formless in parts (though songs like The Edge of America & Do You Believe in Shame? stand out) After that Duran veered between the odd moment of brilliance (Ordinary World) and mediocrity (911 is a Joke, really what were they thinking?????????????)
As with the Arcadia album, I think Notorious ought to be viewed as a stand-alone record- rather than part of Duran's variable back catalogue. Personally I think it would be better off considered alongside Chic's work- though of course after this funk-inflected rock would become very passe- with the dire Wet Wet Wet, the deliberately dire Microdisney & the so dire they should be made to work in a garage till the end of time: Blue Mercedes...Anyway, Notorious- a fine Duran Duran album that warrants rediscovery and appreciation from this point in time...
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