Top positive review
42 people found this helpful
Still their best and so underated - a re-evaluation
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.