Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hold Back the Rain by Duran Duran

If I were asked to name the best album of the 80s--of any genre--a serious candidate and probably my ultimate pick would be Duran Duran's 1982 release Rio. Duran Duran's prior and subsequent releases all had some good songs; genuine hits, but only Rio was a complete package, where literally everything on the entire CD would be a major success alone. With the possible exception of "Lonely In Your Nightmare" which only suffers relatively; it's still a pretty good song. Not only that, most of the really enduring Duran Duran songs; the ones that everyone remembers (with the exception of "The Reflex" which was probably their biggest post-Rio hit) came from this album: the song "Rio" itself, "Hungry Like the Wolf," "Save a Prayer" and the non-single but cult classic release "The Chauffeur" which I highlighted a cover version of by Sleepthief last post. This is the album that cemented Duran Duran's reputation and legacy.

The release history of the album is also quite interesting in its own right. The original US and UK releases were the same, and the US release made little impact. This may be because Capitol Records had failed to realize that the New Romantic scene didn't mean anything to North American audiences (most New Romantics also failed to be significant chart favorites in the US--I'd never heard of Visage, Ultravox, Adam and the Ants or several other famous New Ro artists until I was looking them up later. And even Spandau Ballet wasn't on anyone's radar here until they released "True" several years after they'd had a parade of UK hits.) However, Duran Duran worked with producer David Kershenbaum to work up some alternate versions and remixes, and put out the Carnival EP, marketing Duran Duran in the US as a dance band rather than a New Romantic band. This had enough success that Duran Duran was able to convince Capitol to re-release Rio with the entire A-side of the album containing alternate Kershenbaum produced versions. They then released a third version of the US album, with the iconic song "Hungry Like the Wolf" using a different, longer Kershenbaum mix, the so-called "Night Mix." This is also the version that was released on cassette tape, so it was the version that I had for years and years until it finally wore out from being played too much. These second and third releases were massively successful, especially bolstered by the incredible, exotic music videos that were receiving heavy rotation on MTV at the time, and Duran Duran's US breakthrough was assured, a feat that escaped most of their British New Romantic compadres.

When my tape finally did die out (and for that matter, all of my tape players,) I found a cheap used copy of the CD, but to my disappointment, all of the CD releases in all of the regions were from the original release, not the improved second and third US releases. I think at this point, I actually lost my CD but because I was disappointed in it, I didn't worry about it too much. The greatest hits CD had the better versions of songs like "Hungry Like the Wolf" anyway.

However, this was always disappointing to me that I couldn't have the entire album, because it really is good enough that I don't want to cherry pick it for the good songs, I want to hear the whole thing. While poking around yesterday looking for some videos on youtube, I saw references to a 2009 Remastered version, so I decided to go check it out at Amazon. Lo and behold, the so-called "Collectors Edition" of Rio, released in 2009, not only remastered everything, but it was a double CD release with no less than 29 tracks, including all of the alternate versions released on any version of the album, demo versions, b-sides, and even a live song. And I could buy it instantly as an mp3 download for $13.54. Ka-ching! Needless to say, I did right away.

The collector's CD is only unusual in one respect; the over-representation of the song "My Own Way" which was recorded and released before the rest of the material on the album as a bridge single, and which the band itself never really liked very much. It's got both a US and a UK release version, an instrumental, a demo version a weird disco remix, and a 7" version.

Today's Duran Duran video selection for you is "Hold Back the Rain," a song Simon Le Bon wrote about guitar player John Taylor's growing drug and party problem, which he was concerned about. Although lacking the haunting beauty of songs like "Save a Prayer" or "The Chauffeur" it certainly highlights why Duran Duran thought they could market themselves credibly as a band that would put out club hits for US audiences.

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