Audio Lore

A Positive Music Blog

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A look back at DURAN DURAN'S first "DECADE" (Out of the Vaults with a twist # 3)

Because my wife's CD collection is so eclectic, blindly taking out a CD to write about is always a gamble. I always relate it too the "woodbeast" scene in Flash Gordon where Prince Baron challenges Flash to reach into a tree trunk, risking a fatal bite from the creature inside. Will I reach into my wife's collection and safely pull out Neil Young's greatest hits or will I be bitten by one of the Dance Party compilations lurking around inside there.

This time I was lucky

Duran Duran - Decade (Greatest Hits, 1989)

“Planet Earth” and its self-titled first album’s co representative “Girls on Film” are two very good songs and a great introduction to the band. The only thing is they sound very stripped down. Even when I listened to “Planet Earth”, “Girls on Film” and the rest of the songs on Duran Duran’s debut all those years ago I thought they sounded like “demos”of what the band wanted to become. The songs sound almost one dimensional. The album was missing something. Altogether it sounded  like the band had still not worked out the kinks in their sound but wanted to get something out there before they unleashed their masterpieces. 

Duran Duran circa 1981
Even the videos were nothing unbelievable. “Girls on Film” had the band playing in an abandoned boxing gym while models walk around a catwalk. The video for “Planet Earth” featured the band playing on a crystal podium that looks like it was ripped out of the first Superman movie's  “Fortress of Solitude”. These videos were not  actually bad. They were actually on par for most of what was being released. But if you think about the fantastic imagery of the Duran Duran videos to come, these two really paled in comparison.  Please don’t get me wrong. I loved these two songs and played the heck out of them.

The awesome "Hungry Like A Wolf " video
At Track 3 “Hungry like the Wolf” is more like it. When this song and the incredible album it was on came out Duran Duran had reached a whole new level. The smooth tempo, steady bass line and crashing synthesized drums show those holes from the first album had been filled just right. Plus there was the video. Instead of the cramped studio set of “Girls on Film” we get to see an Indiana Jones-esque story line filmed over some incredible scenery. Although I have yet to find someone who knows exactly what is going on in the story, most people I talked to back then and even today agree on how awesome a video it was.

Even more awesome "Rio" video
Just when we are basking in the greatness of “Hungry like the Wolf”, the swooping keyboards of what I always considered Duran Duran’s signature song comes over the speaker. “Rio” is another unbelievable song. With it’s out front guitar riffs and original bass line “Rio” may prove to be an even better song then “Hungry like the Wolf”. I mean this song even makes a saxophone sounds cool. Plus we were given another spectacular video with even more beautiful scenery and vague story line to accompany it.


"Save a Prayer" for the morning after what?
Track 5 brings us the final representative of the landmark Rio album. Every perfect album needs a couple slower numbers to break it up a bit, give the listener a chance to catch their breath. “Save a Prayer” fills one of those positions on Rio and does an excellent job. But this song has always left me with one question. Save it for the morning after what? Over the years I have scoured many Duran Duran interviews and read many Duran Duran entries in Rock and Roll history books but have never been able to find an answer to this question bugging me since I first heard this song almost thirty years ago.

 Groundbreaking graphics on the "Is There Something" video
“Is There Something I Should Know” is the first of two standalone singles found on Decade. The second one is “Wild Boys” a Track 9 a few songs down the line. Both brought together on a Long Player for the not really too live sounding live album Arena. But before we get too far ahead there are a couple representatives of Duran Duran’s almost as monumental album Seven and the Ragged Tiger.

I have this clear memory of watching the “World Premier” of the video for Track 7 “Union of the Snake”. It was a pretty big deal. I remember MTV advertised it for weeks.

Strange character in "Wild Boys" video
“The Reflex” at Track 8 surprises you. It starts off slow but just when you think it will be another mid paced head bopper like “Union of the Snake” the chorus really takes off. 

Now we are officially at Track 9. With its gang shouts at the beginning, solid bass line and anathematic chorus followed by awesome drums, “Wild Boys” will always be one of my favorite Duran Duran song. Possibly tied with Rio’s “The Chauffeur  which for some reason did not make the Decade cut. 

Taking in the sights during "A View to a Kill" vudeo
At Track 10 is another song not from an official Duran Duran album but from the James Bond movie of the same name. Plus the song had an awesome video. In the video the band is the Eiffel Tower as spies intertwined with Roger Moore and Grace Jones from the actual movie fighting it out on the tower. My memory always mixes up different scenes from the video and the movie with the Eiffel Tower scene at the beginning of Superman II. Either way I always felt the elaborate video must have been a huge part of "View to a Kill" being the only James Bond theme song to reach #1.

Even he knows "Skin Trade" is not up to par
Unfortunately after "A View to a Kill " the band took a turn for the worse. Drummer Roger Taylor had left the band while guitarist Andy Taylor on was his way out too. The resulting Notorious album's representatives Track 11 the title track and Track 12 "Skin Trade" showed the remaining members decided to aim for a more "funk" sound but instead both songs come off a little awkward. The slap bass on "Notorious" and James Brown horns on "Skin Trade" actually makes me feel uncomfortable when I listen to them. 

1989 - And then there were three
Track 13 "All She Wants Is" and 14 "I Don't Want Your Love" were for me the final nails in the Duran Duran heyday coffin. 1988's Big Thing, the album both these songs can be found on may have been the first Duran Duran album I did not purchase.

After examining this album pulled from my wife's collection, it's seems so strange all these songs were released in only a decades time. Their best material, their debut album through number album Seven and the Ragged Tiger, were only three years apart. 

The band did redeem themselves a little bit when in 1993 they released another self titled album (also known as "The Wedding Album") but that is a discussion for a another day. Maybe even another decade.










Friday, October 26, 2012

Out Of The Vaults #21 - The Subhumans (Canada) - Incorrect Thoughts


My wife dives into our CD cabinets (The Vaults) and randomly pull out one of the thousands of CDs. The chosen album will then be given to me and I will talk about the CD for awhile no matter how good, bad, obscure or embarrassing the chosen disc is. Where did I buy it, when did I buy it, what was my first reaction to hearing it, do I still listen to it today etc, etc, etc

Out of the Vaults #21 - The Subhumans (Canada) - Incorrect Thoughts (1980)



First off these guys are not be confused with the more known Subhumans from the United Kingdom. These guys were from Canada. Vancouver, British Columbia to be exact. Guitarist Mike “Normal”  Graham and bassist Gerry “Useless” Hannah played louder and drummer Jim Imagawa hit harder then any member of the UK band. Singer Brian “Wimpy” Gobel definitely belted out the tunes a hell of a lot better than Dick, the winy UK Subhumans singer.

Although I knew about the UK Subhumans since high school it was not until 1993 when Rhino records released Faster and Louder: Hardcore Punk Volume compilations until a knew about their Canadian band possessing the same name. On Volume 2 was a track titled “Firing Squad” by The Subhumans. At first I dismissed it thinking it was that annoying winy band I tried so many times but just couldn't like but then when the song came on I was pleasantly corrected. The song was definitely punk with semi snotty lyrics but it was melodic. It actually possessed hooks. Looking through the disc liner notes, I learned thesinger was now bassist for D.O.A, a band I had been listening to for years.

Unfortunately circa 1993 Canadian Subhumans material was not easy to come by. Their Incorrect Thoughts and their second album No Wishes, No Prayers were extremely expensive and highly sought after. Except for “Firing Squad” on this comp, I thought nothing of the band had been released yet on disc.

In 1996 Sudden Death Records released Subhumans compilation named Pissed off with Good Reason. On it were a few odds and ends of the band's catalog but it would be a year later until I got the big picture.

When I bought my record store in 1997 one of the first things I did was place a huge order to distributor of punk and indie music. In the clearance section of their catalog was an actual CD version of The Subhumans’ Incorrect Thoughts album. I grabbed  the last five copies.

I can’t get too much into the track listing since so many different versions of the album contain different orders but anyway you mix up the songs Incorrect Thoughts is a near perfect punk rock record.

 “Death to the Sickoids”, “We’re Alive” and Mike Graham’s machine gun guitar led “Out of Line” and “New Order” shows they knew how to pen rebellious punk anthems but “Dead at Birth”, “Model of Stupidity” and “Refugee” show they also knew how to write a hook. Even some, like the before mentioned “Firing Squad” contained melody.

Vinyl version of the CD Presents  release
The Subhumans were by no means a positive band. They were anti-music business (“The Scheme”), anti-conformist (“The Big Picture”), anti-tough guy (“Greaser Boy”), anti-macho (“Slave to My Dick”) and anti-everything (“Behind the Smile”)

“Behind My Smile" ,which actually was not on the original Friends Records release of Incorrect Thoughts,  is one of my top ten favorite songs. It’s anathematic, it's heavy and has one of the greatest hooks of all-time. All the things that made the Subhumans such as awesome band. I could listen to this song on repeat for days and never tire of it. 

The Subhumans weren't just going through the punk rock motions either. They actually meant what they were singing about. Bassist Gerry Hannah became part of a group who would later be called “The Squamish Five”. When I say later I mean because it was after the activists bombed a Toronto plant which was making parts for “first strike” cruise missiles. (subhumans.ca). 

Even though LPs still fetch a large amounts of money and the CD version I have is extremely hard to find (Actually I have never even seen another copy) somehow the original recording made its way on to iTunes. Go download it now!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mr Mister: Lessons about life in Welcome to the Real World


Even though Mr Mister's had released their debut album entitled I Wear the Face , it was not until 1985's Welcome To The Real World was unleashed to the world that I became aware of them. 

The first song "Black and White" may possess an artificial drum sound but this was just the sound of the day. The catchy lead off track is highlighted by a Pink Floyd inspired guitar solo at 2:45. Yes I did just compare pop rockers Mr Mister with Rock and Roll legends Pink Floyd. Just listen to Steve Farris’s guitar solo “Black and White” back to back with the David Gilmour guitar solo on “Dogs” or any other song off of the Pink Floyd's Animals and you will see just what I mean.

Track 2 “The Uniform of Youth” is a rebel song. Even though they wear Miami Vice style blazers and have spiky highlighted hair Mr Mister could still get angry! When singer/bassist Richard Page sings lines like “I don’t think I like this place, I don’t think I like your face” you better watch out because he means it!

But of course it’s not all about anger. Mr Mister could write an inspirational anthem and Track 3 “Don’t Slow Down” was one of 1984’s best. Hearing Page sing “Don’t slow down. The fires burning in us now. Don’t slow down. We've come too far to turn back now”, will get you so pumped up that by the time the “Oh ohs ohhs” of the second chorus comes on you are ready to take on anything the world puts in front of you.

Unfortunately power ballads were the only clink in Mr Mister’s armor. “Run to Here” may have been a ballad but it not at all powerful. It’s actually almost painful to listen to. How I used to wish you could fast forward a LP.

The band greatly redeems themselves when “Into My Own Hands” comes on. It’s a quintessential 80’s pop song right up there with Track 1, only this time a little heavier with the keyboards. The keyboards do take a step back at the 3 minute mark when the bass and guitar duel it out for a few seconds. The guitar proves the victor but it was probably due to bassist Page having to go back to concentrating on the singing.

Since I originally owned this album on vinyl LP and played it HUNDREDS of times, regardless of later owning Welcome To The Real World on CD followed by Mp3’s, to me “Is It Love” will always be considered the beginning of Side B. With its heavy bass, shooting missiles of guitar and its and ever questioning philosophical title, “Is It Love?” was such a great way to kick it off. Plus we are given some more of that awesome Pink Floyd Animals guitar work.

Then the first of Mr Mister’s masterpieces comes on. On “Kyrie” lines like “When I was young I thought of growing old, Of what my life would mean to me. Would have followed down my chosen road or only wished that I could be” show “introspection” was yet another weapon in Mr Mister’s arsenal. It’s not just singer/bassist Page either. It’s the whole band. Listening to the whole group sing together on the final chorus brings to mind the chorus of the ensemble “We Are The World”. This is rather ironic since that is the song “Kyrie” lost out the “Best Pop Song” category at the Grammys that year. 

As great a song as "Kyrie" was, I will always favor that first single I heard from Mr Mister just a fraction more. "Broken Wings" has such a great build up over the first three choruses before, at the three minute point it becomes to much and comes crashing down. But wait. There is still one more emotion filled verse. In fact the song is so powerful with Page putting forth so much emotion that at the four minute mark you can hear his voice crack. Too choked up to continue singing Page allows keyboardist Steve George to bring the song home. 

One thing that always made me think how awesome and daring Mr Mister's Welcome to the Real World was is how the album has it's two biggest singles at track 7 and 8 of the LP, neither one the first song on one of the sides of the record. Very unconventional and awesome move for 1985. 

Nearing the end of the album, at Track 9 the steady paced "Tangent Tears" showcases Page's astonishing vocal range. This song shows clearly why Page had been chosen by both Toto and Chicago to replace singers Bobby Kimball and Peter Cetera. I for one am glad he turned both band's down. Had Page accepted one of those offers Welcome to the Real World may have never been created.

The album's closer, the title track "Welcome to the Real World" teaches us another lesson: Life is not always easy. Just try to make the most of it. 

Not only did Mr Mister put out such a landmark rock and roll album but they were also a gateway band. Because of them I wanted to check out other double named musical groups. Soon Talk Talk and The The were constants in my rotation. (I had been listening to Duran Duran for a few years already)

Over the next few years my musical tastes would seriously expand making me totally miss Mr Mister's 1987 follow up album Go On. Actually I didn't even know that album existed until I wrote this blog entry.