No! No! Notorious! What a great way to open an album! I’m a big Duran Duran fan… they collect little bits of different genres, mix them all together, and present an album that has something for everyone. That’s a lesson that everyone should learn, artistic freedom is just that. The ability to experiment and do what feels right. And if it gets you dancing, even better.
I’ve been listening to Duran Duran for quite some time. Songs like Come Undone and Ordinary World were frequently on the radio back in 1993 with the obvious hits, Rio, The Reflex, Hungry Like the Wolf, on during 80s Weekend or weekly 80s segments. But it wasn’t until Medazzaland (1997) was released when I completely dedicated myself as a Duran Duran fan. With that said, the search for the back catalog of releases began. Going thrift store record hunting was something we did during high school and finding a near mint copy of Notorious (1986) was a moment. There are a few records in my collection that were found at thrift stores that were complete acts of miracles. This one was one of them. After going to about three or four stores, we compiled a good amount of records, both 12″ and 45s, but Notorious was the last record I pulled out at the the very last store. I’m pretty sure you have an idea on how thrift stores organize their records… THEY DON’T! They’re just thrown there, usually with the books, on a shelf. And I have the luck to find this album in near mint condition!?
Notorious is Duran Duran’s fourth album, released after the band nearly split. There was a three year break between the third album, Seven and the Ragged Tiger (1983), and Notorious, where 2/5ths of the band went on to the Power Station project while the other 3/5ths of the band were in Arcadia. After all that, drummer Roger Taylor left the band and the remainder of the band started work on Notorious. Half way through writing and recording, guitarist Andy Taylor splits. Who knows what the direction of the album would’ve taken if the band stayed in tact but, in my opinion, I think this forced the remaining members, Simon LeBon (vocals), Nick Rhodes (keyboards), and John Taylor (bass), into being a bit more experimental. Which prior to this release, Duran Duran was releasing dance floor radio friendly pop music. This is a departure which can be hinted but not fully developed in Seven and the Ragged Tiger. The songs are developed as ambient but polished funk. Very clean cut yet with a familiar signature style that the listener knows it’s Duran Duran.
The album is flooded with moderate pop songs, not quite adult contemporary but definitely not disposable pop. An excellent examples of well written songs, that can probably be updated and still hold it’s energy from when it was recorded back then. Nile Rodgers is at the helm, producing with the band and playing guitar. Bringing out funk, groove, and sexy moods. Adding to the album is The Borneo Horns: Lenny Pickett, Steve Elson, and Stan Harrison, the introduction of guitar player Warren Cuccurullo (Frank Zappa, Missing Persons) who would be part of Duran Duran up until 2001, Steve Ferrone (Average White Band, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Eric Clapton) plays drums throughout the album, Jimmy Maelen (Roxy Music, Alice Cooper, Peter Gabriel, and many more) takes care of percussion, and Mac Gollehon (David Bowie, Grace Jones, Billy Ocean) plays the trumpet throughout the album. Original guitarist Andy Taylor is in a few of the songs, but throughout interviews since, no one really knows who is playing on the recordings due to rerecording parts and over dubs. Backing vocals are provided by Curtis King, Jr., Brenda White-King, Tessa Niles, and Cindy Mizelle, rounding off a soulful vocal sound.
Most people remember the album cover because of super model Christy Turlington, who at the time was 17 years old and starting her professional modeling career. The photograph of her with the band was taken by John Swannell. A British fashion photographer who has worked with Vogue Magazine among other British magazines, has been appointed as the Royal Photographer for quite some time. Notorious is put together by Frank Olinsky from Manhattan Design who has done various projects which include the original MTV logo, logos for Sonic Youth, CD & DVD packaging for R.E.M., Smashing Pumpkins, 10,000 Maniacs… the list is endless! Although Notorious is quite minimal besides the album sleeve artwork, it’s simple artistic representation forces you to pay attention to the music. And it’s a common practice, but the overall packaging is black and white, with a small pop of red and reflective silver.
Notorious is a great album overall. As a fan, I’ve always appreciated Simon’s lyrics. Very descriptive without giving it all away at once. They’re open to interpretation and they allow the listener to make them their own. John Taylor, one of my favorite bassists, simply nails it with his grooves and the early disco influences really come out on this record – more so than in the previous ones. Soundscapes by Nick Rhodes are always impressive and exciting to hear. I don’t think that this is a great album to start listening to if you’re not familiar with Duran Duran. This is a little too slow paced for what the band is known for, but if you’re into studying song structure and just listening to well written songs then this album may do the trick.
* Side Note – My brother, Walter, was born on November 18, the same date [different year] that Notorious was released. He took me to my first Duran Duran concert back in 1999 for the Let It Flow Tour… Thank you for the ride, glad you enjoyed the show, and I love you as my brother. Glad that you support the craziness of what is my obsession. See you in the pit!
PAIR THIS ALBUM WITH
Santa Barbara Wine Company Pinot Noir [Napa Valley, California 2008]
This Pinot Noir is very fresh and bright. It has a nice berry taste, with a long standing tone on your palette. A very versatile wine, Pinot Noirs are usually a crowd favorite when choosing a wine that’ll go with just about everything. Thankfully, wines produced in this region can be had at its youngest stage or aged for a good amount of time. I recommend having, specifically this bottle, within a 5 year range of its vintage. Although, I have had this wine before close to its vintage release, either direction you choose to take, I’m sure that this will be well received by everyone.
Vinyl & Vino rating: 3 out of 5
TOP FAVORITE TRACKS
Vertigo (Do The Demolition)