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Essential and important collection of the Fab Five,
This review is from: Greatest (Audio CD)
Among the vanguard of the Second British Invasion of the 80's was a group dubbed the Fab Five. These pretty boys got their name from Milo O'Shea's character in the Jane Fonda cult classic Barbarella. I refer of course to Duran Duran, who during their peak years comprised of Simon LeBon (vocals), Andy Taylor (guitar), John Taylor (bass), Roger Taylor (drums), and Nick Rhodes (piano), he of the heavy makeup. But the reason why Duran Duran stood over contemporaries like the Human League or Spandau Ballet was their MTV coverage and stylish videos and that certain edge they had in their mostly danceable pop tunes.
Their first UK hits were "Planet Earth" and "Girls On Film." The first had a lively and upbeat synth backbeat much like Spandau Ballet or Berlin and is a standout. The second, with rapid-fire camera snap effects, was the group's first UK Top Ten hit, and made notable by its racy Godley-and-Crème directed video. Its chorus, where the title is sung twice in a row, the second at a lower pitch to make an accompanying and memorable couplet. But they hit pay dirt when the superbly upbeat "Is There Something I Should Know" topped the UK charts-it later hit #4 in the US. "Please please tell me now..." Oh yes!
Rio, which featured silk-screen girl album artwork from Nagel, had the title track, with a cascade of keyboards and drums, before settling into a more leisurely chorus-"my name is Rio and she dances on the sand..." But love that sax solo in the middle of it all! Also from that album, the #3 "Hungry Like The Wolf" with a guitar riff that would later become hardened in the Power Station, featured catchy hooks in the chorus, great guitar from Andy Taylor, and a running pizzicato-like synth.
Despite their hit power, they only had two US #1s. The first was "The Reflex"-remember, "whyyyyyyyyy don't you use it? Tryyyyyy not to bruise it"? Definitely one of their best songs with Roger Taylor's power drumming. The other was the title hit to Roger Moore's last James Bond outing, A View To A Kill, alternately upbeat and moody song with an airy synth, whose video had shots of DD mixed with film scenes to make it look like they were also in the movie.
Songs like "Hungry Like The Wolf", with Andy Taylor's guitar riffs, and the tribal thumping drums and grinding guitar of their #2 hit "Wild Boys" seemed a prelude to the Power Station, the Robert Palmer-led side project which Andy and John Taylor joined during Duran Duran's hiatus. When Andy and Roger Taylor left, DD did the Genesis thing-"and then there were three." Simon, John, and Nick released Notorious, whose funk-laced title track reached #2. It was slightly different from their earlier oeuvre, but when the mid-paced "Skin Trade," with its horn arrangements accompanying the usual synths, only charted at #39, it was clear DD was losing its audience. A pity, as it's not that bad a song.
Their last big hits came from their 1993 Wedding Album, which yielded a brace of more maturer and mellower singles, the reflective "Ordinary World" with a nice guitar solo from ex-Missing Person's guitarist and new member Warren Cuccurullo and majestic synths and vocals, and the moody "Come Undone" with high-pitched female vocalist singing the refrain.
The songs are not in chronological order, not too big a complaint. It supersedes their previous compilation Decade, which didn't include the two Wedding Album singles and "Serious" from their ignored 1990 Liberty album. The grinding near-techno of "Electric Barbarella" from the John Taylor-less Medazzaland, seemed to show the band ironically coming full circle-remember where they got their name from? Despite coming this late in the game, a great single by all means. The fact that the original members got back together for Astronaut indicates that despite their brief splash from 1981 to 1984, they were one of the most important forces in the 80's music and fashion scene. Take a bow, guys.