Duran Duran – Rio

Duran Duran - RioAlmost certainly the quintessential Duran Duran album – well, hey, it sure wasn’t Seven And The Ragged Tiger – and, oddly enough, it’s also my favorite of their output. It’s not often that my favorite album by any given group is also the one most people consider their best work. For example, ELO’s Out Of The Blue seems to be held up most often as the quintessential ELO album, the cream of that band’s crop. But I point to earlier albums Eldorado and A New World Record as better examples of what made ELO unique. The point of that example is that surely everyone remembers Rio, and I’d wager a good lump of money on Rio being the one Duran Duran album most people are likely to own.

They couldn’t pick a better one. Rio is a near-perfect distillation of all of the elements that made Duran Duran listenable…even if some of those things were dated even by the album’s 1981 release date. Prominent on Rio is a lot of very good slap-bass work, a bit of a holdover from the disco era in the early days of new age, but something which always gave Duran Duran a very distinctive sound. Lead singer Simon Le Bon never sounded better than he did here, and even though the songs are occasionally a little thin arrangement-wise, they’re among the best the band ever had to offer. My personal favorite is the ethereal “The Chauffeur”, which drops most of Duran Duran’s dance-beat signature for a nicely-paced, pure new-wave tune with loads of atmosphere. At one point I was crazy about “Save A Prayer”, a lengthy ballad, but today I have to admit it gets on my nerves ever-so-slightly. “Hold Back The Rain” and “Lonely In Your Nightmare” are great hit singles that rating: 3 out of 4never were, but should have been. Hit singles from this album include the overplayed “Hungry Like The Wolf” and the title track.

If you’re truly looking for the best of Duran Duran, I’d advise skipping the usual best-of compilations and picking up Rio.

Order this CD

  1. Rio (5:39)
  2. My Own Way (4:51)
  3. Lonely In Your Nightmare (3:50)
  4. Hungry Like The Wolf (3:41)
  5. Hold Back The Rain (3:50)
  6. New Religion (5:33)
  7. Last Chance On The Stairway (4:21)
  8. Save A Prayer (5:25)
  9. The Chauffeur (5:13)

Released by: Capitol
Release date: 1982
Total running time: 42:25

James Darren – This One’s From The Heart

James Darren - This One's From The HeartJimmy Darren is back, baby! Inspired by his two-season stint as swingin’ holographic lounge singer Vic Fontaine on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Darren has graced our CD shelves with this collection of oldies. Many of these songs were performed by Darren’s character in the Trek spinoff, while others are songs from the same period of American popular songwriting. Whichever category they fall into, all of the songs are safe in Darren’s capable hands. He’s never sounded better, and the big band backing him up gives that sound a classy boost.

Among this album’s highlights are excellent renditions of “It’s Only A Paper Moon” (used in an outstanding DS9 episode of the same name), “I’ve Got The World On A String” (heard in the same episode), “The Way You Look Tonight” (heard just before things went to hell – literally – in the series finale), “Here’s To The Losers”, “The Best Is Yet To Come” (sorry, no Avery Brooks duet), and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”. Though these songs have been made immortal by Ol’ Blue Eyes and others, Darren makes them his own here. His delivery has never been smoother. It’s enough to make you wonder why he’s wasting his time on Hollywood when he can sing like this – but then again, as the liner notes repeatedly acknowledge, he might not have gotten around to re-rating: 4 out of 4igniting his singing career had he not been cast in the role of Vic Fontaine.

Whether you’re a Trek fan who really dug Darren’s recurring guest shots on Deep Space Nine, or a longtime Darren devotee who’s been wondering whatever happened to Jimmy since “Goodbye Cruel World” and The Time Tunnel, this one is definitely worth a listen. Smooth!

Order this CD

  1. The Best Is Yet To Come (2:26)
  2. Come Fly With Me (3:06)
  3. That Old Black Magic (3:08)
  4. All The Way (4:18)
  5. It’s Only A Paper Moon (2:32)
  6. I’ve Got The World On A String (2:06)
  7. You Better Love Me (2:04)
  8. Sophisticated Lady (4:57)
  9. Just In Time (2:22)
  10. I’ve Got You Under My Skin (3:14)
  11. The Way You Look Tonight (4:37)
  12. Here’s To The Losers (3:21)
  13. You’re Nobody ‘Till Somebody Loves You (2:18)
  14. Dancing In The Dark (3:02)
  15. Night And Day (2:21)
  16. I’ll Be Seeing You (3:08)
  17. Satin Doll (3:29)

Released by: Concord Jazz
Release date: 1999
Total running time: 52:39

Schoolhouse Rock Rocks!

Schoolhouse Rock Rocks!This is a rockin’ selection of hysterically funny covers of the immortal tunes from those educational animated shorts that used to give ABC’s Saturday morning cartoons such a distinct identity. ABC tries to brand itself with an incredibly annoying series of banana-yellow graphics these days, but that will never even approach the popularity or instant recognition factor that ABC had with the Schoolhouse Rocks cartoons. Schoolhouse Rocks officially ascends to the status of cultural icon with this cover album, featuring a series of often faithful (and occasionally way-the-hell-out-there) covers performed by alt-rock and rap artists. The original Schoolhouse Rocks theme opens the proceedings, and Deluxx Folk Implosion promptly crashes the party with a very good copy of “I’m Just A Bill”, adding the modern touch of vocals dripping with thick, syrupy sarcasm. It’s hard to bang one’s head and laugh out loud at the same time, but this is a good song with which to try. Other standouts include a very good homage to “Electricity, Electricity” by all-girl band Goodness, and Ween’s very accurate rendition of “The Shot Heard ‘Round The World”. The more rap-oriented 4 out of 4covers, Biz Markie’s “Energy Blues” cover and Skee-Lo’s version of “The Tale of Mr. Morton”, weren’t really to my tastes, but I could actually see the wisdom of trying to introduce them to a new generation with a new idiom. And really, Biz Markie did pretty good with his tribute. I highly recommend this easy-to-find album for those in the mood for a nostalgic belly laugh!

Order this CD

  1. Schoolhouse Rocky – Bob Dorough and friends (0:14)
  2. I’m Just A Bill – Deluxx Folk Implosion (3:26)
  3. Three Is A Magic Number – Blind Melon (3:14)
  4. Conjunction Junction – Better Than Ezra (3:44)
  5. Electricity, Electricity – Goodness (3:22)
  6. No More Kings – Pavement (4:23)
  7. The Shot Heard ‘Round The World – Ween (3:09)
  8. My Hero, Zero – Lemonheads (3:05)
  9. The Energy Blues – Biz Markie (3:10)
  10. Little Twelvetoes – Chavez (3:51)
  11. Verb: That’s What’s Happening – Moby (4:29)
  12. Interplanet Janet – Man Or Astro-Man? (2:47)
  13. Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here – Buffalo Tom (2:14)
  14. Unpack Your Adjectives – Daniel Johnston (3:06)
  15. The Tale of Mr. Morton – Skee-Lo (4:05)

Released by: Atlantic
Release date: 1996
Total running time: 48:29

Depeche Mode – Enjoy The Silence

Depeche Mode - Enjoy The SilenceWhile I stated in a previous review that Depeche Mode really lost me with Black Celebration, this CD maxi-single contained the only song of theirs that has piqued my interest since then, “Enjoy The Silence” from the 1990 album Violator. This heavily percussive number combines an interesting piece of music with an unheard-of innovation for Depeche Mode: a guitar! Yes, Martin Gore plays a little bit of guitar on this album, which isn’t really all that alien to the group’s sound – prior to recording its first album, Depeche Mode actually had two guitars! – rating: 3 out of 4and it has an interesting effect on the typical Depeche Mode sound. But even “Enjoy The Silence” isn’t the best thing on this disc. The piano-heavy instrumentals Memphisto and Sibeling are examples of other interesting avenues Depeche Mode could be exploring.

Order this CD

  1. Enjoy the Silence (4:15)
  2. Enjoy the Silence – hands and feet mix (7:20)
  3. Sibeling (3:20)
  4. Enjoy the Silence – bass line (7:40)
  5. Enjoy the Silence – ecstatic dub (5:54)
  6. Memphisto (4:05)
  7. Enjoy the Silence – ricki tik tik mix (5:35)
  8. Enjoy the Silence – harmonium (2:39)

Released by: Reprise
Release date: 1990
Total running time: 40:48

Depeche Mode – Black Celebration

Depeche Mode - Black CelebrationThis is the point at which Depeche Mode’s sound started shifting from the interestingly experimental sampling and synths of Some Great Reward to a much heavier, more industrial sound… and I have to confess, they lost me for a long time after this one last really good album. If anything saves this album, it’s the slower songs and ballads, such as “A Question Of Lust”, “World Full Of Nothing”, and the menacing “Dressed In Black”. Faster-paced songs worthy of mention include “A Question Of Time” and the atypically bouncy “But Not Tonight”. The vocals on Black Celebration seem to be above the par set for the previous releases, though the album also falls flat for rating: 3 out of 4trying to copy the style of the group’s own well-received earlier material – “Sometimes” and “It Doesn’t Matter Two” are conscious attempts to reproduce earlier songs such as “Somebody” and “It Doesn’t Matter” from the previous album, and both fall very, very flat. This album is a very mixed bag.

Order this CD

  1. Black Celebration (4:55)
  2. Fly on the Windscreen – final (5:18)
  3. A Question of Lust (4:20)
  4. Sometimes (1:53)
  5. It Doesn’t Matter Two (2:50)
  6. A Question of Time (4:10)
  7. Stripped (4:16)
  8. Here is the House (4:15)
  9. World Full Of Nothing (2:50)
  10. Dressed in Black (2:32)
  11. New Dress (3:42)
  12. But Not Tonight (4:15)

Released by: Mute
Release date: 1986
Total running time: 45:16

Depeche Mode – Shake the Disease

I first heard the title track of this single/EP on a “best of” album covering Depeche Mode’s work up until just before Black Celebration, and I really liked it. It was another one of those cases where I had to give the tape back to its owner, but I finally managed to find a relatively inexpensive CD single containing just this song and another one from that compilation that hadn’t been released on any other album. I hate it when they do that! But I won this time. “Shake The Disease” stuck fast in my mind when I first heard it because of the overlapping vocals throughout the song – actually, compared to a classroom full rating: 3 out of 4of munchkins bleating “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”, this song’s overlapping is pretty simple, but it’s done nicely and, well, I just like the song. I don’t really spend a whole lot of time on the various remixes and dance mixes, but “Shake The Disease” by itself was worth a couple of bucks for me.

Order this CD

  1. Shake the Disease (4:49)
  2. Flexible (3:11)
  3. Shake the Disease – extended remix (8:46)
  4. Flexible – extended remix (6:17)
  5. Shake the Disease – edit the shake (7:12)
  6. Something To Do – metal mix (7:26)

Released by: Intercord Ton Gmbh
Release date: 1984
Total running time: 37:41

Depeche Mode – Some Great Reward

Depeche Mode - Some Great RewardThis, to me, is the definitive Depeche Mode album. It also marked the beginning of many listeners’ fascination with the self-proclaimed all-electronic group. The famous (but tiringly repetitive) “People Are People” emerged from this album, but there are other songs I much prefer. “Somebody” is one of the first, if not the first, really good Depeche Mode ballads in the band’s catalog, which is an aspect of Depeche Mode’s sound that I think they made a big mistake in not pursuing. There’s also “Blasphemous Rumours”, a brutally harsh song that’s probably been burned or banned somewhere in the Bible Belt, though its lyrics seem to be aimed at a teen/young adult audience and one has to rating: 3 out of 4wonder just what the message is. But the best thing on here is “It Doesn’t Matter”, easily one of my favorite Depeche Mode songs by miles – and yep, it’s another ballad. Why they shunned that path in favor of going the industrial route baffles me, especially when they were so good at it.

Order this CD

  1. Something To Do (3:45)
  2. Lie To Me (5:04)
  3. People Are People (3:52)
  4. It Doesn’t Matter (4:45)
  5. Stories Of Old (3:12)
  6. Somebody (4:26)
  7. Master and Servant (4:13)
  8. If You Want (4:40)
  9. Blasphemous Rumours (6:21)

Released by: Mute
Release date: 1984
Total running time: 40:18