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Music Review: Duran Duran – Seven & the Ragged Tiger (Special Edition)

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By 1983, Duran Duran was well established as an international success and one of the top acts of the era. Their third album spawned several hit singles and sold in great numbers. More than a quarter century later, EMI has remastered and expanded the album as Seven & the Ragged Tiger (Special Edition). The original nine song album is found on the first disc. A second disc loaded with non-album singles, B-sides, and remixes adds another thirteen tracks. Lastly, but surely not least for rabid fans, a lengthy DVD is included as well.

Duran Duran’s music has become badly dated over the years. Their distinctive brand of tough synth pop was arguably over-produced and the busy arrangements often weigh down the music. But by this third album, their hit single sensibility ensured that several of these songs survive beyond mere nostalgia. “The Reflex” remains irresistible as a hooky pop tune with an aggressive beat. “New Moon On Monday” has a sing-along melody that lodges itself in the listener’s brain just as effectively today as all those years ago. Perhaps best of all, “Union Of the Snake” slithers along seductively. However trendy their sound may have been, beneath that heavily layered production were solid songwriting skills.

Most of the other songs are less striking. Some, such as “Tiger Tiger,” are pure filler. The album closer “The Seventh Stranger” is a very dramatic number with a memorable melody. All told, Seven & the Ragged Tiger is now likely to be of most interest to longtime fans. The stand-out tracks, by far, are the hit singles. Duran Duran excelled as a singles band. But the 1980s were a tough time due to the proliferation of synthetic instruments layered thickly on top of each other. The result is very badly dated music.

The second disc begins with several non-album singles and B-sides. The excellent single “Is There Something I Should Know?” kicks things off. Some of these tracks are remixes and live versions, the latter category including takes of “New Religion” and “The Reflex” from an L.A. Forum performance. All of the hit singles are represented by alternate mixes, the best of the bunch being the so-called “Monster Mix” of “Is There Something I Should Know?”

The DVD features a generous selection of material. Fans will be thrilled with the first official home video release of the concert film As the Lights Go Down. The film is divided into a dozen chapters. Featured in the film are a number of songs not found on Seven & the Ragged Tiger, including such signature hits “Rio” and “Hungry Like the Wolf.” The concert film runs for about one hour. Next up is a collection of five music videos. The long “movie version” of “New Moon On Monday” is quite elaborate and ambitious. Concluding the DVD are a pair of British television live performances taken from the show Top Of the Pops.

The remastering on Seven & the Ragged Tiger (Special Edition) leaves something to be desired. There is an overall muddled sound to the main album. The whole thing sounds a bit too bass heavy, without a crisp high end. The album doesn’t sound bad, per se. It just doesn’t leap from the speakers the way a carefully remastered reissue should – especially when it carries a retail price of $34.98. That said, true blue Duran Duran fans will probably want to add it to their collection as it packs a considerable amount of supplemental material.

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About The Other Chad

Hi, I'm Chaz Lipp. An old co-worker of mine thought my name was Chad. Since we had two Chads working there at the time, I was "The Other Chad."
  • nickrhodes

    youre an idiot

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Quite the rebuttal. At least Chad offered up what didn’t work for him and stated it clearly.

  • BK

    “But the 1980s were a tough time due to the proliferation of synthetic instruments layered thickly on top of each other” was a beffudling statement. I’m still not sure why this made the decade tough, and in any case the only “synthetic” instrument on the album is the synths, with actual guitar, bass, drums, horns and strings.
    But I really appreciated you letting me know the remaster wasn’t all that good and thanks for the DVD breakdown.
    (Meanwhile, “Tiger Tiger” might be an instrumental, but I have always liked it. It’s a brave band who includes instrumental tracks on a pop album. Filler indeed!)

  • Christopher

    ‘Seven and the Ragged Tiger’ is an archetypal ’80s cocaine album: too much time, money, and pressure in the studio meant everything ended up on this project ‘but the kitchen sink’ (to quote JT). However, Alex Sadkin was a talented producer, and with co-producer Ian Little (basically an un-credited 6th member of the band), Duran Duran managed to deliver a remarkable album. In 1983 Duran Duran were still writing amazingly good pop songs, ever so much more so considering the oldest member of the band was then just 25. But there was incredible pressure on the group around this time to continue delivering the hits. The genesis of ‘The Reflex’ was actually Little, Roger Taylor, and John Taylor reverse-engineering the rhythmic arrangement from David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’, a huge hit in early 1983. Unfortunately fame had already gone to their heads; the American market was breaking, providing band members with their first serious cash; and both John and Andy Taylor (and possibly Simon Le Bon as well) were huge cokeheads by this time. Nick Rhodes later described the sound of ‘Seven and the Ragged Tiger’ as ‘barely controlled hysteria, scratching beneath the surface’. Nick himself swore off blow after collapsing during pre-production in Montserrat. But the effects of the Peruvian Marching Powder are still all over this album. If you aren’t a ‘Durannie’, skip this chapter in lieu of their first two albums, which ironically sound a lot less ‘dated’ than this one. However, for true fans, the inclusion of ‘As the Lights Go Down’ on DVD is alone worth the price of admission. Remember, the hits got them there, but it was Duran’s ability to rock out live on their ’83-’84 world tour that cemented their status as Biggest Band in the World. Check out what made them so great, just 18 months before the ol’ Polvo Blanco brought Duran’s haloed kingdom crashing down around them. One final note: check out ‘Secret Oktober’, B-side to ‘Union of the Snake': written and recorded in just one night by Nick and Simon to meet an EMI deadline, this brilliant, well-crafted pop song showcases Duran Duran at their early-eighties best.