In 1981 Duran Duran released their self-titled debut album. It was the dawn of the synth pop era and they were one of the bands leading the way. Nearly thirty years later, EMI has remastered and reissued the album as Duran Duran (Special Edition). The original nine song release has been expanded with the addition of four B-sides. A second disc of mostly, previously unreleased alternate versions, demos, and rarities is included. Rounding out the package is a DVD loaded with music videos and live performances.
While it’s basically a given that existing Duran Duran fans will want to upgrade their collection with this deluxe set, it’s unlikely to win over any new fans. Most of the songs simply haven’t aged well. The best part of the album is the one-two punch that it opens with. Both “Girls On Film” and “Planet Earth” still resonate as strong, energetically performed dance tunes. But otherwise these tracks are mainly 1980’s nostalgia. In fact, this album didn’t strike a chord initially in the United States. Only after the band’s Rio hit it big did this debut get repackaged for American audiences. By then it was augmented by the huge hit “Is There Something I Should Know?” but that tune isn’t found on this release.
Completists will want this, no matter what any casual listener might think. The B-sides added to disc one include a cover of David Bowie’s “Fame.” The second disc begins with three alternate studio versions, some of which are notably different from their counterparts on the final album. “Tel Aviv” is the most drastically different, with an entirely different feel. “Girls On Film” comes across as more raw sounding than the final version. A trio of demos also turns up, with more interesting differences to note including an alternate “Planet Earth.” Several BBC Radio recordings follow, which includes the non-album track “Like An Angel.” For those with an unquenchable thirst, several remixes conclude the second disc. Remixes can be a mixed bag, and I found these to be relatively uninteresting: two remixes each of “Girls On Film” and “Planet Earth.”
The DVD adds considerable value to the package. The seven promo videos are nice to have, especially the long uncensored version of “Girls On Film.” That’s the one that features some brief female nudity that was quite daring for its day. The shorter censored version is included for good measure, but it simply lacks the decadence of the more explicit cut. Eight television performances, taken from four different programs taped throughout 1981, are also on the DVD. The video quality is acceptable without being particularly noteworthy. The same can be said for the audio, which is well defined without being very muscular.
Duran Duran (Special Edition) expands upon a relic from a different age in pop music. To my ears, the remastered sound thumps along steadily with John Taylor’s bass and Roger Taylor’s drums sounding full and meaty. The upper range is equally sturdy, with Simon Le Bon’s vocals ringing through atop the guitars and layers of keyboards. This reissue carries a fairly steep price tag, retailing for $34.98, but for the faithful it can only be seen as essential due to its comprehensive nature.