by David Chiu
By 1986 Duran Duran entered a transitional phase marked by the departures of Andy Taylor and Roger Taylor, leaving Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes and John Taylor as a trio. It impacted the sound that gradually steered away from the electropop/New Romantic sound of their early ‘80s work towards more conventional rock.
The effect of the offshoot projects (the Power Station and Arcadia) certainly influenced the post-Fab 5 album Notorious (1986). It was the Chic album that the band wanted to make, and not surprisingly, Notorious was produced by Chic’s co-mastermind Nile Rodgers. The result was one of Duran’s best albums, second to perhaps Rio as far as a complete and cohesive album. Notorious is a slick, groove record highlighted by the funky title track and a few other tracks that should have been bigger hits: the excellent and slinky “Skin Trade,” the exuberant “Meet El Presidente,” and the gorgeous track “A Matter of Feeling.” The haunting “Winter Marches On” could have easily been on any of Duran’s first three albums, but for the most part, Notorious was a different-sounding Duran and a better one particularly for that period.
Big Thing (1986), would set a pattern of future albums that found the band embracing more mainstream rock and pop styles. Still, Big Thing has several terrific gems in addition to the hits “I Don’t Want Your Love” and “All She Wants Is”: the poignant Do You Believe in Shame (dedicated to late Duran Duran producer Alex Sadkin and Andy Warhol), the lovely “Palomino” and “Too Late Marlene,” and the bombastic title track. This new reissue of Big Thing also restores the album mix of the funky “Drug (It’s a State of Mind)” in place of the remix that was on the original album.
As with the other Duran Duran reissues, each of these albums features a wealth of bonus tracks and remixes and a DVD of live performances and singles videos.