Capitol Records, 1982
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/22/1997
Reviewing Duran Duran proves to be an interesting challenge. The band mostly appealed to teenage girls during their heyday in the early '80s, and were not noted for musicianship as much as their photogenic personalities. While the girls in my grade school class were pasting pictures of Simon LeBon in their Chandlers, all of the boys like myself were wearing AC/DC t-shirts under our uniform shirts.
Now that I'm older and have achieved Buddha nature, I am able to go back to the music I scoffed at and give it an abjective listen. The band's second album Rio turns out to be a halfway decent album, albeit quite dated today.
Three hits are encased on this slab o' vinyl. The title track is light but refreshing, and does tend to show how well LeBon and the rest of the group could harmonize. The only negative of the track is the same harmonizing sounds a little uncertain at times. The other major hit, "Hungry Like The Wolf," is evidence of the toll 15 years can take on an album. If what they're using on this track (and for a good portion of the album) aren't drum machines, my name isn't... well, let's not delve into that. (Editor's note: The joke here was this review was first listed as being written by "Bob Pierce," a pseudonym I used for the first two years of the site.) The guitars are used way too sparingly, leaving the track sounding very hollow.
The third hit, albeit a minor one, shows how good Duran Duran could be when they moved out of the world of dance music. "Save A Prayer" is an ambitious effort at a ballad that broke the mold of a successful Duran Duran single. But the fact is it works - and leaves me wondering what would have happened to the band had they continued in this vein. Note that when the band experienced their resurgence in popularity, it was with the ballad "Ordinary World."
The remainder of Rio is filler, but here is where the difference between a decent album and a bad album is made. If you listen to many of these tracks closely, you'll find yourself somewhat intrigued by them - "My Own Way," "New Religion" and "Lonely In Your Nightmare" all are songs that require a little bit of effort on the part of the listener. Other tracks, like "The Chauffeur," are forgettable.
So what sets the bulk of Rio apart from other "filler" albums? Simple: the fact that you may be intrigued enough to take the time to listen to some of these tracks more intensely. When I first tried to listen to this album for review, I had it playing in the background, and I found the album to be unbearable. But when I tried it again and slapped on a set of headphones, the album's quality improved.
I'm still up in the air as to whether Rio is a good album or not - it's okay for an occasional listen, but it's not something I'd want on the turntable constantly. Whether you will like it or not will depend on both your view of '80s music and how open-minded you are. If you can keep an open mind and are willing to really concentrate on this album, you've won half the battle. After that, you're on your own.