Conun-Duran-drum: Should EMI Finish Reissuing the Duran Duran Catalogue?

If you read The Second Disc regularly, or carry on any kind of regular conversation with me (and I do apologize if the latter is the case), you probably know enough about the ongoing saga of EMI’s reissuing of the Duran Duran catalogue.

On the same day as The Beatles remasters were announced, EMI also sent a release out detailing another one of their British all-boy pop bands, Duran Duran, would get their second (and arguably best) album, Rio, expanded to a two-disc set. This set would not only include all the B-sides and remixes in one place, but a handful of unreleased demos and – for the first time on CD, the full, proper U.K. mix of the album and the American remix of the first side of the album by producer David Kershenbaum. To Duranies, it was already like Christmas – and even more so when a deluxe CD/DVD package of the group’s famed 1982 stand at the Hammersmith Odeon was announced alongside the deluxe edition. A June 30 release date was set (a personal sense of gladness, just over a week before this author’s birthday), and excitement ran rampant.

There were minor hiccups, of course: the sets were pushed back to mid-September, then late September, then mid-October if you were in the States and couldn’t access import copies in a record shop. But the sets were great, and when EMI announced that 2010 would see more deluxe reissues of the band’s catalogue (including the buried classic So Red the Rose by Duran side-project Arcadia), it was a cause for excitement.

By the halfway point of 2010, things weren’t so great. Reissues of So Red the Rose and the band’s 1981 self-titled debut and 1983’s Seven and the Ragged Tiger were first delayed several times from March to (ultimately) May, and intended summer reissues of Notorious (1986) and Big Thing (1988) were shoved back to late September. (They’re not due in America for another week.) Worse yet, they were plagued with some mastering problemsDuran Duran was riddled with supposed tape issues, as was a track on So Red the Rose whose master was licensed from Rhino. (EMI, in their infinite wisdom, explained away the problems, announced they would not issue corrected discs and that was that.)

Now that Notorious and Big Thing have been/will be in your record store, three albums remain for EMI to reissue: Liberty, the band’s 1990 album and the first with Warren Cuccurullo as permanent guitarist; the band’s 1993 self-titled album (known in some circles as The Wedding Album), which featured two Top 10 hits and marked an unexpected comeback for the band and Thank You, a left-field covers album from 1995 that led to a second slide in popularity. (Duran’s last record for EMI, 1997’s Medazzaland, is not eligible for reissue by their former label, as the band got the master tapes back as a consolation prize for being dropped by their 17-year home.) Unsurprisingly, given the breadth of Duran Duran’s catalogue, there is an amount of material that could justify a reissue. But will it work? Join us for a debate (and weigh in yourself) after the jump.

Liberty (Capitol, 1990)

The pros: It’s hard discussing the pros of reissuing Liberty, an album that was so confusingly limp (let our friends at Popdose explain it perfectly). With only a few really good tracks, a couple of interesting ones and a shocking amount of filler (shocking compared to the filler-free one-two punch of the first two LPs), Liberty would need some serious resuscitation to get it to be a reissue worth buying. This is made difficult by the sheer lack of B-side material; a handful of remixes of lead single “Violence of Summer” and two non-LP B-sides (more filler – and the shock comes from knowing that most Duran B-sides are incredibly strong) does not a bonus disc make. Furthermore, all of those mixes and tunes can be found on The Singles 1986-1995 box set.

That said, there’s at least one mix that never made it to CD – a less-drastic extension of “Violence of Summer” that turned up on a French promotional cassette – that would be a worthy bonus cut. And fans are known to enjoy trading a bootleg of demos from this era. Perhaps, as a Hail-Mary-pass for a potential reissue, a new mix of the album, eliminating the worst of producer Chris Kimsey’s constant overdubbing, could be commissioned.

The cons: As much as fans are probably craving archival material, these sets rarely dabble in unreleased material. Duran Duran and Rio had some demos and BBC sessions while Big Thing unearthed a pair of intended single remixes, but getting material from vinyl to CD (see the bonus disc for Notorious) that seems to be the purpose of these sets. If demos weren’t going to be included for the late-’80s material (and there are plenty in circulation on the bootleg market), why would they be included for a clunker like Liberty?

And not to further tarnish the record’s name, but not only is the audio material a bit thin, but the visuals are a stretch, too. Duran Duran didn’t tour for this record, and promotional appearances were slim. (Even a third music video for “First Impression,” after the clips for “Violence of Summer” and the excellent “Serious,” was cancelled in the middle of shooting.) The DVD has become a prerequisite for these Duran reissues; what could be lurking in the vaults that would justify the existence of such a thing?

Solution? Either slim down the volume to two CDs of semi-decent material or try to pad it out and accept the losses.

Duran Duran (The Wedding Album) (Capitol, 1993)

The pros: Though this author has always felt that The Wedding Album had great tracks without ever adding up to a great album, a reissue would certainly be welcome. For one thing, not only is there enough rich material to port over from the Singles box, but there’s plenty of it that didn’t make the cut. Three non-LP tracks – “Falling Angel,” “Time for Temptation” and “Stop Dead” – were conspicuously absent from the box, as was a new remix of then-rarely heard early cut “To the Shore” (sadly left off the deluxe edition of the self-titled record) and the full version of the No Ordinary Tour live EP. Video content is rampant, too – not only did the members of Duran Duran make a good amount of videos and promotional appearances at the time, but one of the holiest of grails for Duranies could be included: the band’s 1993 performance on MTV Unplugged (the whole tour, in fact, stressed acoustic and orchestral arrangements).

The cons: Admittedly, not a whole lot: there are enough hits to draw in more casual fans willing to pay for a deluxe set, and plenty of goodies to get older fans to open their wallets again.

Solution? The Wedding Album would work as a two-CD set with DVD, without fail.

Thank You (Capitol, 1995)

The pros: While this set is another of the (sadly) many misfires Duran Duran released in the 1990s, Thank You at least has the blessing/curse of being interesting. For a New Wave band so consciously influenced by CHIC and Roxy Music, it’s certainly a surprise to see the band cover artists a generation removed (The Doors, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Sly and The Family Stone) or drawing from the rap genre as heavily (their cover of Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five’s “White Lines” was released as a single). There’s enough as much here to pique your interest as there is to make you cringe, and as far as latter-day Duran Duran goes, that’s a compliment.

There are a few rarities in hiding should Thank You get a deluxe revisitation: in addition to many B-sides (Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done,” the import-only cover of David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs”) or alternate takes (this record went through mix after mix – the band couldn’t decide between versions of “I Want to Take You Higher” and thus included both on the final LP), there are a couple of great known outtakes, including the band’s take on T. Rex’s “Jeepster” (which, like a few other tunes on the record, featured the brief return of original drummer Roger Taylor) and a rawer remix of “White Lines.”

The cons: Again we have the issue of padding out what many see as a total dud. And touring was much lighter this time around, limited to radio station festivals and other junk, making live footage a stretch. There is one DVD extra that would be a sight, however: the album’s original electronic press kit, in which Lou Reed unironically sang the praises of the band’s cover of his “Perfect Day.”

Solution: A two-disc set with DVD could work, assuming there was enough to pad out the DVD.

Even if reissuing the last three Duran Duran albums in the EMI catalogue fluctuates between mildly and rather interesting, it would at least be a fitting reward for this fantastic dance-rock group of the ’80s to get the red carpet treatment that all popular, well-received bands deserve. If they do, though, they should probably avoid burning fans as gracelessly by brickwalling these original albums.

What do you think, dear reader? Should these last Duran albums (and, to a point, EMI) deserve another chance or is it best to let things lay quiet for awhile?


  1. says

    I wouldn’t have even reissued “Notorious” or “Big Thing”. So needless to say, I see no reason for Duran’s Nineties-era output to get any kind of reissue treatment.

    • says

      I’d agree, had they thrown the other remixes from Notorious and the live Duran Goes Dutch EP into the second singles box. Same goes for most of the tracks I mentioned above (particularly the French promo remix of “Violence” and the B-sides from The Wedding Album).

  2. Don says

    A reissue and expansion of the Wedding Album is the primary reason I got excited about the DD reissue campaign in the first place. It’s a fantastic album with a lot of great extra material, as has already been outlined above. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I think the Wedding Album is a unique gem in the DD catalog, and deserves the deluxe treatment.

  3. Phil Cohen says

    I just received the “Notorious” & “Big Thing” 2-CD + DVD box sets. Obviously, after the(very justifiable) complaints that EMI received for the flawed, compressed & distorted sound on the “Duran Duran” & “Seven & The Ragged Tiger” sets, EMI was going to take care to get the sound quality right this time….and so they have.
    I’m playing the “Disc One” of the “Notorious” box now(and I compared the first 3 songs with my original 1980’s CD), and I’m pleased to report that there are no significant changes in sound quality(better or worse) versus the original CD. But despite the fact that the new reissue won’t bring complaints about sound quality, Abbey Road Studios have opted(for the “Notorious” & “Big Thing” remasters) to keep the engineer’s name anonymous.
    It could be the same engineer, but perhaps after his Abbey Road bosses gave him some lessons on remastering.
    But I still agree with many who feel that EMI should re-remaster(and replace) to defective “Disc One” from “Duran Duran” & “Seven & The Ragged Tiger”, but in these fading days of the record industry, EMI’s refusal to re-remaster, re-manufacture or replace blatantly defective product is rather typical of the major labels.

  4. Dennis says

    hopefully they carry on, I always hate it, when reissues stop mid-way (see: Siouxsie & The Banshees). surely not the albums I’d pull out the most by Duran, but if there is a chance to rerelease them: go!
    can’t see Liberty getting a 2cd/dvd treatment though, the only thing that would be useable would be the EPK for Liberty + that was already on the Greatest 2DVD.
    if they do a deluxe Thank You (this one is really hard to imagine considering the very bad reviews + reactions it got), hopefully a cd/dvd package, can’t see a second cd being filled properly unless there is lots of outtakes. a dvd could be interesting if one of those radiofestivals was pro-shot as the band played a few very different versions of old songs back then.

  5. Phil Cohen says

    One more thing that I should note, particularly because the video program “Working For The Skin Trade” was never before released in the U.S.A.(though I once owned it on UK PAL VHS and I still have it on Japanese Laserdisc), that, as mediocre as the video quality of the program is, that the DVD release(in the “Notorious” CD/DVD set) is the best quality yet. The shortcomings of this filmed concert(grain and smear/afterimage during rapid movement) are things that are difficult for DVD’s MPEG compression system to cope with. It would appear that the finished videotape master is all that is available to EMI, though whether access to a film print or camera negative would have yielded better video quality is unknown.

    This program was created at a time when no one could have envisioned that it would have to withstand the scrutiny of being displayed on big screen T.V.’s

  6. Rico Cooper says

    Just do it, it’s one of the biggest bands of all time, and a big part of EMI’s history. Make the duds limited edition.

  7. Thomas Juulsgaard says

    I want it all. I hope that all of their records will come out as deluxe editions. I really love to be able to see and hear everything from their different periods.

  8. The Thorn says

    Great assessment of the situation, Mike, and great post!

    As a long-time fan of the band, I have to admit that I’m not really that interested in reissues of these three albums. While they all have some moments (well ‘Thank You’ is a bit spare… oO), they only have limited longevity. Even the ‘Wedding Album’ is uneven and bored me after a few hundred plays, unlike the “classics”. In fact, I prefer ‘Astronaut’ to this one – I think it’s vastly under-rated.

    My only draw to the ‘Notorious’ and ‘Big Thing’ reissues are the DVDs, because I already have the
    singles boxed sets and there was enough to get your fill on there (even if they were incomplete!). And, based on the criticism of the other remasters, I haven’t forked over any dough on the reissues yet – even though I would LOVE getting upgraded copies of these albums.

    I think EMI needs to grow up, remaster the damn things properly and issue replacements. I’m probably not alone in holding out (I mean, why pay for a defective product? Duh… oO). And if they want to draw people to these last three albums as 2CD/1DVD sets, either issue them as limited editions (numbered? autographed?) or toss them in a reissues boxed set with a few other exclusive gems.

    I would certainly want to buy that!!! And methinks I wouldn’t be alone… 😉

  9. Phil Cohen says

    EMI ultimately did themselves no favors by not recalling and correcting the grossly distorted “Duran Duran”(debut) & “Seven & The Ragged Tiger” sets, because they scared many consumers out of buying the high quality “Notorious” & “Big Thing” sets.

    • says

      Agreed, Phil. That story spread far beyond “our little group” of audiophiles, and when EMI issued that stupid statement it did a lot of damage for hardcore Duranies.

  10. Randy Suarez says

    I worked at Universal Music for 10 years (in Strategic Marketing and Catalog) and we were usually fairly open to ideas if we believed the marketplace could support it.

    Does EMI have a special label imprint like Rhino and Hip-O? Would they be willing to license “Liberty”? They could make it a limited edition exclusive release.

    I really hope they do because as a fan, now it’s about having a fairly complete history of the band. I believe there were some really solid demos from the Liberty era as well.

    The “Unplugged” would be an amazing get and since we finally saw an official release of the Pearl Jam Unplugged DVD a while back, anything is possible.

  11. Andy Patterson says

    How about adding “Extraordinary World” to the mix? It would make most sense as part of the “Wedding Album” DVD, but if that already included the “Unplugged” performance, then add it to the “Liberty” DVD. Chronologically, it would be off, but the original release included the “Violence of Summer” and “Serious” videos, and it would make a “Liberty” package way more appealing. Regardless, I hope it sees a future DVD release. Great documentary and the “Breath After Breath” clip is one of their best. I bought the VHS tape new in Japan, but am now without a player! So would rather gamble on a DVD release in some form than go back in time and buy a VCR! C’mon, EMI!!!

  12. Luke says

    I hope they remaster the remaining albums as I would like a extended boxset of each album but EMI need to fix their qaulity drastically. The sound quality and volume is poor on all the remastered Duran Duran albums (volume is actually good on the Seven and the Ragged Tiger boxset) and I personally, through i-Tunes, have had to change the volumes manually to a more acceptable. I mean, some tracks on Big Thing Disc 2 skip and have the beginnings of certain tracks on the end of the tracks before. Compared to the remastered discs I have by other bands such as Genesis and Talk Talk which have good sound and volume quality, Durans Durans are a joke in terms of quality.

    Should they remaster Liberty, then there could be a solution to the lack of DVD disc. First disc can be the album tracks and radio edits, second can be the b sides and mixes such as ‘Yo Bad Azizi’, ‘Water Babies’ & the many mixes of ‘Violence of Summer’, whilst third disc could be the demo’s for Liberty which seem quite hard to get. I’m one of the few people who actually like Liberty and I would pleased if it was remastered, to a high standard.

  13. Gustavo says

    Que tal , bueno yo opino que si al Liberty album se le hace una nueva remescla (podria ser Mark Ronson el encargado de este nuevo reto) y el list del nuevo Liberty quedara de esta manera:

    – violence of summer
    . liberty
    . serious
    – all along the water
    – my antarctica
    – first impression
    – read my lips
    – can you deal with it
    – dream nation
    – venice drownig

    como podran ver , si se omiten los temas hot head y downtown , que no hace falta recordar que son muy malos y arruinan el disco. creo que estariamos ante un album de la talla del “Notorious”.

  14. says

    All three should ABSOLUTELY be reissued. On the LIBERTY DVD, they could include the music videos, the EPK and any live performances they made on the various TV shows throughout the world, all of which would fill out the DVD quite nicely. On the 2nd CD of LIBERTY, they could put all the various mixes and such. The same could be done for the WEDDING ALBUM and THANK YOU with the DVDs for those including all the music videos, live performances on TV shows, EPKs and the best live show from the period, including the UNPLUGGED. The Extraordinary World Documentary could be included on the WEDDING ALBUM DVD as well. A WIN/WIN for everybody!

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