Monday, March 19, 2018

Review of Duran Duran's "Seven and the Ragged Tiger"

I posted this review on the Sputnik Music website a couple of minutes ago. It's my 100th review on that site.

Review Summary: While this album marked the end of Duran Duran's reign at the top of the pop rock mountain, it's still a New Wave classic.

Seven and the Ragged Tiger was Duran Duran's third studio album, and it capped off what was the most successful period in the band's career. While it's clearly not as strong as their second album, Rio (1982), and probably not as consistent as their self-titled first LP (1981), it's still a pretty substantial musical document that holds up well today. 

At the time of its release, the band was often hit with criticism that was somewhat unfair -- namely, that they weren't a serious band, but were rather a teen-idol type group whose music was aimed mostly at underage girls. More than thirty-five years later, it's obvious that their music has endured the test of time in a way that no teenybopper-centric band ever could. Yes, they were immensely popular with hoards of screaming adolescent females, but so had The Beatles been twenty years earlier. It didn't detract any from the music. Duran Duran was also criticized as a band trying to make it by pushing sexually sensationalized songs and videos. But while some of their music was (and is) pretty sensual, again, it's become clear over the decades that there's more there than just sex -- Duran Duran had a talent for crafting songs with strong hooks, they had a first-rate pop vocalist in Simon LeBon, and several of their musicians were severely underrated (as guitarist Andy Taylor and bass player John Taylor demonstrated two years after Tiger when they played in their rockier side project with Robert Palmer, The Power Station).

While reportedly not an easy album to make, Seven and the Ragged Tiger contained three successful singles: "The Reflex", which was the only single the band ever released that reached #1 on the charts in both the UK and the U.S. (and in several other countries as well); "Union of the Snake", which reached #3 in both the UK and U.S.; and "New Moon on Monday", which "only" reached #9 in the UK and #10 in the U.S., but which was my favorite of the three. I don't know that any of these three tracks has held up quite as well as songs like "Hungry Like the Wolf" or the title track from Rio, or even as well as "Girls on Film" from Duran Duran, but all three have proven long-lived enough that they still get some airplay on '80s stations today.

Of the nine tracks on the original release of the LP, there are several other worthwhile numbers as well. Among the most notable are the slow and spacy instrumental "Tiger Tiger", the bouncy "I Take the Dice", and the wistful album-ender, "The Seventh Stranger".

Seven and the Ragged Tiger received mixed reviews at the time of its release. The band followed it up with a live album (Arena) in 1984, then went on hiatus while Andy and John Taylor made their The Power Station album, and LeBon, keyboard player Nick Rhodes and drummer Roger Taylor went on to form their own side project band, Arcadia. By the time they came back together for the 1986 studio album Notorious, Roger Taylor had retired (for the next 15 years, at least) from the music business, Andy Taylor left the band mid-way through the recording sessions, and Duran Duran's most prosperous days were behind them. Nevertheless, while Seven and the Ragged Tigermight have marked the end of Duran Duran's reign at the top heights of the pop rock mountain, it's still an album to be valued as a fine example of some of the best of '80s New Wave music.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars