The latest in our series 'Duran Albums Reimagined' brings us to Liberty...
It’s not unreasonable to say that many view Duran Duran’s 1990 album Liberty as something that deserves to be flushed rather than polished. Its creators have expressed their disappointment over the years, often with the caveat that the end result failed to deliver on what they felt was the material’s immense promise. More recently, in a revealing Katy Kafe interview on the official fan site in 2020, Nick stated that he would love to do a ‘Director’s Cut’ of Liberty one day and try to unleash that potential. But would it be a case of taking a turkey and surrounding it in chrome? Or could something more artistically fibrous and rewarding emerge from the bowels of the Duran archive?
Thanks to the wonders of the world wide web, a wealth of demos and unreleased songs from the Liberty sessions is out there - most noticeably on the extensive Didn’t Anybody Tell You? bootleg. “There's so many songs on there that never got finished,’ said John on his official website in 2000. “When we were rehearsing it, when we were writing, it was gonna be a great album. When we got in the studio I fell apart and the production just wasn't right. It turned out to be a very mediocre album, but at the demo stage… I think there's a great album in there. Could have been great songs."
Delving deep into those demos, the scope for a successful reimagining of Liberty is huge. Here’s my take on how to turn the album from a disjointed misfire into a more tonally cohesive listening journey - through a combination of including unreleased songs on the proviso that the demos would be finished, rejigging the running order to throw out some bathwater but no (water) babies - and chopping down the bloated runtime of several tracks.
1. First Impressions
Just say no to Violence - regardless of the season. Instead hit the ground running with an upbeat, accessible song that’s cut down from its insanely overlong five minutes to three to heighten its immediacy. While lacking in emotional and thematic depth (which one can also say about some of the band’s earlier hits), its broad universal sentiments, catchy chorus and powerful guitar hook make the song radio friendly and would appeal to a much wider audience than Violence Of Summer as Liberty’s first single. It’s a track made for Match Of The Day football montages in 1990.
The fact that Duran Duran played First Impressions live on the subsequent Wedding Album tour years later, despite being a non-single from a flop album, indicates that the band felt the song deserved more exposure too. Apparently it was due to be Liberty’s third single, but after Serious bombed the record company didn’t adopt the ‘won’t give up and won’t give in’ mantra of the song. Which conveniently brings us onto…
A beautifully melodic song, Serious is stigmatised by its status as the first Duran Duran single to miss the UK Top 40. That had more to do with the previous single Violence Of Summer (mercilessly and mercifully culled from this reimagining) alienating the audience and capsizing the Liberty album campaign. Yet the commercial potential and enduring appeal of Serious are epitomised by Dutch producer Ferry Corsten’s decision to rework it into trance classic Fire in 2005.
What an inviting one-two whammy to kick off Liberty Reimagined and switch listeners on rather than alienate them. Now time for a bit more energy…
3. Read My Lips / Second Alibi
Across the demo Second Alibi and its eventual incarnation of Read My Lips is a classic, energetic Duran Duran single. There are so many interesting components in this song, but it needs better assembly and a chorus that doesn’t drag. This proposed hybrid version would swap out the repetitive second half of Read My Lips’ chorus with the ‘you make me feel alive’ chorus from Second Alibi to make it sound even more anthemic.
However, Second Alibi’s “so you gonna cum or what?” line is best kept locked away. Dirty bastards.
4. My Antarctica
A mesmerising song now moved earlier in the album to herald a dreamier, more contemplative tonal change on our journey. On Liberty’s original tracklisting, listeners had to endure the likes of Violence Of Summer and Hothead before getting anywhere near My Antarctica. Nobody wants to be repeatedly waterboarded even if a nice cup of tea awaits you at the end. This song now has the prominence it deserves.
5. Only For Me (aka Worth Waiting For)
This moodily luscious BIG BALLAD demo is deeply personal in content yet expansively epic in form. At almost six minutes and with plenty of unfinished lyrics, it’s very much a rough diamond - but the yearning melodies and cadences are so emotionally connective and infectious.
The band has often tried to mimic the success of Ordinary World with various slightly contrived ballads ever since that revived their commercial fortunes - think Falling Down and What Are The Chances? - yet they’ve had this very organic gem collecting dust in the vaults since long before The Wedding Album came along.
6. All Along The Water
After two introspective tracks, it’s time for an injection of fun - and this uptempo throwaway number delivers that and some naughtiness too. Nor does it outstay its welcome, being one of the album’s shorter tracks.
7. My Family
Here’s another song that only exists in demo form, but it’s fairly well formed and its inclusion would provide a nice funky interlude - complete with catchy singalong chorus - before the album starts to take a progressively darker tonal turn. Interestingly, the band must have once had high hopes for the song given that it was played live in 1989. It needs to form a support group with Beautiful Colours.
Let down by a chorus significantly weaker than its compelling verses, Liberty is still strong enough to maintain its place on this reimagined album. With the band having lost two of its Taylors by this point, it would be beyond cruel to cull both lead single AND title track.
The dancey elements of the song help to maintain the tempo of the previous two tracks, but at over five minutes it saps momentum so would need to have at least a minute chopped off. Liberty also adds a dreamy sheen that works as the perfect precursor for…
9. Dream Nation
Bloody hell this is good. I can remember the first time I stumbled upon this song, in crude demo form, while doing a Duran-trawl on YouTube a few years ago. I’d heard nothing like it in terms of its dreamy sound texture and atmospherics. I still haven’t. The melodies of Dream Nation are amongst the most beautiful and captivating created by the band, so much so that it’s still addictive listening despite the unfinished lyrics and mumbly delivery on the demo version that’s out there. Art is subjective of course, but for me this is a very, very special song and its lack of official release in a finished form is such a tragedy that it’s worthy of Le Bon dedicating Ordinary World to its sad plight at their next gig.
10. Can You Deal With It?
A fusion of anger and hope that encapsulates the futility of society or an emotional paean to erectile dysfunction? Either way, the building tension of this track - along with a dreamy middle 8 - raises the stakes nicely and doesn’t waste a second. As the penultimate track, Can You Deal With It? displaces Venice Drowning - a song with lovely melodies but too many cringy lyrics in other places that serve as an unwelcome distraction.
After toying with our emotions throughout the album’s dreamy journey, the decision to end it with Downtown’s descent into nihilism and nightmare is a confident move - and one that also fittingly pays off the previous track’s mounting frustration. That’s the highbrow critical analysis anyway. It may well be about Le Bon going South Dakota on some lucky lass.
Downtown also showcases the entire band working both cohesively and individually, with the drumming in particular evoking an Power Station feel. It also justifies its five and a half minute running time - a rarity on this album. An epic ending that’s perfect for this version of the album.
So there it is - Liberty Reimagined. It’s doubtful the album could ever have revived Duran Duran’s commercial fortunes in the way that the Wedding Album managed three years later, but it could definitely be turned into a more cohesive, consistent and engaging listening experience. To paraphrase the reimagined album’s opener - the possibility, we see the possibility, to seize the opportunity. Come on Mr Rhodes, let’s sort this Director’s Cut out and polish a few gems from the vaults!
What are your thoughts on Liberty Reimagined? What would you do? Let us know in the Comments below…
ALSO DISCOVER ON THE CHERRY LIPSTICK WEBSITE:
1990 fan interview with band where Sterling, John, Warren, Simon and Nick discuss Liberty
1994 fan interview with Simon where he considers the Liberty demos