Duran Duran found themselves in an unfamiliar situation as they approached their fourth studio album, Notorious: unsteady musical ground. Drummer Roger Taylor had stepped away from the band, trading a hectic life on the road for a quieter existence in the English countryside, while guitarist Andy Taylor only contributed to a few songs before also departing. Luckily, the remaining members of the band—co-founders John Taylor and Nick Rhodes, and vocalist Simon Le Bon—were resilient. They enlisted guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, a ’70s Frank Zappa collaborator who had recently performed with synth-pop act Missing Persons, and Average White Band drummer Steve Ferrone. And onboard to produce and perform on the album was a familiar, grounding presence: guitarist and frequent collaborator Nile Rodgers. The end result is that Duran Duran paired their long-standing rock and disco influences with inspirations from vintage funk, classic R&B, and contemporary dance music. This new approach was evident right away on the title track, a sophisticated slice of funk-rock propelled by peppy horns, snappy harmonies, and an elastic bassline, and the equally sizzling “Meet El Presidente.” The single “Skin Trade,” meanwhile, is a frothy slow jam that gives Le Bon a chance to show off a delicate falsetto croon, while Rhodes’ strident keyboard-work drives the slinky “Vertigo (Do the Demolition).” Cuccurullo added gritty guitars on the latter song, although his presence was felt most on the standout “Hold Me,” a brisk rocker distinguished by jagged electric guitars and a yearning chorus. Elsewhere on the album, the artsy Le Bon and Rhodes side project Arcadia clearly influenced another highlight, “Winter Marches On,” an aptly named chilly ballad with glacial keyboards and introspective lyrics. In the end, Notorious ensured that Duran Duran maintained a healthy chart presence—but, more important, it showed the band they could continue to find success even while embracing new sounds and styles.

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