It is finally in our hands.
After announcements of dates that then got pushed back, release dates passing with nothing, and - really - years of waiting, the double disc deluxe edition of Duran Duran's 'Rio' is finally here. I am happy to report that the wait was well worth it.
The set is gorgeous. It comes packaged in a mini hardback book style sleeve with each disc getting a pocket to rest in on the front or back "page", if you will. There's a 58-page book that has a very nice essay about the album and its place in time as well as the lyrics to the main album, source lists for the bonus tracks and scads of period pictures, all very stylishly put together matching the theme of the album's artwork. As a tangible artifact, it's a win all around.
How about the music? There's not much point in discussing the album itself - it is amazing and 27 years later stands up as one of the finest albums of its decade, of all time even. The remaster job is very nice - this is easily the best 'Rio' has ever sounded and probably ever will sound given the inherent flaws in the master tape.
That said, the album has a history - probably more so than any album in the pop catalog - of not having a truly "definitive" version. I won't go into all the details here as there is a very thorough documentation of all the various anomalies spread out over various releases of the album here. [Essential reading, by the way.] It hasn't been updated for this new edition, so let's go over what's here as the new go-to version of 'Rio'.
The first 9 tracks on disc 1 claim to be the "original UK album", and as far as I can tell they are. However, that's different than what you're used to if you've spent most of your time with the album listening to the album on CD as all digital copies of the album have an alternate mix of "Hold Back The Rain" from the original UK vinyl. Not having a copy of that to compare to, I can't 100% confirm that that is what we have here, however using the track time and descriptors from the previously mentioned website it appears we finally have the true original version of 'Rio' on CD here for the first time. The biggest difference in "Hold Back The Rain" is this version has more prominent keyboards and less guitar than the CD version and - oddly - sounds closer to the Kershenbaum remix that was prepared for the US LP re-issue. It is also missing the first half of the second verse - "So what if the words ain't rhyming", etc. [That part of the verse appears in the lyric book, though. Hrm.]
Disc one wraps up with the 5 tracks that were remixed for said US LP. Again, details on the site, but this is also the first time that the US LP mixes are together on CD. [I believe they've all been out there on various CD releases over the years, except for "Lonely In Your Nightmare" which makes its CD debut on this package.] Unsurprisingly, the big side-a singles don't get too radically worked over here - a bit of an extension on both and more moans on the fade out of "Hungry Like The Wolf". It is worth noting that this is the version of "Hungry Like The Wolf" from the second US pressing - which is essentially an edit of the Night Version - rather than the longer mix from the more common third pressing. Nice. As for the other tracks, "My Own Way" is the Carnival version and is probably my favorite mix of the song - the album version "punched up for dancing". "Lonely In Your Nightmare" is musically very similar to the original version, however there are a completely new set of lyrics mixed in making this my preferred version. Finally, "Hold Back The Rain" is a nearly 7-minute dance masterpiece. All in all, this is my favorite version of the album and it is very nice to finally have it on disc, free of surface noise from worn out LPs.
Disc two starts with the only truly previously unavailable material - four tracks from the first demo session for the album in August 1981. They sound pretty much like slightly unpolished versions of the songs that made it out - with some very excited to the point of being a bit distracting backing vocals - but are a nice glimpse into the birth of the album. ["My Own Way" does feature an early set of slightly different lyrics.] The next four tracks are non-album material - the original discoed-up version of "My Own Way" and its b-side "Like An Angel" [a great track in its own right but certainly not up to par with the rest of the album], a live version of "Careless Memories" from the "Hungry Like The Wolf" single and the wonderful acoustic version of "The Chauffeur". We round out the set with five extended versions, including the true night version of "Rio" and the Carnival mix of "New Religion" from the Japanese version of the EP. [Either or both might be making their CD debuts here, I'm not sure.] Most of the material on the second disc has been available on the singles box for years, but it's nice to have it all in one place for a mega-'Rio' marathon. Finally, a cute little Christmas message from Simon LeBon hidden away at the end of the final track - an interesting curiosity that they get bonus points for including here. Hooray!
Missing: the 7" and 12" remix of "Hold Back The Rain" from the "Save A Prayer" single which - yes - are different from any of the three mixes included here, and "Rio [Part II]" which was on the UK 12" in place of the Night version.
Off to the internet, there are two digital exclusives for the album that - fortunately - are available for separate purchase. One is the instrumental remix of "My Own Way" from the original Japanese 12" - possibly not available since its original release - and an alternate remix of "Hold Back The Rain" that originally appeared on the 'Strange Behaviour' compilation. Worth the extra purchase. [It is a bit annoying that they're digital only, however, as there was room for at least one of them on the CD itself - both if you didn't include the live version of "Careless Memories" which doesn't really belong anyways.]
Basically, if you're even thinking you might want this, you do. It's the nicest put together deluxe edition I've seen in a while, and it appears that great effort was put into making sure everything they put on here is properly labeled. [With all the minute variations between different versions of the tracks it would've been very easy for their to be errors. There don't appear to be, but not being the world's foremost "Rio"-ologist I'd ask someone to fact check that.] The appearance of the true original version of the album on CD is a huge unexpected plus, as well as having the US mixes all cleaned up and in one place.
By the numbers, you get:
"Rio" - 3 versions
"My Own Way" - 6 versions [one digital]
"Lonely In Your Nightmare" - 2 versions
"Hungry Like The Wolf" - 3 versions
"Hold Back The Rain" - 4 versions [one digital]
"New Religion" - 3 versions
"Last Change On The Stairway" - 2 versions
"Save A Prayer" - 1 version [poor "Save A Prayer" :( ]
"The Chauffeur" - 2 versions
"Like An Angel" - 2 versions
"Careless Memories" - 1 version
This is as close to definitive as it gets, so grab it while you can. Rumor is that more are on the way - I'm already in line for the 2-disc 'Seven And The Ragged Tiger' if that's the case.