Arcadia So Red the Rose – Special Edition Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Arcadia’s moment in the sun began and ended with Election Day.

Chris Roberts 2010

Simon Le Bon described this as “the most pretentious album ever made”, which only served to further expose his narrow horizons and hidden shallows. With time to kill in 1985 between Duran Duran obligations, Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor formed this splinter group. For all the special pleading and manifestos, they sounded exactly like Duran, despite a roll-call of guests including Grace Jones, Sting, Herbie Hancock, David Gilmour, Bowie guitarist Carlos Alomar and virtuoso bassist Mark Egan.

Shorn of its glittering 1980s context, So Red the Rose plods along – like all Duran-related music – without notable wit, soul or brains, and their eager attempts at funk sound hopelessly white and haplessly overweight. When they try to drift gracefully, like Roxy Music’s Avalon, their arrangements are desperately sucking their waistlines in until the pretty girl has walked by. When they venture tentatively towards Japan’s arty, enigmatic terrain, they soon chicken out, probably wisely. Le Bon’s weedy voice drags everything down.

And yet, somewhat unfairly, these pop chancers came up with one irresistibly great single.  The moonlighting Brummies conjured up Election Day, a slinky ersatz-funk jewel. It’s sharp with hooks and an actual groove. Even if the album then deflates like a saggy balloon, they’ll always have Election Day, the closest they came, under any guise, to sounding sexy. 

Now reissued as a two-CD, one-DVD 25th anniversary package, it may well be, as history has declared, “the best album Duran never made”. (Some might argue for the Power Station project, but it’s a tight, if unimportant, call.)  Despite only reaching 30 in the UK and 23 in the US, this album went platinum. Election Day was one of four singles, which puttered out with diminishing returns: Goodbye Is Forever, The Flame and The Promise are negligible.

Your ears prick up when Jones proffers her stentorian tones, and Egan’s bass burbles are so lively that you think, “Well, that’s certainly not one of Duran...” Umpteen remixes, edits and videos are included for those of you who are just weird, but Arcadia’s moment in the sun began and ended with Election Day.

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