Written by 5:10 am Audiophile Music

Waiting: The Van Duren Story Documentary Soundtrack, Review Reveals Royal Pop Riches

Mark Smotroff discovers more great lost pop…

There’s this thing that happens to a lot of us who are into certain bands and artists: an insatiable thirst which takes over one’s logic, driving us to seek out more and more music by those performers. This is usually a pretty satisfying process for established artists (I have hundreds of Duke Ellington recordings and still don’t have them all!).  But what happens when you’ve gone through the catalog of less prolific artists…. so you have the official releases… and the cool live concerts (official or otherwise) … and the outtakes and alternates (thankfully, increasingly more common these days as commercial releases)…. 

What DO you do? 

AR-VanDuren225.jpgWhat happens when you reach that dreaded brick wall which says “end of the line” for this artist’s music?  Well, you can play all your favorite recordings again and again (which isn’t a bad thing really). Or… you can also explore the spin offs of said artist’s work. 

Music can be a bit of a Pandora’s box like that… 

As many a fan of groups like Big Star, The Raspberries and Badfinger know, it can get frustrating when you want to hear more but can’t. There are only technically two Traveling Wilburys albums. There was only one Blind Faith album. Whats a fan to do?  

Well fortunately for fans of Beatle-influenced pop, there are some great options these days with fine music from the disciples of your favorites. Emitt Rhodes’ (aka The One Man Beatles, one of the first to do this sort of thing) catalog was reissued on CD a number of years back and he even put out an album of NEW music, picking up where he left off in 1973 or so (review here).  Beatle-fan-turned-Beatle-producer Jeff Lynne and his new incarnation of The Electric Light Orchestra is back on tour and likely recording new material, carrying the torch of all things post Sgt. Pepper.  XTC — arguable heirs to Englands “fab four” crown — has been reissuing its incredible catalog in high quality analog and digital presentations (200 gram LP, 5.1 surround sound, etc.).  Ireland’s Pugwash has a new album or two out and is bit by bit reissuing its fine fine catalog. So there ARE things out there for the fan of this sort of music. 

AR-VanDurenNeonGLow225.jpgOnce you get in this sort of musical continuum mindset, it gets particularly exciting when you come across an artist that you’ve never heard of before who is making music squarely in that sweet spot you love. Its that special feeeling when you hear new music which fits like a comfortable glove or feels like the presence of an old friend. That’s how it I felt when I discovered groups like Guided by Voices, The Flaming Lips, Radiohead and Pugwash and a recent release called Bird Streets.

And that’s how it feels with this new album from Omnivore Recordings — called Waiting: The Van Duren Story Original Documentary Soundtrack  — from an upcoming film about an artist you probably haven’t heard of before named Van Duren.  I can’t wait to see this film, made by some madly passionate fans from Australia who came to America to track down their hero and his story…. an artist whom they, in fact, discovered while exploring the outer reaches of their other favorite band, Big Star.  

In short, Van Duren played in a band with Chris Bell after he left Big Star and later recorded one of Bell’s songs on his first album. Van Duren put out two albums in the late 1970s both of which went no where commercially yet are revered in certain circles and very difficult to find in original pressings. Van Duren had some serious pop pedigree happening from the start apparently; from the official press release for Waiting: The Van Duren Story Original Documentary Soundtrack  we learn that Van Duren was at the time managed by no less than Andrew Loog Oldham (of Rolling Stones fame)!

What does Van Duren sound like? Well, to the unitiated he’ll sound somewhere between Paul McCartney and Billy Joel but to my ear he sounds more like Emitt Rhodes (who…. well..  sounds kinda like Paul McCartney). So, take that sound and run it through the Big Star power pop blender and then add his own twists, turns and quirks and you have a new batch of music that will fit comfortably in your playlists that include Badfinger, The Flame, The Easy Beats, and early Elvis Costello, Billy Joel and perhaps even Cheap Trick.

AR-VanDurenLP&CD225.jpgI’ve been listening to Waiting: The Van Duren Story Original Documentary Soundtrack a lot and its really a strong collection of should-a-been hits. Its a grower no doubt, which at first play sounds immediately familiar like you might have heard it before but you know you didn’t… yet you keep listening and before long you are at one with its fine melodic lines as they creep into your psyche in the best or ear-worm-ic tradition.  

Some of my favorite songs thus far are the opening track “Grow Yourself Up” — which would have fit neatly on Emitt Rhodes’ first album for Dunhill Records — and “Yellow Light,” a live track which shows that Van Duren had a pretty tight band behind him.  “Andy, Please” is an cool song co-written with Big Star’s Jody Stephens and Van Duren’s version of Chris Bell’s “Make A Scene” (from the I Am The Cosmos album) updates the song with a just a teeny little touch of disco swagger — and it works!   I’m also fond of the two final tracks by Van Duren’s 80s band called Good Question:  “Catcher in the Rain” and “Jane” are fine rock pop songs which could probably be a hit today, and only sound dated due to the prominent “gated snare” drum sound hot in the mix.   

AR-VanDurenNeonGLowYellow225.jpgSo, fret not fans of all things power pop. A fresh new dose of lost rock is coming your way soon from Van Duren via Waiting: The Van Duren Story Original Documentary Soundtrack.  

Can’t wait to see the film now!  You can check out the trailer for it and the album by clicking here.  

Paraphrasing a line from Frank Zappa: “the way I see it, this should be a very dynamite show!”

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