Title - 'Are You Serious?' + 'Idiot Optimism'
Artist - Van Duren
For those not in the know, a Memphis pop icon, Van Duren was not only a contemporary of Big Star, but also played with that band’s alumni Chris Bell and Jody Stephens in the Baker Street Regulars, in 1976.
As a solo artist he was managed by Andrew Loog Oldham (The Rolling Stones) and his 1978 debut album, Are You Serious?, found folks comparing him to artists like Todd Rundgren and Paul McCartney.
He recorded a second album that was shelved and, 20 years later, released without his involvement. Now, and thanks to the acclaimed 2018 documentary film Waiting: The Van Duren Story and its soundtrack, many have recently encountered Van Duren for the first time, while those who knew of him discovered what became of him.
Now, both Are You Serious? and Idiot Optimism will be available on CD, LP, Limited-Edition Colored Vinyl, and (for the first time) Digital (October 30th, 2020 via Omnivore Recordings), with liner notes by the artist himself.
Up first is Are You Serious?, which features thirteen originals written by Duren (with Jody Stephens being the only co-writer on one track).
Complete with packaging featuring new liner notes from Van and previously unseen photos, it’s time to get serious about the album that has had collectors searching high and low for a copy for years!
Are You Serious?
1. 'Chemical Fire'
2. 'This Love Inside'
3. 'Oh Babe'
5. 'Grow Yourself Up'
7. 'Positive (Wedding Song)'
8. 'New Year's Eve'
9. 'So Good To Me (For The Time Being)'
10. 'Yellow Light'
11. 'For A While
12. 'Stupid Enough'
13. 'The Love That I Love'
Opening with the drum-led AOR rocker 'Chemical Fire,' that's backed up seamlessly by the gentle guitar fest 'This Love Inside,' the mid-tempo, foot-tappin' 'Oh Babe' following along next.
The dulcet beauty of the piano piece 'Waiting' is simply a beautiful ballad to behold in these crazy times, and that's followed by the Beatles-esque 'Grow Yourself Up,' the soft guitar work of 'Guaranteed,' and then soothing piano ballad 'Positive (Wedding Song)' is brought forth.
Next up is the Wings-esque 'New Year's Eve' which is backed by the euphonious 'So Good To Me (For The Time Being),' his interestingly intro'd AOR take on the nightly news, 'Yellow Light,' rounding out on the playful 'For A While,' the beautifully all-embracing 'Stupid Enough,' closing on the acoustic guitar work of the transcending stellar ballad 'The Love That I Love.'
Official Are You Serious? Purchase Link
After the release of Are You Serious?, Van Duren immediately returned to the studio—recording 14 tracks (one being a medley of two songs) that rivaled his tremendous debut.
But, the album was shelved and didn’t see the light of day for two decades, when inexplicably, it was released in Japan without any input from the artist.
The story is chronicled in the acclaimed documentary Waiting: The Van Duren Story. Now, at long last—Idiot Optimism returns on CD as Van originally intended it to look and sound (plus, it makes its first-ever appearance on double vinyl and Digital).
With full creative control from Duren, this reissue of Idiot Optimism is packaged with new art, liners from Van outlining the story of the album, and many previously unseen photos.
It features 14 originals and a cover of Chris Bell’s (Big Star) 'Make A Scene,' and with this new edition having been remastered from the original analog tapes, Idiot Optimism has never looked nor sounded better.
1. 'Bear With Me All The Way'
2. 'Make A Scene'
3. 'Tennessee, I'm Trying'
4. 'Convincing Convictions'
6. 'Life In Layers'
7. 'What's Keeping You?'
8. 'Torn In Half'
9. 'Hand Over Hand'
10. 'Andy, Please'
11. 'Woman Needs Man Needs Woman'
12. 'Mabel (I'm Amazed)'
13. 'Reminds Me Of Me'
14. 'Medley: Love At The Heart Of It / Mad At The Moon'
This brilliant sophomore album opens with the foot-pumpin' and vocal elegance of 'Bear With Me All The Way' and the free flowing 'Make A Scene,' before giving us the mellow mid-tempo groover 'Tennessee, I'm Trying,' and the low slung guitar work of 'Convincing Convictions.'
Next up is the bouncy, '70s pop vibe of 'That' which is followed by the drum-led rocker 'Life In Layers,' the piano ballad masterpiece 'What's Keeping You?,' the euphoric, high flying ambiance of 'Torn In Half' and then the Jon Anderson, prog-esque wonderment of 'Hand Over Hand' is brought out to play.
A melodic ease is found within 'Andy, Please,' which is backed by the foot-tapper 'Woman Needs Man Needs Woman,' with the album rounding out with the Paul McCartney-esque (I mean, come on, just look at the reworked title!) 'Mabel (I'm Amazed),' the majestic guitar work of 'Reminds Me Of Me,' closing on the brilliantly heartwarming sounds and melodies within the 'Medley: Love At The Heart Of It / Mad At The Moon.'
Official Idiot Optimism Purchase Link
Duren explains, “After the unexpected success of my first album, Are You Serious? and the wild tour that followed its release in 1978, the label asked for a second album."
"I took over the role of producer/ringmaster as we began recording in early autumn ’78. Working now and then over the next 16 months, the album was completed in early 1980, a collection of 15 songs I dubbed Idiot Optimism."
"The new songs shifted from the solo multi-instrumentalist thing to a more ‘live band’ approach. Progressive pop rock with some R&B edge."
"After a huge dispute with the label, the album was shelved and I walked away. It was finally issued on CD by Japan’s Airmail Recordings in 1999 (although the mastering — from the former label — was not great)."
"Now remastered from the original mixes, the album shines like never before. Forty years on, I still consider Idiot Optimism to be right at the top of my discography."
"And through the magical powers of the good folks at Omnivore Recordings, this album and the first, Are You Serious? have not only been restored but improved upon, with top-notch mastering and terrific packages that truly enhance the listening experience. Turn it up!”
Omnivore Van Duren Reissues Trailer/a>