Monday, January 16, 2006

Are you serious?

OK, this is a good record. I want to say that up front because now I’m going to say that it isn’t all that great. Most of the reviews I’ve seen compare ARE YOU SERIOUS? to Big Star's RADIO CITY. Some go as far as saying it's the second best power pop LP of the seventies. Nope. Sure, Van Duren is from Memphis but that alone doesn’t make this record better than any of the other power pop records that came out in the seventies. There some moments that really do sound like Big Star but that’s understandable. Van Duren had been playing in bands with Chris Bell and Jody Stephens and auditioned for Big Star in the last days of that band.

But like I said, this is a good record. Several of the songs are shoulda-been-a-hit great. The record did get some airplay in 1977 but I guess it wasn’t enough. The record was recorded while Duren was living in NYC. The record came out on Jon Tiven’s Big Sound label, maybe they couldn’t get the record into stores. The album was released in Europe under the name STARING AT THE CEILING. Oh yeah, the cover has the same problem that a lot of mid seventies LP covers had. It’s ugly.

After ARE YOU SERIOUS?, Van Duren recorded another LP (that wasn’t released until 2003) called IDIOT OPTIMISM. Then he moved back to Memphis and spent years playing in a popular Memphis band called Good Question. That band broke up in 1999 and Duren formed a band with another Memphis legend named Tommy Hoehn. He has also recorded a third solo LP that was released in 2005.

Lucky Seven Records has announced that they will be re-issuing ARE YOU SERIOUS? this spring.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing that you would cover this - and in such depth! Van Duren was pretty good. He just couldn't catch a break.

17/1/06 5:40 PM  
Blogger KS said...


I'm surprised Van Duren isn't better known down here. He's been playing for 25 years.

17/1/06 9:07 PM  
Blogger Collin said...

I really adore 'Oh Babe' from that album. Searing hot guitar. The Wedding Song is also good. It's strange though - Jon Tiven works so well within the framework of a group or backing band (Prix, Alex Chilton, Van Duren) and yet is abysmal on his own (see the Yankees).

18/1/06 9:41 AM  

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