Van Duren "Open Secret"

An album full of simple pleasures made by a pop music veteran, Van Duren. I’ll be quick with the history here, but Van Duren is part of Big Star lore, partnering with Jody Stephens and Chris Bell in 1976. He would have taken Bell’s spot in Big Star if the band had survived. Undaunted he’s been making music over the past 30 years in the Memphis area. His latest “Open Secret” is a collection of sweet pop songs and ballads that make for fine listening. The opener “Stars Inside” has a bit of that Big Star flavor, with hummable melody and guitar strums. Similar to other southern rockers like Mitch Easter or Don Dixon, the earnest vocals come out on “Face to Face Again” where he laments “Children grow up too fast/ All we can do is cast a long shadow.” Like a lot of adult themed pop, the subjects are varied from love, loss and aging. Elements of the title track “Open Secret” are similar to Brian Wilson and Todd Rundgren, with full strings and woodwinds. My favorite here is “Heart Trouble” where he is joined by both Terry Ferguson and Probyn Gregory (Wondermints) with a hook filled guitar melody that inspires. Van Duren is limited a bit by his vocal range, but the instrumentation is pure gold as “At The Lonely Hearts” reminds me of a Hudson Brothers ballad. More Todd comparisons come to mind on the mid tempo songs (“Oh Kay” and “Europe”). The last track “Europe” is also a standout here, with piano and guitar dramatics that bring the album to a fitting finale. Overall, this is a great album that power pop fans are sure to enjoy.

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