Any Such Thing
3 out of 5 stars
It’s impossible to listen to Vicki Loveland and Van Duren’s third album as Loveland Duran and not hear how the Memphis duo infuses their hometown’s sound into the music.
From recording some of these soulful slices at the city’s legendary Royal and Ardent studios to the horns that embellish a few tracks and contributions from Hi Rhythm Section icon Charles Hodges on B3, Memphis is referenced somewhere on the majority of these ten selections.
Those hoping to get an updated dose of Van Duren’s Badfinger-styled pop that made his 1977 debut such a sought-after rarity should know that this is far more of a Vicki Loveland showcase. She pens all the material and sings lead on most, leaving Duren to support instrumentally on guitars, some keyboards, and vocals.
The album was recorded and overdubbed in fits and starts, as many have been when caught up in various pandemic frustrations. That may account for the diversity of sounds for these well-crafted, tight, and hummable pop tunes. A few seem perfect for radio play if any stations actually featured this type of organic, melodic music anymore.
Tracks like the flowing “Bridges I Had to Burn,” the taut, horn propelled thumping of the overtly political “A Place of No Place” (You’re keeping children in cages/Doubling down on your hateful speech doesn’t hide its vitriol) and “Ain’t It Pretty to Think So,” which sounds like a slice of ’70s Doobie Brothers feel-good rocking, dominate the program.
There is some socio-political input on “Everyone is Out of Tune” as Duren sings We’re taking sides/No collaboration/No compromise/Only dissonant conversation on a slice of Hall & Oates-inflected blue-eyed soul. The twosome trade verses on the opening “Tumbledown Hearts,” the disc’s purest, radio-ready moment with a potent Van Duren guitar solo bridging a chorus you’ll be singing after the first spin.
They misstep though by bringing in a string quartet with French horn to gussy up “Funny Way of Showing It,” an awkward tune whose clunky lyrics (Can I pay off your loans/Or let you wipe your feet on me) sound even less convincing without a passable melody to hang them on. The closing ballad “Ending Again” gets a little schlocky but is saved by the duo’s heartfelt harmony vocals.
Still, Loveland Duren is a solid pop pairing. Perhaps more of the latter’s songwriting input would improve the collaborative whole, but this remains a generally enjoyable listen whose high points more than offset the low ones.