Gene van Buren
Gene van Buren's is one of the best kept secrets in black music with his one and only album "What's your pleasure" from 1982. Not very much is known about him or his career. Even though he didn't produce any innovative music it was catchy soul funk of best quality but it never got that attention that it deserves. PSFS is about to change that!
Buren's earlier career before his debut album is totally unknown. He is surely a mystery man in that sense. Even his musical career after the album is very much held in the dark even though a few projects are known.
An impressive line-up!
Sometime in 82 Gene van Buren, or Eugene that was his birth name got a fine contract with the Motown owned Tamla label. The Tamla label was well established at the time with great acts like The Commodores, Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. In December 82 van Buren finally released his debut. One of the most impressive facts was that he wrote all the nine tracks and all the lyrics with just a few exceptions by himself. All the tracks were published by Jobete Music Co.
The vocal arrangements were taken care of by van Buren. When it came to the rhythm arrangements van Buren was assisted by Benjamin F. Wright Jr. that is one of the best in the field. Wright had plenty of knowledge and experience after been working as an arranger with artists like The Gap band, Michael Jackson and Aretha Franklin. Wright did also handle all the string arrangements. The horn arrangements though were taken care of no one less than funk band Ozone!
Except the vocal parts Van Buren also played Acoustic piano. The fellow musicians that worked with the album featured the highly accomplished and prominent session musicians of Michael Boddicker on Jupiter & Synthesizer (had worked with George Benson, Lenny White and The Brothers Johnson among others), Frank "Rusty" Hamilton III on Acoustic piano, Synthesizers, Prophet & Mini Mog and Fender Rhodes, L. Marlo Henderson, Dwight Carol and Charles W. Fearing on Guitars (member of Ray Parker & Raydio), Victor "Wide track" Hill and James Jamerson on bass Guitar (left; legendary Motown bassist that had played with highly regarded names like Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones and Marvin Gaye that sadly passed away just one year after van Buren's release), Michael White (a quite new at the name later to work with acts like Teene Marie, Marcus Miller and Diana Ross) and Leon "Ndugu" Chancler on Drums (had worked with Herbie Hancock, George Duke and Norman Connors) and "Boots" Grey on Percussion. And if that wasn't enough Mr Berry Gordy himself was the executive producer. With this highly impressive line-up of musicians and financial support from the big "dragon" of Motown the playground was set, but was it to produce anything great?
With a voice similar to Glenn Jones, intensive and passionate, van Buren delivered a very strong debut with a mix of soul and funk. Among the fast tracks two fantastic smokers exceeds the rest by a far margin in "Enjoy yourself" and "Rock the house". Two fantastic songs with so much joy presented in a outstanding mix of soul and funk with the main weight laying on the latter. Buren stretches his voice to the very limit of his ability but it never get out of hand. Buren always keeps the harmony in place and he does it in an excellent way. It's just sweet, tasty and indisputably awesome soul funk music that will make anyone happy and filled with a spiritual experience! The rest of the LP also includes dens and funky "Action" and likewise funky "I give you good love" with a touching song effort. Buren also manage to deliver three excellent ballads in "When is my turn" (with a short and blissful Toots Thieleman inspired passage), "I love you more (than I hate what you do)" and "One", all performed with sensitivity and finesse. The rest is competent stuff but don't manage to reach beyond the line of average.
A second release?
After van Buren's debut plans for a second release was put into action. The name was set for "Love never dies" but the efforts stalled on the way and resulted in just one single "You excite me" produced by Michael Stokes and released in 84 on the same label as before. The track is a nice funk/R&B fusion that got some similarities with Rufus classic "Ain't nobody". And as always Buren's powerful and yet sensitive voice once again laid that last brick with an excellent result! Unfortunately this was van Buren's last effort and his potential for something even bigger as solo vocalist ended.
After the album
After the debut album Buren is very hard to find in the music world, he seems almost to disappear completely. I few traces have been found though. The first of them is found in 1987 when Buren performed as background vocalist on Ava Cherry's album "Picture me". After that he performed as vocalist on Boney James excellent jazz funk album "Backbone" in 1993 and as background vocalist in the motion picture soundtrack for "Addams family values" the same year. He can also be heard on albums by the Italian Brenda Doumani and obscure Stacey Q in 1997 (left; that made a fantastic pop boogie track "Don't break my heart" in 1990), Bob Sinclair in 2000, Cerrone in 2002, Bustafunk in 2003 (credited as Bustafunk & Gene Van Buren on the single "Funky cop" that yielded to spot no 91 on the French single top 100) and a handful other less known artist. What he's up to today is unknown but probably its just another project for this brilliant voice.
With just one album it's sad that Buren never came up with a second release as he surly had both the writing and producing skills as well as a powerful and sensitive voice. However the album contains at least two eternal soul funk hits in "Enjoy yourself" and "Rock the house" that Buren generously has given the world, and that's more than many others ever achieve! The album is well worth the money just for the hit tracks but also for the over all very good musical moments. The album is very hard to catch though and if found it often cost 50$ or beyond! We can just hope that Vinyl Masterpiece or anybody else will re-issue the album, it certainly deserve it!
Discography of Gene van Buren
Please click on the image below to see a complete list of the songs.
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