Based on a positive review I bought the debut album by a new phenomenon. Van Hunt could do it all: he wrote, played and sang everything and was heavily involved with all other business surrounding his persona. Naturally I was intrigued. Fifteen years old already, Van Hunt.
Van Hunt was born on March 8th, 1970 in Dayton, Ohio, a well-known area among funk lovers. At the early age of 7 he started learning to play instruments: drums, saxophone, bass, keyboards and guitar (in that order). In 1996 he ended up in Atlanta, Georgia as a student of English, but dropped out. To make a living he started producing hip-hop demo’s for local rappers. As a producer he met the likes of Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri and TLC, who were all just starting their careers.
In 1997 he wrote and co-produced the song Hopeless for Dionne Farris (of Arrested Development fame) and became a part of her (live) band. Next he wrote with Rahsaan Patterson on Patterson’s album Love in Stereo.
In 2000 Hunt recorded a couple of his songs, which ultimately ended up at Capitol Records. In 2001 Hunt signed to the label. Three years later his first album was released.
On February 24th, 2004, Van Hunt’s debut album was released. The album wasn’t titled thus it was named Van Hunt. The album was hailed as a timeless soul classic by a talent, who wasn’t particularly innovative, but was original, sincere and represented hope for the soul/neo-soul genre, that had dozed off again after the ‘Soulquarians’ revolution.
The fact that Van Hunt could (and did) do it all by himself was something that appealed to me greatly. Just like D’Angelo and (of course) Prince, Van Hunt seemed to be a multi talent who went his own way and held a big promise. And, Van Hunt moved around in a musical spectrum that is irresistible to me: the combination of pop, soul, funk, gospel and rock.
The album was recorded in Los Angeles and Nashville. Self-assured, Hunt went to work and created an album bursting with quality, musicality and good songs. It is dedicated “to the pimps, ho’s and hustlers for whom I strive to provide background music”, but the album has little to do with the image the statement evokes. It is subtle, full of real emotion, and has an undeniable 1970’s vibe.
I bought the album based on a single good review. Curiosity got the better of me. I played the album many times. I still think it’s a fine album, even though I regard the following Van Hunt albums even higher. This album is far removed from where Van Hunt is right now, but it’s still better than everything else that came out of that year. Highly recommended.
Songs marked with a * written by Van Hunt and Curtis Whitehead. All other songs written by Van Hunt.
- Seconds Of Pleasure
- Hello, Goodbye *
- Down Here (In Hell With You)
- What Can I Say (For Millicent)
- Anything (To Get Your Attention) *
- Her December
- Hold My Hand *
- Who Will Love Me In Winter
- Out Of The Sky *
- Van Hunt – vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, piano
- Jermaine Rand, Chris Whitehead, Wendy Melvoin – guitar
- Terry McMillen – harmonica
- Daryl Richards, Curtis Whitehead – saxophone
- Nolan Smith – trumpet
- Isaac Curtis – trombone
- Truth – piano, Moog synthesizer
- Dwight Farrell – celeste (a kind of glockenspiel)
- Patrick Warren – Mellotron
- Larry James, Nick Northern – drums, percussion
- Amy White, Nick Northern, Ta Ta – background vocals
Prince often used the phrase ‘Produced, arranged, composed and performed by’ on his albums. Van Hunt could have done this on his debut album as well.
Three singles were culled from the album: Down Here in Hell (With You), Dust and Seconds of Pleasure. Dust was nominated for a Grammy for Best Urban/Alternative Performance in 2005.
After Van Hunt
In 2006 the second album On The Jungle Floor was released, which contained a remarkable cover of The Stooges’ No Sense of Crime. In 2007 Hunt, with John Legend and Joss Stone, won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for their cover of Sly & The Family Stone’s Family Affair, which was part of the fantastic 2006 Sly Stone tribute album Different Strokes by Different Folks.
In 2007 Hunt released the EP The Popular Machine and announced the release of his new album, Popular, that was to be released on Blue Note Records, January 16th, 2008. Hunt’s contract to Capitol was transferred to Blue Note when record company EMI (which owned Capitol) collapsed. Midway December 2007 Blue Note announced they wouldn’t release the album and the contract with Hunt was annulled. In January 2008 Hunt said he didn’t know whether Popular could ever be released, because Blue Note owned the master recordings and weren’t willing to sell them to Hunt at a fair price. Hunt was “devastated”. Ten years later, August 2017, Popular was released on various streaming services.
Without a contract, Hunt released Use In Case Of Emergency, a collections of demos, remixes and B-sides, in 2009. Two years later, this was followed by What Were You Hoping For?. Using public funding site PledgeMusic the next album was financed and released in 2015: the genius The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets.
The music Hunt released after his debut is even more impressive. The last two albums are spectacularly good and come highly recommended for anyone who loves soul, funk, R&B and rock.
Wh do you think of Van Hunt the artist, Van Hunt the album and the follow-ups? Let me know!
Van Hunt image: freshtix.com
Van Hunt – Van Hunt image: dj.polishedsolid.com
Van Hunt – Van Hunt – Singles image: discogs.com