Whole Oats (1972)
I'm Sorry/All Our Love/Georgie/Fall In Philadelphia/Waterwheel/Lazyman/Good Night And Good Morning/They Needed Each Other/Southeast City Window/Thank You For..../Lilly (Are You Happy)
This was the very first album from Daryl Hall & John Oates, dating from 1972. They had been knocking around various Philadelphia soul groups until hooking up with veteran soul producer Arif Mardin and launching their career as a pair of retro soul/r 'n' b artists. It has been all but forgotten in later years.
I'm Sorry is an appealing, rhythmic and soulful opener with a bit of a country-style twangy guitar featuring over its Philly soul backing. The pair's rock 'n' roll-influence vocal harmonies are heard here for the first time near the end of the track. I am surprised this wasn't a hit. It is the album's best track, by far and should always be included on a "Best Of" collection, but invariably never is. All Our Love is a very typically early seventies serving of acoustic, country rock, full of breezy lightness. It was 1972 after all. Georgie is a melancholy folky acoustic song that breaks out with some big string arrangements half way through. It is similar to some of The Beach Boys' early seventies stuff.
Fall In Philadelphia is so very early seventies Elton John/Bernie Taupin it could almost be from Tumbleweed Connection or Honky Château. Check out the guitar/piano break in the middle for proof. Whatever, it is fine track. Nice brass on it too. Waterwheel is a gentle, piano ballad that sounds a bit like something Clifford T. Ward might have done, or Bread. Lazyman continues in the same laid-back piano-backed style. The album had got into a bit of a rut at this point with these type of tracks. However, this is dealt with by the pleasant soul/rock sound of Good Night And Good Morning, which was another understated but confident gem of a song.
The ambience dips back into sleepiness with the quiet, again Elton John-esque They Needed Each Other. It sounds like a cut from 1970's Elton John album. Southeast City Window is in the same vein too, a bit more country-ish, CSNY-style, this time. Both John Oates' tender, Paul Simon-ish Thank You For... and the reflective Lilly (Are You Happy) see the album finish in low-key fashion.
The album was a mixture of attractive white soul and low-key, quiet piano ballads. The latter were no doubt influenced by the contemporary country rock boom. The best cuts were the three upbeat soul ones, however, and it was in this direction that the pair progressed. It would be nearly ten years before they broke completely big, though.
Abandoned Luncheonette (1973)
When The Morning Comes/Had I Known You Better Then/Las Vegas Turnaround ( The Stewardess Song)/She's Gone/I'm Just A Kid (Don't Make Me Feel Like A Man)/Abandoned Luncheonette/Lady Rain/Laughing Boy/Every Time I Look At You
Released in 1973, this was Daryl Hall & John Oates' second album and it is a very chilled-out, sleepy serving of soft soul/rock. It doesn't have the blatant poppiness of their later, chart-successful material and is an immaculately-played, low-key, nicely-crafted album. It doesn't really fit into any genre, however, certainly not in 1973. In many ways, it was considerably ahead of its time - amid all that stomping glam rock, street funk and bluesy heavy rock it was mature, soulful fare, rarely getting above walking pace.
When The Morning Comes is an acoustic-driven, slow, melodic shuffler of a song, featuring some excellent harmonies and falsetto vocals. It is all very laid-back, summery and easy on the ear. Even more tranquil is the Simon & Garfunkel-esque Had I Known You Better Then. Many years later, Wet Wet Wet would release lots of stuff in this style. Marti Pellow was surely influenced by the vocals on here. Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song) is similarly relaxing - a tale about an air hostess flying gamblers in and out of Las Vegas.
She's Gone, with its beautifully insistent yet quiet intro vocal part became a big hit in a couple of years' time, following on from Sara Smile. It is a superb, evocative song, enhanced by a great saxophone solo and outstanding vocals that let the world know that these two had something. The guitar and bass build up to the final chorus is great too. I'm Just A Kid (Don't Make Me Feel Like A Man) is a gentle acoustic song, with echoes of Bread and Clifford T. Ward.
Abandoned Luncheonette is tuneful and almost jazzy, but still very laid-back, it sounds to me like the sort of thing Supertramp would do in the late seventies, particularly with its wry, witty lyrics as well as its vaguely proggy, changeable music. Lady Rain has a subtly infectious rhythm to it but, once again, it is a very quiet, reflective song. There is something of Steely Dan about this one. It also has a fine electric violin solo that could almost be Steeleye Span. It morphs into the Billy Joel-ish, piano-driven Laughing Boy.
The final track, Every Time I Look At You, is a lengthy, funky workout that is slightly different to the rest of the album, featuring some slow-paced, addictive wah-wah guitar. Again, it reminds me a bit of Steely Dan, particularly the wah-wah solo. By the end of the track it has developed into a frenetic country rock hoedown that forms the only really upbeat part of the album.
Overall, this is an interesting and intriguing album and one that is considerably different in ambience to the duo's more popular, better-known work. It is a bit of a hidden treasure.
War Babies (1974)
Can't Stop The Music (He Played It Much Too Long)/Is It A Star/Beanie G & The Rose Tattoo/You're Much Too Soon/70s Scenario/War Baby Son Of Zorro/I'm Watching You (A Mutant Romance)/Better Watch Your Back/Screaming Through December/Johnny Gore & The "C" Eaters
After the laid-back, understated soulfulness of Abandoned Luncheonette, Daryl Hall & John Oates employed Todd Rundgren as the producer of this far more rock-orientated album, full of odd song titles, from 1974. It was one that alienated some of their new-found blue-eyed soul fans. There is nothing like She’s Gone on here, for example. It is a bit weird, let's be honest, lyrically and musically, in places, and Rundgren made a bit of a hash of the production, sonically, with its often harsh, grating soundscape. The previous album had a much better, warmer sound.
Can't Stop The Music (He Played It Much Too Long) is actually quite soulfully funky in its rhythmic percussion, guitar and infectious bass line and it is quite an adventurous, innovative number. It is certainly pretty unique stuff for 1974. Is It A Star continues in a laid-back, melodic funk/rock groove but it also contains some seriously fuzzy guitar and swirling, proggy synthesiser. It actually ends up as quite a heavy workout, but freaky too, man. The vocals are great too, almost Earth, Wind & Fire-esque. There is something about this material that requires several listens, actually. It is somewhat difficult to categorise, which adds to its mystery.
Beanie G & The Rose Tattoo is a strange piece of white funk with proggy aspects and some searing guitar parts. The production lets the song down a bit, though. You’re Much Too Soon is closer to the vibe of the previous album, while 70s Scenario has that piano-driven Billy Joel feeling that the pair often conjured up. Daryl Hall’s vocal is excellent on this one. Once more, by the end of the track it has gone into seriously buzzy guitar rock. That sound is also on War Baby Son Of Zorro, a weirdly-titled swirly piece of seventies rock. Again, I have to say that the sound is dreadful.
I'm Watching You (A Mutant Romance) tries to be a bit spacey in its lyrics about a TV beam. Its sound is very early seventies Elton John-influenced. Better Watch Your Back is one of the album’s better tracks with a great, deep bass line snd a catchy rhythm. Screaming Through December is a grandiose, piano and organ ballad that probably not quite as good as it wants to be, if you understand me. There are fine moments in it, every now and then, however and one of these comes half way through when it suddenly morphs into a vibrant slice of jazzy funk. Johnny Gore & The "C" Eaters sounds like something from a T. Rex album from the same era. It rocks as hard as anything the pair ever did, almost punky in its aural, riffy attack.
This was a total oddball of an album, to be fair, and is probably left back in the past, despite some of its admittedly quirky appeal. None of its tracks every appear on compilations, perhaps unsurprisingly. You do have to wonder what H & O were thinking of. At times it is enticingly bonkers, though. Give it a listen and try to make sense of it.
Daryl Hall & John Oates (1975)
Camellia/Sara Smile/Alone Too Long/Out Of Me, Out Of You/Nothing At All/Gino (The Manager)/(You Know) It Doesn't Matter Anymore/Ennui On The Mountain/Grounds For Separation/Soldering
After 1973’s impressive Abandoned Luncheonette, 1974’s War Babies was a bizarre album - poor-sounding, experimental, indulgent and often irritating but this saw Hall & Oates getting back on track. They were now signed to RCA Records from Atlantic. Appearing in full make-up on the cover was an odd move, though. It seemed totally incongruous and, in John Oates’ case, ludicrous. That moustache gave it away.
Camellia is a welcome return to harmonious, melodic West Coast-ish soft rock. This was what the pair did best, I have to say, compared to the proggy, spacey madness of the previous album. Sara Smile, which was a big hit, was one of a number of tracks written with Daryl Hall’s lover Sara Allen in mind and is beautifully tuneful and seductively soulful. Sara Allen often co-wrote the group's songs, but not this one, as it is about her. The same can be said of the sumptuous strains of Alone Too Long. Out Of Me, Out Of You features some superb falsetto vocals from Hall and an infectious backing.
Nothing At All has a delicious, low-key bass intro similar to that which was used so effectively on She's Gone, and when the vocals arrive the slick, polished ambience is continued. There was often a lot of Billy Joel to be heard in Hall & Oates' music in the mid-late seventies and it can be found here on Gino (The Messenger), that sort of staccato beat and lyrical smartness. (You Know) It Doesn't Matter Anymore is another sumptuous falsetto-led sweetly soulful and melodic ballad. This sort of thing is rapidly becoming par for the course for this album. Ennui On The Mountain ups the tempo a bit, but in a punchy, vaguely Stax-ish soul fashion. It is a fine, infectious, brass number.
The Billy Joel vibe is definitely back on the muscular stomp of Grounds For Separation. Soldering (as in melting metal) has a summery, reggae-tinge to it, and features John Oates on deeper lead vocals. "Soldering is what the young girl wants..." says the lyrics, perplexingly. As white cod-reggae goes, it is ok.
This album pretty much consolidated the pair's sound for the next few years and it would be continued on the impressive Bigger Than Both Of Us in the following year.
** There were two convincing non-album tracks from this period too. Hall is back on the lush What's Important To Me and Oates dominates things for the most part (Hall joins in near the end) on the equally pleasant Ice.
Bigger Than Both Of Us (1976)
Back Together Again/Rich Girl/Crazy Eyes/Do What You Want, Be What You Are/Kerry/London, Luck & Love/Room To Breathe/You'll Never Learn/Falling
This album, from 1976, immediately showcases a lively, punchy approach. Back Together Again is a muscular, staccato piece of rock/soul, full of saxophone, pounding drums and soulful vocals. The album's big hit was the sumptuous, infectious singalong Rich Girl. After Sara Smile and She's Gone, this, along with the previous album too, helped to cement Hall & Oates' reputation as a credible rock/soul/AOR outfit.
Crazy Eyes is an appealing bassy and vaguely funky number that shows off some delicious harmonies from the pair. This is really good stuff and easily the equal, if not the superior to the material in the mid-eighties that was so successful which the public. In many ways, this earlier, lesser-known stuff is much better. It is very 1976, providing a bridge between Billy Joel and Steely Dan and is far more credible than it was ever given credit for being.
The slow, late-night soul of Do What You Want, Be What You Are was covered by The Dramatics in 1979. It shows perfectly that H & O knew their soul. It has a slow Memphis/Stax dignity to it, a bit like When Something Is Wrong With My Baby. Kerry is a Billy Joel-ish number. In the late seventies I had a girlfriend called Kerry and never knew this song existed, having searched far and wide for a song that mentioned her name. A pity I couldn't find this great song to serenade her with. I would have loved this at the time.
London, Luck & Love is a beguiling, late sixties-ish song expressing the call of London to a pair of artists well-versed in popular music history. Room To Breathe is one of the rockiest things they ever did - sort of Rolling Stones meets Elton John in a glorious, raucous mid-seventies thrash. You'll Never Learn is also very Elton John-influenced, in that sort of chugging, vaguely bluesy chunky slow rock style. Falling is a bit Billy Joel-esque, once again, in its big, dignified rock ballad ambience. It ends with some proggy, typically mid-seventies synthesiser.
This was a really good album, and a surprisingly rock-influenced one, but one very much of its time, but none the worse for it.
Beauty On A Back Street (1977)
Don't Change/Why Do Lovers Break Each Other's Hearts/You Must Be Good For Something/The Emptiness/Love Hurts (Love Heals)/Bigger Than Both Of Us/Bad Habits And Infections/Winged Bull/The Girl Who Used To Be
From 1977, Hall & Oates were following a familiar pattern by now and subtly preparing their sound for larger arenas and stadiums. Big rock/soul was the order of the day - forget the fact that punk was gnashing its teeth all around them. Listening to this you would have thought punk never happened.
Don't Change is a solid serving of adult-oriented rock with a soul edge to it. It is what you expect from Hall & Oates by now - fine, soulful vocal harmonies, nice bass, chunky drums and muscular rock guitar. The classic Why Do Lovers Break Each Other's Hearts is covered inventively, concentrating on H & O's strengths to make it their own, as opposed to covering it doo-wop straight. There's a great guitar solo in it too.
You Must Be Good For Something is a chunky, riffy rock number. As often with the group, the Billy Joel influence is present. The handclapping part is slightly new wave too. The Emptiness is a slow, low-key ballad that also still finds space for the trademark big, grandiose breaks. Check out that guitar solo too. Love Hurts (Love Heals) is a nice, mid-pace saxophone-enhanced song.
Bigger Than Both Of Us was, strangely, the title of their previous album but it appears here as a track. It is a typically orchestrated, lush big soul/rock ballad, full of synthesiser breaks. All very end of the seventies. It is still a good track though. They had a sort of unique sound, really, that no-one else did, if that doesn't sound too stupidly obvious.
Bad Habits And Infections is a six minute-plus chugging rocker featuring lots of riffs and some convincing rock vocals. It is a bit prog-rock in its lengthiness and changes of pace and melody. it ends with an odd bit of vocal, Hall proclaiming that "I am the doctor" in increasingly crazed fashion. The track sits rather incongruously with the rest of album, it is not polished soul/rock, that's for sure. Winged Bull actually also has a bit of a proggy, swirling rock feel to it as well. I have a vague memory of this track from back in 1977 for some reason, but I have no idea where I heard it. I didn't have the album at the time. the final track, The Girl Who Used To Be is also a bit of a mysterious number - this time a slow, gentle, almost sleepy ballad.
Overall, this was largely a soul/rock offering with vague proggy hints here and there, particularly at the end of the album. It has a nice, warm sound quality to it and I guess it is very much of its time, but there's nothing wrong with that is there, 1977 had all sorts of great music on offer. That is from an old punk too.
Along The Red Ledge (1978)
It's A Laugh/Melody For A Memory/The Last Time/I Don't Wanna Lose You/Have I Been Away Too Long/Alley Katz/Don't Blame It On Love/Serious Music/Pleasure Beach/August Day
This album, from 1978, initially continued in the polished, Philly soul-influenced feel that had characterised the previous two releases. Although rock guitars and drums are used, they never completely drown the soul ambience, which was something that made Hall & Oates comparatively on their own, genre-wise, difficult to properly pigeonhole. As with the previous album, the existence of punk and new wave at the same time seemed not to matter in the slightest, especially at the beginning of the album, but having said that, the pair attempt to rock pretty hard on the second half of the album, but, as with most of the similar efforts from other artists around the same time, it sounds somewhat contrived and clumsy and they really didn't need to do it. Stick to what you're good at, lads.
It's A Laugh is a catchy, mid-pace soulful piece of harmonious soft rock. Melody For A Memory is slow and soully, but also containing that big production sound that the pair were now specialising in. The vocal interaction between the two is superb as is the guitar solo half way through. The Last Time starts with a Be My Baby/Don't Worry Baby drum beat and continues as a sort of vocal homage to The Ronettes and The Beach Boys. Daryl Hall loved his classic soul/rock 'n' roll and it often showed on tribute tracks drenched in nostalgia like this one. Tribute or not, it is a really good song. I love it. Incidentally, George Harrison plays guitar on it too.
I Don't Wanna Lose You has pure Philly style strings, excellent vocals and real seventies soul feel to it, complete with a bit of jazzy saxophone. It reminds me in places of Elton John's Philadelphia Freedom - the strings, the drums and some of the vocals. Have I Been Away Too Long is a slow ballad with a Harold Melvin meets Billy Joel feel to it. Hall's falsetto vocal is sublime here. A nice track.
The old "side two" saw the pair making their slight nod to punk and rocking out on a track like the riffy, grinding rock of Alley Katz. While enjoyable, it was pretty unconvincing, and nowhere near up to the retro-soul high standard of "side one". The rock continues on the chunky riffs of Don't Blame It On Love, which is a sort of stadium-ish rocker. Riffage continues on The Stones/early Mott The Hoople vibe of Serious Music. I am enjoying these upbeat cuts, but I have to admit that they haven't really aged well in comparison the the pair's soul/rock material, which remains pretty timeless.
Pleasure Beach starts as a Beach Boys-ish slow number before it breaks out into a Ramones-influenced thrash full of handclappy drums, crazed guitars, fairground organ and screeching backing vocals. It is so bonkers I actually quite like it. The pace finally reverts to normal on the closer, August Day, which is a laid-back, sleepy, almost jazzy number with some nice Stevie Wonder-esque harmonica.
It is a bit of a strange album, this one, very much one of two halves to probably be best enjoyed separately.
The Woman Comes And Goes/Wait For Me/Portable Radio/All You Want Is Heaven/Who Said The World Was Fair/Running From Paradise/Number One/Bebop Drop/Hallafon/Intravino
I have seen this described as Hall & Oates' "disco album", after all, they were all doing it in 1979, weren't they? Elton John, Rod Stewart, The Stones, ABBA, even Jackson Browne - they all got their big collars and dancing shoes out. This does have several contemporary nods to disco but it also has a couple of pretty archetypal Hall & Oates rock/soul offerings at the outset. Overall, though, I guess a considerable amount of diversification took place on this one.
From the intro, I would have sworn The Woman Comes And Goes was Billy Joel, from the lyrics and the atmosphere too. It is great rock track with a stonking saxophone solo too. Wait For Me is typical Hall & Oates soft soul/rock with a sumptuous catchy chorus. It is one of their best tracks, for me, showcasing them at their best. These first two are probably the two best ones on the album. Portable Radio has a synthesised disco beat and some funky, disco guitar. It has a singalong rocking chorus, some great guitar and an infectious rumbling dance-ish bass line. I actually really like it, the groove is disco and rock all at once. I have a memory of this track from back in 1979, I think a girlfriend liked it.
All You Want Is Heaven is also a killer of a song, with lots of very late seventies clunking piano and power chords. Yes, it is very much of its time but I cannot help but like it, a bit like The Electric Light Orchestra from the same period. Despite my punk credentials, stuff like this was my guilty secret. More now than then, though, I have to admit.
Who Said The World Was Fair sees a return to upbeat disco rhythms on a track full of chicka-chicka disco guitars, pumping synthesiser and another infectious chorus. A slightly less frantic but still seductively appealing disco rock beat is found on Running From Paradise, complete with some Level 42-style slap-bass. I like the riffy guitar interjections too. Number One is a pretty convincing stab at a dubby reggae beat that fits well into the mood of 1979. Bebop Drop is a rocking number with a disco-style melody to it.
Hallafon is a brief synthy instrumental that leads into the equally synth-driven and frantic Intravino that mixed electro pop with new wave. Despite some disparaging reviews floating around, this was actually quite a brave attempt at creating a contemporaneously relevant record. It deserves some credit for that and the fact that it is eminently listenable. You know, I really like it.
The two non-album tracks are the disco pop of Times Up (Alone Tonight) and a very new wave-ish number that has echoes of Joe Jackson and The Police in No Brain No Pain. Both are pretty good, especially the latter.
How Does It feel To Be Back/Big Kids/United State/Hard To Be In Love With You/Kiss On My List/Gotta Love Nerve (Perfect Perfect)/You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling/You Make My Dreams/Every Time You Go Away/Africa/Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear The Voices)
This was Daryl Hall & John Oates, in 1980, diversifying strongly into the popular, catchy new wave sounds of the time. It is possibly their strongest album to date and gained them many new fans as they stood on the edge of around four really successful years. New wave, blue-eyed soul, dance-ish pop and doo-wop are all explored in this fine offering.
How Does It Feel To Be Back is a sort of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers meets The Searchers jangly but solid rocker, with Daryl Hall sounding like Petty for all he's worth. It has a real new wave rock feel to it. the jerky rhythms of Big Kids have a real Elvis Costello & The Attractions/Nick Lowe sound with hints of early Joe Jackson. The new wave vibe is continued on The Police/Jags/Vapors rocking groove of United State.
Hard To Be In Love With You is a bit more similar to the pair's traditional rock/soul sound bit still also has that new wave sound to it. Kiss On My List is an incredibly infectious serving of soul/pop/soft rock and for many, myself included, was their first true memory of a Hall & Oates hit single. Yes, I knew She's Gone and Rich Girl but this was the one that was suddenly all over the radio. More importantly, girls loved it, so it was a handy song to say you liked. Claiming to like Hall & Oates got you a long way in 1980, believe me, I was that lucky young man.
The jaunty Gotta Love Nerve (Perfect Perfect) is vaguely Prince-esque with hints of The Police's non-Sting material or maybe even The Boomtown Rats. Hall's lead vocal sounds quite Geldof-influenced. The beat also reminds me of Lene Lovich's quirky one-off hit Lucky Number.
The pair's cover of The Righteous Brothers' classic You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling would seem to be tailor-made for them and they do it full justice. The harmonies/vocal interaction at the song's climax are superb. You Make My Dreams sounds as if Elton John has just been invited to the party, with Hall adopting an Elton voice as convincingly as he did Tom Petty's. Every Time You Go Away was a big UK chart hit for Paul Young, and was never a Hall & Oates single. Although I liked his version, Hall & Oates' is the definitive one - a classic piece of white soul.
John Oates' funky, rhythmic Africa is a bit goofy but fun and infectious too. Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear The Voices) is a (unsurprisingly) doo-wop appealing piece of rock 'n' roll-ish harmony in the style of the sort of thing Billy Joel would do on his 1984 Innocent Man album.
I really like this album. It is by a long chalk the most cohesive and consistently high quality release from the pair. While the others all had good points on them, this doesn't have a duff track at all. Highly recommended.
Private Eyes (1981)
Private Eyes/Looking For A Good Sign/I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)/Mano A Mano/Did It In A Minute/Heads Above Water/Tell Me What You Want/Friday Let Me Down/Unguarded Minute/Your Imagination/Some Men
While they were recording this album in 1981, the previous year's release, Voices, slightly unexpectedly became a big hit and suddenly Daryl Hall & John Oates were the biggest thing in US music and they gained a following in the UK too. Punk and new wave's excesses were giving way to the slick look-at-me hedonism of the eighties and the white soul/pop/rock of the couple seemed ideal for a decade that valued lush production and smoothness. This album began the halcyon phase for the pair.
Private Eyes is a white soul number in the style of Kiss On My List and was tailor-made for 1981. Its production is a bit tinny (all those handclappy percussion sounds) and sounds a bit dated these days, but I can't help but get a bit nostalgic at hearing it. A bit warmer in its sound is the rhythmic, slightly bassier groove of Looking For A Good Sign. It is a catchy, instant sort of a song that features a great saxophone solo. It was a tribute to the boys' favourites, The Temptations, apparently.
The album's huge hit was I Can't Go For That (No Can Do) which begins in the way that Michael Jackson's Billie Jean would soon after before that instantly recognisable keyboard riff comes in. It was an iconic merging of contemporary dance grooves and drum machine beats with rock and soul. It was all over the airwaves in 1981 and for several years after. Almost irritatingly singalong, it was never my favourite of theirs, but I cannot deny its addictiveness. Mano A Mano is a great rocker of a track with a killer riffy opening and excellent vocals. Check out that guitar solo too. All great stuff - one heck of a track. The sound of band now in complete control, full of confidence.
Did It In A Minute is a synth-driven rocker with heavy Billy Joel hints (not for the first time). There are bits of The Electric Light Orchestra in there too, for me. Once again, it is a rousing, irrepressible number. Head Above Water also has a fine intro and more Joel-esque piano/vocal influence. It also reminds me of The Buggles' Video KiIled The Radio Star in its piano part. All these tracks so far have bubbled over with enthusiasm and ebullience but the production's harshness is a bit off-putting. The chunky, vaguely reggae-influenced Tell Me What You Want ploughs the same furrow and Friday Let Me Down is also very synth/guitar dominated. This run of material is quite rock-ish and may have disappointed the dance pop fans of I Can’t Go For That.
Unguarded Minute is slightly more poppy in its vibrant piano backing while Your Imagination is a deep, thumping number with a muscular bass line and some swirling saxophone. Some Men ends the album in the same rocking fashion of the rest of the album. It was a bit similar to the 1978 album Along The Red Ledge in that the first half is blue eyed soul and the second half is far more rocking. They often did this and I wonder whether their fans were sometimes left a bit perplexed. Probably not, as this was a huge seller.
Incidentally the Disco Remix of Your Imagination is far more bassy and has a better sound quality to it. If only the whole album had been produced like this.
Maneater/Crime Pays/Art Of Heartbreak/One On One/Open All Night/Family Man/Italian Girls/Guessing Games/Delayed Reaction/At Tension/Go Solo
This was the massive one for Daryl Hall & John Oates - their Thriller, Born In The USA or Brothers In Arms. The one album of their many people had. It was an album that summed up the early eighties - the lads' faces dripping with sweat on the cover - sweat was big in the eighties.
Maneater started with that iconic bass line, one that had been used in slight variations on Diana Ross & The Supremes' You Can't Hurry Love, The Jam's A Town Called Malice and other tracks that I can't recall at the moment. The song is irresistibly infectious, singalong, catchy, whatever and it was played constantly on the radio at the time and, of course on MTV. Everyone wanted a bit of Hall & Oates in 1982, which was strange as they had struggled for ten previous years - this was their eleventh album. A common comment at the time was "I'm not sure which of them is which". Although they were popular they still retained their understated, intrinsically quiet personae. Nobody really knew what John Oates actually did (he played guitar and sang). Anyway, I digress, back to the music. Crime Pays is a delicious slice of Prince-styled slow funk/rock with a great bass/keyboard interaction. Incidentally, the sound/production is much better on this album than its somewhat tinny predecessor, Private Eyes. Check out the bass on this one - great stuff.
The warm groove continues on Art Of Heartbreak, which is a captivating, grinding but soulful track. There is a brooding feel to much of the material on this album. The track features an excellent late night saxophone solo. Nothing summed up the summery, laid-back, carefree feel of the early/mid eighties as the sumptuous, melodic vocals and ambience of One On One. More fine saxophone s to be found here over the song's intuitive, seductive slow beat. Classic wine bar fare. It almost makes me miss my white denim jacket and light pastel blue trousers.
Open All Night is one of those slow, big production rock/soul ballads that they had come to specialise in. Family Man was a Mike Oldfield song, although I didn't not know his original version of it (I've listened to it now- it has Sally Oldfield on vocals, I believe) but Hall & Oates give it a quirky, soulful makeover containing some impressive rock guitar breaks and a hooky chorus. Their version is more powerful than the Oldfield one. John Oates' Italian Girls is upbeat and vibrant and full of more addictive hooks. The pair had got their songwriting down to a fine art by now, nailing hooks in every song. More can be found in the classically eighties synth soul of Guessing Games. Track after track is a killer.
Delayed Reaction is a new wave-ish power pop rocker. Hall & Oates always liked to rock out and I guess by this stage on the album they couldn't resist. It is sort of Nick Lowe-esque. At Tension slows the pace down but it is mysteriously entrancing, with a muscular bass line and some echoey vocals. Go Solo ends with a fine serving of big production soul/rock.
This was the third in a row of absolute copper-bottomed corkers from Hall & Oates. Big seller or not, (I often don't trust huge sellers) this was a great album, overflowing with vitality and sheer joie de vivre.
Big Bam Boom (1984)
Dance On Your Knees/Out Of Touch/Method Of Modern Love/Bank On Your Love/Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid/Going Thru The Motions/Cold Dark And Yesterday/All American Girl/Possession Obsession
After going a year without releasing album for the first time, Hall & Oates returned in 1984 with the last of their albums as a huge popular act. It is very synthetic, as was so much music of the era, and, although the pair's long-serving backing band are credited, it sounds as if it was all created, Prince-style, by one bloke in the studio playing around with knobs, buttons and sound effects. An awful lot of the pair's intrinsic soulfulness seems to have been sucked out of them by this type of production, but they were by no means unique in this, the 1984-1990 period was, for me, pretty dire. Natural soul and "proper" musicianship was left behind for a while and computerised sounds defined the latter half of the decade. So much music by so many artists suffered during this barren period. This was merely another in a long line of albums that are probably better left back then.
Dance On Your Knees is a typical piece of mid-eighties programmed dance rock. This sort of pounding fare was all the rage back then and Hall & Oates caught on to the trend. Synthesisers and programmed drums are all over this muscular track. When Daryl Hall's vocal finally arrives, though, and the track merges into Out Of Touch, that old white soul groove kicks in. Although undeniably hooky, it still sounds contrived and harsh, however, the easy swing of H2O having been lost somewhere down the line. Not that it isn't a good track, though, it still is. The metronomic sound of the times is continued on the staccato synthy grooves of Method Of Modern Love which is sort of like Prince meets The Style Council. Again, this track does have its catchy good points.
For probably the only time on the album, the production does the rocking punch of the eighties era Stonesy Bank On Your Love a favour, enhancing it, giving it strength and making it one of the album's best tracks. It has a great rubbery bass line too, along with some powerful lead guitar riffs. Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid is actually a great ballad in spite of its electronic backing. If you can get past that, it is a good song.
Then the album goes a bit downhill. Going Thru The Motions starts with some of those irritating stuttered, repeated half words so popular with many artists at the time before it launches into an ok-ish song typical of its era but not particularly memorable. It is too long as well, without going anywhere. Cold Dark And Yesterday is a better song, but again is rendered a bit lifeless by the production of the day. A bit like those Mick Jagger solo albums for the period. Another trend of the time was to integrate hip-hop rhythms and vocals into songs and this is done on All American Girl, another track that, to be honest, doesn't really go anywhere. Like its predecessors, it is ok, but that's all. The final track was a single, Possession Obsession, and, in spite of its chugging backing beat has a bit of the soulfulness lacking in some of the preceding tracks. It gets the album back on track slightly.
Overall, however, this was a dense, difficult to properly get into album, it has to be said, despite a few undeniable good points, and the pair would not return for another four years, by which time it had become fashionable to dislike them.
Live At The Apollo (1985)
Apollo Medley - Get Ready/Ain't Too Proud To Beg/The Way You Do The Things You Do/My Girl/When Something Is Wrong With My Baby/Every Time You Go Away/I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)/One On One/Possession Obsession/Adult Education
The mid-eighties were a pretty barren time for music but I always enjoyed this live collaboration album (that I owned on cassette and played a lot on my first Sony Walkman) from Daryl Hall & John Oates and ex-Temptations Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin, finding it vibrant and showcasing a feel-good feeling between the artists involved. Apparently, however, this was not the case, as Kendricks and the notoriously "difficult" Ruffin felt that they were being exploited by Hall & Oates to boost the chart-topping pair's career. This would hardly be the case in 1985, because Hall & Oates were the group of the moment on both sides of the Atlantic and Kendrick & Ruffin had been reduced to playing small "supper club" dives in the inner city. If anything, Hall & Oates had brought them back from obscurity, maybe it was the reality of this that they couldn't cope with. It was unjust that this should have been the situation, of course, as the Motown pair were living legends, but unfortunately it was how it was in the comparatively soul-less mid-eighties.
Listening to it at the time, I loved it, and felt the respect and enthusiasm of both groups of artists shone through on the old "side one", where an admittedly throaty Kendricks and Ruffin join Hall & Oates for a frenetic, enthusiastic medley of Get Ready (just Kendricks)/Ain't Too Proud To Beg/The Way You Do The Things You Do and My Girl. I always found it an effervescent, enjoyable medley. When Ruffin begins Ain't Too Proud To Beg it still sends shivers down my spine. My Girl is just wonderful too.
Hall & Oates do justice to their own hits too - Every Time You Go Away (also covered in the UK by Paul Young, which they acknowledge through gritted teeth, referring to Young only as "an English artist") performed here with some titanic drums and great bass on the backing; I Can't Go For That (No Can Do), with another wonderful bass intro and One On One in particular. Their harmonies are impeccable, like the Motown artists who so inspired them, and the musicianship on the backing is top notch throughout. Also impressive is their barnstorming, soulful cover of Isaac Hayes/David Porter's Memphis soul ballad When Something Is Wrong With My Baby.
Great memories. You have to turn the album up loud though, as it doesn't have much volume to it.
Ooh Yeah! (1988)
Downtown Life/Everything Your Heart Desires/I'm In Pieces/Missed Opportunity/Talking All Night/Rockability/Rocket To God/Soul Love/Realove/Keep On Pushin' Love
After a four year hiatus during which they only released the Live At The Apollo album, Daryl Hall & John Oates returned in 1988 to find that were now considered uncool and were no longer critically credible. They were treated almost as sad old comeback artists. Quite why the music media and the public in general turned against them was not clear. It just happens in popular music, unfortunately.
Downtown Life is a lively enough opener, although it is still blighted by those accursed synthesisers and programmed drums. It was still 1988, remember. The return to "proper music" hadn't started yet. Everything Your Heart Desires has an eighties backing but it doesn't detract from the fact that it is a most appealing slow, romantic soulful number. The vocals are excellent on this one. I'm In Pieces is a delicious, saxophone-driven rock soul ballad. You can't synthesise a saxophone. Wet Wet Wet made a career of sounding like this, beginning around now. Marti Pellow must have used Daryl Hall's voice as a starting point.
The smooth groove of Missed Opportunity, despite some eighties traits in the backing, shows a willingness to return to the white soul that made their name, leaving behind the electro-disco and hip-hop explorations. It is a fine track with a nice, seductive rhythm and more cool saxophone. Talking All Night has a late night, romantic, wine bar feel to it. A similar vibe can be found on Rockability despite its upbeat-sounding title. It is very much of its time, though.
Rocket To God is a sensual smoocher of a track with more high quality vocals. It features some infectious "world music" style percussion in places. Soul Love is a pretty typical piece of late eighties fare that washes over you warmly, as does Realove. Both of these tracks are powered by too much synthesiser for my taste, though. Keep On Pushin' Love has Daryl Hall sounding just like Prince with a bit of Lou Reed in there slightly, too.
This was a much better album that it was given credit for at the time. Yes, it is a period piece but it certainly isn't a bad album at all. Played by a "proper" band it would actually be really good, as the songs are fine.
© HallAndOatesForever. H & O with Cyndi Lauper & Billy Joel in 1988.
Change Of Season (1990)
So Close/Starting All Over Again/Sometimes A Mind Changes/Change Of Season/I Ain't Gonna Take It This Time/Everywhere I Look/Give It Up (Old Habits)/Don't Hold Back Your Love/Halfway There/Only Love/Heavy Rain/So Close (Unplugged)
This was the first Hall & Oates album I bought and it came at a time when the were considered old hat. That was a shame because, after virtually a whole decade, those much-maligned eighties synthesisers and programmed drums had been thankfully replaced by the wonderful sounds of a real band again. For me, this was one of their best albums. Coming out of the eighties resulted in so many better albums from so many artists as they re-discovered what music should be all about - authenticity, soul and rock. This was the pair's most soulful album for years, full of Stax feel.
So Close is an excellent, big production rock/soul number and it was the track that inspired me to buy the album. It was so good to hear those "real" drums once more. Man, the eighties were bad for music. Up next is an absolute classic. I always loved Mel & Tim's Stax soul number Starting All Over Again from the late sixties and it is right up Hall & Oates' street. They pay it due respect, as only true soul aficionados like those two could. It's bloody wonderful.
Some Times A Mind Changes has a lovely, deep, warm bass line, crystal clear acoustic guitars and an excellent soulful vocal from Daryl Hall. Change Of Season is solid, genuine Stax-influenced fare. Hearing the pair do stuff like this again is so refreshing. Proper music, proper soul. I Ain't Gonna Take It This Time has a bit of an eighties feel to it in its slow but dramatic Wet Wet Wet style but it also pays several nods to the great soul ballads of the sixties/early seventies. Everywhere I Look is in the same vein but a bit more muscular and rock ballad-influenced. The chorus hook is archetypal Hall & Oates.
Give It Up (Old Habits) is a catchy, saxophone-introduced soul number with yet another killer hook and Don't Hold Back Your Love is a wonderful vocal and acoustic song with huge hints of Southside Johnny in there, I'm thinking of All The Way Home from 1991's Better Days album. The song is a big, heartbreaker of an anthem. Great stuff.
Halfway There is a seductive, smooth soul track that has echoes in the chorus of Forget-Me-Nots by Patrice Rushen, I think. Only Love is a staccato, bassy and rhythmic number with vague hints of Tom Petty and some fetching electric violin. Heavy Rain is a big, bold ballad and So Close is reprised in slow "unplugged" style to finish what is an underrated, enjoyable album.