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The Album That Changed Hall & Oates Career
on May 1, 2013
As the 1980's came in Daryl Hall & John Oates seemed to be perceived by RCA as a duo that had a handful of commercially and creatively strong "blue eyed soul" hits in the mid/late 70's. The type of artists you get a hit on and once that hit's over,its over. I don't know if a serious artists development plan was considered for them. Their late 70's producer David Foster apparently inspired them with a new idea: to produce their next album themselves. Todd Rundgren had done it before them so if one man could do it, surely two could and with vigor. The duo were entering into a curious time. Punk had absorbed more or less into new wave. Disco-dance music was thought to be dead but retreated into the underground. It was not only to be an easy time for them to just make something new from a then popular trend as had been their approach. They were not only on the cutting edge of self production but also in the position to reinvent "pop" music for the new decade entirely. Thankfully on that level,this album was a complete life saver.
"How Does It Feel To Be Back" has a strong jangle pop/Heartland rock influence-of course with a strong melody and many nods to both Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. "United State" and "How To Be In Love With You" are both similarly guitar oriented rock/pop songs (rock being the priority),yet the flavor is slick and highly melodic. That comes out strongly in "Big Kids",almost the perfect rock and soul hybrid on both levels. But we haven't heard anything yet. Built around electronic drums and electric piano "Kiss On My List",a dolled up Daryl Hall demo,essentially maps out the signature Hall & Oates sound of the 80's with its harmony rich,heavily crafted writing and in the pocket instrumentation. It of course along with the more rocked up "You Make My Dreams" are the albums biggest hits and two mini pop masterpieces through and through. "Gotta Lotta Nerve (Perfect Perfect)" is a rather edgy yet exciting new wave/doo-wop combo beginning with some traded off soul scatting. "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin" is the "other" hit here-a modernized update of the Leiber & Stoller classic.
"Everytime You Go Away",later a big hit for Paul Young,is a straight up gospel inflected organ based retro 60's soul ballad as presented here-one of the duo's very strongest compositions and one of the highlights of an album..consisting of all highlights really. "Africa" is a very interesting song musically as the beats are new wave rock-with a dollop of percussive effects, but the interwoven bass/keyboard interactions are closer to funky jazz fusion to a degree. "Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear Voices)" ends the album with a dynamic soul/rock production with a very live band flavor. Aside from the wallop it packed with its blockbuster singles, what makes this recording so wonderful in hindsight is how fantastic an album it is. With a sound that perfectly spreads out rocking,guitar based power pop with new wave,contemporary soul and classic doo-wop this album managed to present their sound in a way that could never offend "disco haters" and maintain a strong rock audience. As the saying goes they earned their "honorary pop pass" with this. And they did it all by recreating the entire concept of rock n soul-basically the cornerstone of R&B in the first place, for a new decade that presented new musical challenges.