CD Review: Daryl Hall and John Oates

Daryl Hall and John Oates
Do What You Want, Be What You Are: The Music of Daryl Hall and John Oates
RCA/Legacy
By David Chiu

Rock and Soul, which is also the name of a 1983 hits compilation by Daryl Hall and John Oates, aptly sums up the career of one of pop music’s most successful duos ever. In the minds and hearts of many Hall and Oates will be forever remembered for their massively popular sleek dance rock hits of the early to mid ‘80s, but true fans also know about their blue-eyed soul and sometimes adventurous pop music. And of course the music also showcases the great songwriting and vocal talents of its namesakes (yes even John Oates is a terrific singer like his more visible partner). With a greater and renewed appreciation for Hall and Oates music today, the timing is more than appropriate for this new 4-CD career spanning box set .

Disc one begins with the boys’ early songs, which seem more rooted in Motown than the Philly soul sound they became renowned for on their first records. Not surprisingly tracks from what is regarded as one of Hall and Oates’ best albums, Abandoned Luncheonette, are featured here, including their first big hit “She’s Gone.” The Philly-soul and pop hybrid songs carry through all of disc one and most of disc two (“Sara Smile,” “Rich Girl”) until the duo starting experimenting with rock in the later ‘70s (“It’s a Laugh”).

Then with the Voices album (1980), with “Kiss On My List” and “You Make My Dreams” was when the hits starting coming, which are essentially all on the box set’s third disc: “Private Eyes,” “I Can’t Go For That,” “Maneater,” “Out of Touch” and “Method of Modern Love.” Hall and Oates’ chart momentum considerably slowed down after that amazing period in the ‘80s but continued on with really heartfelt and touching music that recalls the best of their ‘70s (“Starting All Over Again,” “Storm Warning,” “I Want Someone”) work and now deserves another reevaluation on this final disc of Do What You Want. The closing ballad “Dreamer,” which was a 1972 demo that was rerecorded for this year, and one of several previously unreleased songs, is absolutely wonderful. Like the Bee Gees, Hall and Oates’ music, in whatever phase or style, strikes on two major fronts as great pop music and guilty pleasures.

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