Today’s weekend playlist comes from Talkhouse veteran Dave Depper. Dave is a member of Death Cab for Cutie and also plays with Ray LaMontagne, Robyn Hitchcock, Menomena, and more. He just released a solo album last month titled Emotional Freedom Technique, and to celebrate, he’s curated a Talkhouse playlist featuring lesser-known Hall & Oates songs from before the band achieved mainstream success.
-Keenan Kush, Talkhouse Marketing Manager
If you’ve known me personally for any length of time, you are likely aware that I am wont to breathlessly extoll the virtues of 1970s Hall & Oates based upon only the wispiest thread of provocation.
Sure, we all know Private Eyes, the 1981 juggernaut which firmly established Hall & Oates’ imperial run as untouchable hitmakers—but did you know that Private Eyes is their TENTH album? That’s right: Barring the very occasional radio hit (“Rich Girl”; “Sara Smile”), Daryl and John spent the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations soulfully traipsing through various genre exercises and production trends, largely untroubled by anything resembling commercial success.
To quote a phrase: “There’s gold in them hills,” friend! Take my hand, reader, and let me lovingly guide you through some of my favorite moments from the wilderness years of Daryl Hall & John Oates.
The first song from their first album, and they’re strong out of the gate. Breezy, soulful, acoustic-based pop that’s perfectly in step with 1972.
“When the Morning Comes”
Oh, yes, this jam—this is a good jam. “When the Morning Comes” kicks off the second Hall & Oates record, Abandoned Luncheonette, which also happens to be their first stone-cold classic record. Seriously. Pick it up right now. Your local used vinyl shop will almost certainly have a copy.
“I’m Just A Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like A Man)”
As H&O’s career progressed and their commercial star began to shine more brightly, the frequency of John Oates’ lead vocal turns began an inversely proportionate decline. As this devastatingly good track (also from Abandoned Luncheonette) proves, that’s a damn shame.
“Beanie G. And The Rose Tattoo”
Now we’re cooking with gas! Hall & Oates underwent their first big stylistic change with the recording of their third album, War Babies, in which we find our heroes produced by Todd Rundgren and backed up by his prog band, Utopia. That’s a lot to chew on! The album is hit and miss, but largely fascinating to listen to, and this psychedelic, darkly funky jam is a definite highlight.
War Babies was perhaps a bridge too far for H&O’s growing fan base so they triumphantly returned to their lane with their fourth album, Daryl Hall & John Oates, a brilliant distillation of their nascent blue-eyed soul strengths and certainly my favorite record of theirs. “Camellia” opens the record and is another brilliant lead vocal from John Oates. If you don’t like this track, we might not have much else to talk about. Pure ear candy.
“Alone Too Long”
Goddamn, this groove! This track just effortlessly purrs along like an Italian car I’ll never be able to afford, cruising down a futuristic highway made entirely of pure light. (Okay, these cookies might be kicking in.)
“Grounds For Separation”
And here we have my third selection from the brilliant Daryl Hall & John Oates, a record that I sincerely hope you’ll spend some time with today. This one’s a bit of a curveball—one of their most ambitious tracks, it seems to be a bit of a tribute to the 1967-era Beatles. At least, it does when it doesn’t seem plucked out of a failed musical. At times it’s almost like a soul version of “I Am The Walrus,” backed by a funk band.
“Do What You Want, Be Who You Are”
THIS IS MY FAVORITE HALL & OATES SONG. STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND LISTEN TO THIS SONG RIGHT NOW. Ugh, this RULES! Pregnant strings. Chimes. Hot tub guitar. Endless, effortless melismatic utterances from Daryl Hall. The slow build. I feel that attempting to further describe these four and a half minutes of utter perfection is to do them a disservice.
“Bigger Than Both Of Us”
The two or three albums Hall & Oates released toward the end of the ’70s boast increasingly aggressive sounding production and slightly weaker songwriting. That said, there are still some great highlights to be found. This gem is, confusingly, not found on 1976’s Bigger Than Both Of Us, but is instead part of its follow-up, Beauty On A Back Street, putting it in the rarified category of “title tracks to albums that they don’t actually appear on” (see also: Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy”, Elvis Costello’s “Almost Blue”, PJ Harvey’s “Dry”… actually this is a pretty great idea for my next Talkhouse playlist).
“Who Said The World Was Fair”
We end this playlist on a very strong and funky note, taken from 1979’s otherwise unremarkable X-Static. This might be the most propulsive groove that Daryl Hall & John Oates ever laid down. It’s a shameless stab at capitalizing on the disco craze, and it succeeds in its mission. It’s positively addictive, and I want to buy that bass player a drink. The next year, Hall & Oates would release the excellent Voices, which featured the number one hit “Kiss On My List.” After nearly a decade of toiling away in relative obscurity, the stage was set, and Daryl Hall & John Oates never looked back.
(Photo Credit: Jaclyn Campanaro)