British duo Hall & Oates make a move for the pop charts with ‘Love’

I can guarantee that you have heard a song by Hall & Oates. As a pop duo whose chart run lasted primarily during the ’70s and ’80s, Daryl Hall and John Oates know the recipe for a pop hit. While you may not readily know the names of tunes like “Maneater,” “Private Eyes” or “Out of Touch,” you can definitely recognize the inviting melodies that beg to be sung aloud. Although Hall & Oates are showing signs of age by slowly being categorized as adult contemporary, their new album Do It For Love is a testament to their skill at producing classic pop songs.

Hailing from Philadelphia, in the ’60s Hall & Oates came together through a common passion for doo-wop and soul music. They were both working as session musicians in the late sixties when the two decided to form a “blue-eyed soul” group similar to the Righteous Brothers. When their first hit “Sara Smile” was released in 1975 and reached No. 4 on the pop charts, they knew that they had something that most musicians only dream of having. Tommy Mottola, current head honcho at Sony Music, approached them in 1975 and became their manager, rocketing them into in a sweet record deal with RCA. Their debut album Daryl Hall & John Oates, more commonly know as “the silver album” was released in 1976. Over the next 10 years, they produced six No. 1 hits and six platinum records, but received little critical acclaim. Songs like “Sara Smile,” “She’s Gone,” “Wait For Me” and “Out of Touch,” combined with a few popular music videos (“Private Eyes” and a hilarious cover of “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”) made Hall & Oates the new Sam & Dave or Ike & Tina of the ’80s.

Hall & Oates returned to the spotlight last year with a VH1 Behind the Music special. Although a Behind the Music documentary usually signifies the end of a musical career, the special sparked a VH1 retrospective and the resurfacing of Hall & Oates. Originally an extra track on the 2002 retrospective, Hall & Oates decided to reprise “Do It For Love” and make a new album around this centerpiece. The result is a record that has energy comparable to that exhibited in their glory days.

Do It For Love opens with “Man on a Mission,” a catchy, blues-driven rock number with Hall singing lead vocals and Oates providing his trademark harmonies. One can hear the same confidence in Hall’s voice that was present in hits like “You Make My Dreams” and “Wait For Me.” And while Hall has typically stood more in the spotlight than his partner, the elusive Oates is able to shine as bright or brighter than before.

His guitar virtuosity screams on songs like “Getaway Car” and “(She) Got Me Bad,” where intelligent phrasing and lightning-fast chops put him on a par with guitar shred-monsters like Yngwie Malmsteem and Steve Vai.

Hall’s voice is one of deep expression and versatility. The pair’s cover of the New Radical’s song “Someday We’ll Know” showcases his never failing pop vocals. Even the funky “Miss DJ” makes you want to get up and dance, with Oates’s voice providing grunts and screams that can be found on cuts by James Brown and the Barkays. “Forever For You,” a beautiful ballad that addresses the fear and frustration of dealing with long-term relationships, starts slowly and then builds to a breathtaking finale. “Heart Break Time” and “Love In a Dangerous Time” are probably the weakest songs on the album, but still provide some enjoyment.

In a recent “Musician” interview, Hall commented on Do It For Love: “There’s intelligence in our music, there’s sensitivity, there’s honesty. And there’s a lot of rawness that in some ways wasn’t there before, was being kept out of the music, but in other ways was there all along and just needed to be found.” This album is a breath fresh of air for the duo in that they tackle numerous genres successfully, from soul to rock to the monster ballad.

Like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Do It For Love is one of those albums that you can listen to from start to finish without skipping a track. Granted, there are some ups and downs on Do It For Love, but the overall package is powerful. Even though this album lacks some of the life that their earlier hits possess, it still provides some pop gems that will definitely keep Hall & Oates on the hit parade.

Fans who haven’t seen a release from Hall & Oates since 1997 will welcome Do It For Love with open arms. The pair are currently touring the U.S. in support of their new album.

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