Daryl Hall and John Oates made their first significant dent on the pop charts with 1976's "Sara Smile," released on RCA Records. "Rich Girl" followed as their first No. 1 single in 1977, and a few short years later, they were proclaimed the most successful duo in rock history thanks to an amazing string of ubiquitous pop singles: "Kiss on My List," "Private Eyes," "Maneater," "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)" and so on. But those who only know Hall and Oates from those remarkable 1980s productions only know one part of the story. Edsel Records is more than happy to fill you in, however. The U.K. label plans the July 25 release of a 3-LPs-on-2-CDs package bringing together all three of the duo's Atlantic albums, Whole Oats (1972), Abandoned Luncheonette (1973) and War Babies (1974). But that’s not all. Edsel is including all three songs unique to 1977's "best-of" No Goodbyes as well as one Whole Oats outtake which previously was only available on Rhino's single disc compilation The Atlantic Collection. These 34 tracks add up to the most complete overview yet of the team's Atlantic tenure.
John Oates has described the three albums collected here as "three steps towards finding a sound. Whole Oats had a folksiness to it, Abandoned Luncheonette started combining acoustic folk with a little bit of funk, and War Babies was our more adventurous rock 'n' roll side. The albums that followed drew on all of those elements." Indeed, each album has its own identity that recalls part of the magic Hall and Oates formula. Whole Oats was produced by Arif Mardin, who also contributed string, horn and woodwind arrangements for the Philadelphia duo's early songs. (Some of the Whole Oats tracks had been previously recorded by Hall and Oates, and these embryonic versions have been packaged and re-packaged over the years. The most comprehensive release, legitimately licensed from producer John Madara, is Varese's 2006 The Philadelphia Years. ) As Oates acknowledged, there's a folk tinge to Whole Oats, and that's evident on tracks like the melodic "Goodnight and Goodmorning," written by Hall on mandolin and finished by the duo. There's, of course, also a pronounced Philadelphia soul influence, none more so evident than on Hall's "Fall in Philadelphia." The song, in Hall's words, is a personal recollection "about how horrible it is to be in Philadelphia," though he added, "they still play it there on the radio every fall." It's easy to see why; the melody and hook are irresistible, and the lyrics conjure up potent, vivid imagery as well as heartfelt resignation: "A roving band of youths beat up on Johnny/Everybody's gettin' richer sellin' that dope/Say, the stolen bikes are gathering by the thousands/Along with seven million people without a hope...I'm gonna spend another fall in Philadelphia." Sweeter sounds are conjured up on the Stax-inspired "I'm Sorry" and the gentle, classical-influenced "Waterwheel." "Lilly (Are You Happy)" looks forward to the blue-eyed soul of later years, a delicious R&B groove co-written by the duo.
What came next at Atlantic? Hit the jump to find out!
Whole Oats' follow-up, Abandoned Luncheonette, is still one of Hall and Oates' most beloved albums. It's anchored by "She's Gone.” Though it placed at No. 60 when initially released (and edited) as a single, it scored when re-released three years later. The song encapsulates the team's great strengths. The melody is unforgettable, the lyric universal and the arrangement musically complex. Add those impassioned vocals harmonizing as one, and it's almost impossible to contemplate that the song wasn't a hit from the get-go. Almost as good is Hall's "When the Morning Comes," a slice of country R&B (talk about diversity!) and Oates' atmospheric "Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)." Hall and Oates, with support of returning producer Mardin, pushed the musical envelope, employing a mellotron on Oates' "I'm Just A Kid (Don't Make Me Feel Like A Man)" and an electric five-string violin on the duo’s collaborative "Lady Rain."
Despite going from one strength to another on these two LPs, commercial success eluded Hall and Oates. They then turned to their old Philly friend Todd Rundgren to produce their next LP. War Babies is still the most challenging album of their career. It's possibly the most rewarding, but also the biggest commercial misfire. The musical chameleon Rundgren could adapt to any sound, as he continues to prove over and over again on his solo LPs, and he encouraged Hall and Oates to take their music in an experimental direction. The most straightforward track is Oates' "Can't Stop the Music," an exciting Philly soul throwback that deserved a better fate on the singles chart. On the other end of the spectrum is Hall's rocker "Beanie G and the Rose Tattoo," which he and Rundgren performed just last month together for a live concert of Hall's Live at Daryl's House program. But even the commercial-sounding "Can't Stop the Music" was a dark observation of the seamier side of the biz, and its theme echoed on "Is It A Star" and "70s Scenario." Rundgren contributed typically-searing guitar to the edgy album. Almost immediately following the sessions with Rundgren, the team reunited with Arif Mardin for three songs that appeared on 1977's No Goodbyes compilation, but their Atlantic story had already come to a close. (Two of these songs, "It's Uncanny" and "I Want to Know You For a Long Time," first appeared on CD on The Atlantic Collection. The third, "Love Me Like a Brother," had to wait until Legacy's 2009 Do What You Want, Be Who You Are box set to reappear.) All tracks are present on this new Edsel release.
Daryl Hall and John Oates went on to bigger things, and still perform together today, although it's unclear when and if a new studio album might emerge. But their first three major-label albums just sound better and better with the passing years. Many tracks anticipate the style that they would hone at RCA, and others offer a tantalizing glimpse of a stylistic direction that might have been. Either way, you won't want to leave the past times behind after exploring this set. The Atlantic Albums…Plus: Whole Oats/Abandoned Luncheonette/War Babies is in stores on July 25 in the United Kingdom.
Daryl Hall and John Oates, The Atlantic Albums…Plus: Whole Oats/Abandoned Luncheonette/War Babies (Edsel EDSD 2103, 2011)
- I’m Sorry
- All Our Love
- Fall In Philadelphia
- Goodnight And Goodmorning
- They Needed Each Other
- Southeast City Window
- Thank You For…
- Lilly (Are You Happy)
- 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
- Everytime I Look At You
- Past Times Behind
- It’s Uncanny
- I Want To Know You For A Long Time
- Love You Like A Brother
- Can’t Stop The Music
- Is It A Star?
- Beanie G and the Rose Tattoo
- You’re Much Too Soon
- 70’s Scenario
- War Baby Son Of Zorro
- I’m Watching You (A Mutant Romance)
- Better Watch Your Back
- Screaming Thru December
- Johnny Gore and the "C" Eaters
Disc 1, Tracks 1-11 from Whole Oats, Atlantic SD-7242, 1972
Disc 1, Tracks 12-20 from Abandoned Luncheonette, Atlantic SD-7269, 1973
Disc 2, Track 1 recorded April 5, 1972 for Whole Oats, first released on The Atlantic Collection, Atlantic/Rhino R2 72205, 1996
Disc 2, Tracks 2-4 from No Goodbyes, Atlantic SD-18213, 1977
Disc 2, Tracks 5-14 from War Babies, Atlantic SD-18109, 1974