In the past I’ve mentioned the early roots of my musical education, much of it revolving around my parents’ record collection. One of the artists that I enjoyed discovering during my childhood that slipped away from me as I set out on my own was the duo of Daryl Hall and John Oates, otherwise simply known as Hall & Oates. Not to date myself, but this was around the time of their musical heyday in the 80’s, a time when they dominated nearly numerous genres of musical expression.
Over the years, I’ve always enjoyed the Hall & Oates’ tracks that I’d hear on the radio, in a store, wherever, but for whatever reason I didn’t revisit their treasure trove of music. Until now that is. Just this month, Sony Legacy released an awe-inspiring box set of material from the duo’s four decades of music making crunched down into four CDs titled Do What You Want, Be What You Are: The Music Of Daryl Hall & John Oates. Yeah, four decades. Think about how many other artists can boast of such a career. To top that off, think about how many duos actually stuck together for that long: Simon & Garfunkel – nope, Sonny & Cher – nope, uhhh, yeah, that’s all I’ve got. Can you think of anyone else that has even close to that amount of stage time together under their belts?
Both men, before meeting to form their own group, played in soul groups in the 60’s (Hall worked with such men as Leon Huff, Kenny Gamble, and Thom Bell – the forefathers of the Philly soul scene) and that fact clearly shaped their music from then on out. The first couple of tracks on the first disc of this collection come from this period in their careers, and listening to them will reveal the roots of their musical ideology. Eventually the two came together, recording music that was more folk orientated but still retaining their R&B roots (the two would never completely abandon their soul sides). As they continued to develop under the guidance of Atlantic records, the pair would begin to hone their pop/rock/soul mixture that would serve them well in coming years. These early years and albums are covered on the first disc of the set. Closing out the first disc are some live, previously unreleased recordings from London in 1975.
The second disc moves forward in time to their time at RCA records when they really started perfecting their style and scored their first top ten single with Sara Smile (which you'll find here) and eventually their first number one single with Rich Girl (which is also here). This is the period when they first started scoring pop chart success and creating songs that you'll still here today. The hits REALLY start coming on disc 3, and for many listeners, this is the disc that will feel most familiar. On it, you'll find them at the top of their game in the 80's, churning out classic cut after classic cut: You Make My Dreams, Private Eyes, I Can't Go For That (No Can Do), Maneater, Say It Isn't So, Out Of Touch, Method Of Modern Love, etc., etc., etc... This disc is practically worth the price of admission by itself. To close it out comes a live track from the Apollo theater with a couple of the duo's musical heroes, Eddie Kendrick and David Ruffin, on a classic Motown medley of The Way You Do The Things You Do and My Girl.
The final disc brings material from the end of the 80's, the 90's, and 2000's. Although less prolific than previous decades, the pair proves that they've still got some gas left in the tank and aren't quite ready to hit the retirement home circuit yet.
Put all this together and you've got a staggering amount of good music, including sixteen previously unreleased tracks. And what really seals the deal for this box set (at least for me) is the equally amazing are the liner notes. Besides doing a great job presenting the pair's history, Hall and Oates provide background information and stories for every single one of the set's seventy-four tracks. And I'm not talking about one or two sentences for each, there's at least one or two paragraphs for each. They're extremely personal and revelatory, and make each song, regardless of its chart performance, seem equally important and demanding of a listening. Although I'm a big liner notes fan anyway, I actually read through the whole thing in one sitting.
All that being said, I know it's a little early, but this would make a grand, smile inducing Christmas present (for someone else or for yourself - wink wink). Speaking for myself, this set has re-stoked my appreciation of this pair and their music after quite a hiatus. Try it for yourself to see if it has similar results.
Hall & Oates - She's Gone : Do What You Want, Be What You Are:The Music of Daryl Hall & John Oates [box set Disc 1]
Hall & Oates - Out Of Me, Out Of You : Do What You Want, Be What You Are:The Music of Daryl Hall & John Oates [box set Disc 2]
Hall & Oates - Out Of Touch : Do What You Want, Be What You Are:The Music of Daryl Hall & John Oates [box set Disc 3]
Hall & Oates - Starting All Over Again (Mel & Tim cover) : Do What You Want, Be What You Are:The Music of Daryl Hall & John Oates [box set Disc 4]