Being a huge Daryl Hall and John Oates, I will forgive those of you who are only familiar with those pop songs that were hits for the most successful duo in rock history. Many of you might be turned off by the fact that they are mostly known for their pop songs of the Seventies and Eighties. I can understand that.
For me, I always loved their music. But, it was not until I saw them live in the Fall of 1981 at Indiana University as the opening act for the majestic Electric Light Orchestra. To me, this concert was a pop-rock match made in Heaven. Plus, being the great older brother that I am, I took my younger brother, who was a HUGE ELO fan, down to Bloomington, Indiana, for the concert.
Like most artists, Hall & Oates are so much better live. They not only display there pop/soul chops, but you get to witness the rock and folk sides that remain restrained on most of their studio work. After seeing them live, you will gain a whole new appreciation for their influences.
But, my story goes back to the mid-70s in New York City. That town was exploding with all kinds of new sounds that music artists from all over were being attracted to the Big Apple. You had the glam rock of KISS and the New York Dolls exploding, the hip hop sounds of Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five and the all the different punk sounds being heard down in the Bowery at CBGBs. At the fertile moment, cross-pollination was being to take place. It was in that environment that an innovative guitarist from England, former King Crimson leader Robert Fripp met up with budding pop star Daryl Hall. Hall was coming off a mega-hit in “Rich Girl”, but was feeling frustrated by the fact that their label was the duo to record with session musicians instead of their touring band. As a matter of fact, Hall felt his creative voice that being held back by the corporate structure of their music label, when he ran into Robert Fripp, the guitarist who had just invented a new guitar recording technique called Frippertronics, which used tape loops of his guitars moaning for what seemed an eternity. What this collaboration resulted in was originally envisioned by Fripp as a trilogy of albums: one a solo Fripp albums, another the second album by Peter Gabriel and the third a pop album by Daryl Hall. All three albums were to highlight Fripp’s Frippertronics within the context of pop songs.
So, in 1977, all three albums were recorded, with the Fripp album & Hall’s debut both being produced by Robert Fripp, while Peter Gabriel’s second solo outing, commonly called “Scratch”, since Gabriel appears to be scratching the air on the cover shot. Now, Fripp and Gabriel’s albums were released to great reviews. But, Hall’s album was shelved by his label because they were worried about the lack of hit songs on the album and the damage that album who do to his Hall & Oates career. After a huge writing campaign, the album was finally released in 1980.
To be perfectly honest, much of the album sounds like a regular Hall & Oates album only with some innovative guitar tracks. Additionally, the album had the feel of the punk esthetic from 1977, where the rock side of Hall’s songs are being emphasized. The whole project just seems that it would have succeeded more in 1977 than it did in 1980.
But, if you can find this album, buy it! It is a rock classic, albeit one that has been an unrecognized classic. Fripp only adds his trademark guitar touches when they enhance the song. Through the album, you can hearing the budding of the sounds he would explore with John Oates on their next few albums, such as 1978’s hodgepodge Along the Red Ledge, 1979’s New Wave classic X-Static and the duo’s commercial 1980 breakthrough Voices.
Sacred Songs contains all the musical nods of 1977 to the punk scene that would have made the songs sound more vital if they had been played on rock radio back in the day for which they were intended. As the years pass, this album continues to climb my list of favorite albums of all-time. Perhaps, the album needed to fail commercially so we would have gotten all of that great music by the duo. If this solo album had succeeded, who knows what Daryl Hall would have done in the Eighties. Maybe, Daryl Hall would have, as Robert Fripp recently suggested, become recognized as a musical innovator like a David Bowie than the pop genius he his known as today. Whatever the case, Sacred Songs is a classic album that deserves to be heard. Take my word, you will enjoy it!