Laugh if you will, but I am here to tell you that Daryl Hall & John Oates have produced some very powerful music. Now, when I say powerful, I am not talking about Aretha Franklin-blowing-you-over-with-the-force-of-her-voice type of power. No, I am talking about the kind of power. Nor, am I talking about the power of an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo, Metallica’s “One” or the Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”. No, the former Philly-based duo, now known as the most successful duo of all time, have a power that goes directly with their music, though it is a subtle power.
Let’s just say their music holds a certain romantic power. Be careful while listening to the duo, because you might end up with children, much like we did. Funny as it seems, it is true. Buy and listen to Big Bam Boom, conceive a child. Go see them in concert, conceive a child. Be careful with their music because it is powerful stuff. You should either listen to their music when you are by yourself, or if you are definitely ready for children. That’s the power of the music of Daryl Hall & John Oates.
Now that my wife and I have moved past the baby-making years, we can be careless with our listening habits. So, since I personally safe from this power, barring any divine intervention, can finally feel safe enough to rank all of Daryl Hall & John Oates’ studio albums. I know that most of you think of the duo as a singles artists, meaning they are more known for their hit songs than their albums, but I am here to try to change that view. But, if you insist on knowing their bliss of their singles, then treat yourself to either The Essential Daryl Hall & John Oates or the older, exact version of that CD called The Ultimate Daryl Hall & John Oates.
But, if you are more adventurous, then this list should help you determine where to start your Hall & Oates collection. So, in the words of P!nk, let’s get this party started…
18. Whole Oates (1972). This is a tentative debut where we find the duo attempting to decide in which direction to musically travel. Were they a folk duo, a rock duo, a soul duo, or something else? Stay tuned.
17. Our Kind of Soul (2004). Rarely is a covers album a good idea. And that’s what this is, a bad idea.
16. War Babies (1974). Daryl Hall & John Oates turned to Todd Rundgren to help them create a rock, soul & folk concoction, but the album fell short as they tried too hard and Rundgren over-produced the duo.
15. Home for Christmas (2006). This holiday special remains the band’s last studio album. For a Christmas, this is great. But for a Daryl Hall & John Oates, it is weak. I prefer to think of it as a Christmas album.
14. Bigger Than Both of Us (1976). Yes, this album has the classic “Rich Girl” on it. Unfortunately, the rest of the material is weak and sounds rushed, as though they were trying to tap into the success of “Sarah Smile” from the previous summer.
13. Marigold Sky (1997). This independently released album got lost during the days of rap and alternative music. The album is what War Babies SHOULD have sounded like.
12. Ooh Yeah! (1988). It seems that when an artist gets HUGE and takes a break, they usually lose their mojo. And, that’s what happened here. It’s not a bad album; Daryl & John decided to work with new people, so the chemistry was all different.
11. Beauty on a Back Street (1977). This is Hall & Oates’ darkest album, from the cover to the lyrics. There initial burst of success was over now, so what do you do for an encore?
10. Do It for Love (2003). At the time, their record label actually was mounting an old-time, all-out promotional assault on behalf of this great album. Unfortunately, times had changed, and no one but 20-, 30- & 40-somethings wanted this album. And what a shame, because it is an over-looked gem.
9. Big Bam Boom (1984). This was the last album of their most successful and artistically fertile period. On this album, the duo was stretching their rock & soul sound into early-80s hip hop with some success. After this, the guys would do “We Are the World”, a Hall & Oates Live Aid set, another Live Aid set with former Temptations Eddie Kendrick and David Ruffian, and release a live album from their concert at Harlem’s famous Apollo Theater. Then, they went silent until 1988’s Ooh Yeah!
8. Change of Season (1990). Remember 1990? It was a time when people were wanting to bury all things 80s and wanted new kings and queens of music, such alternative and rap artists. So, Daryl Hall & John Oates released a terrific album of rock & soul music that sounded as organic as Abandoned Luncheonette. Unfortunately, few people cared. This is another one of their lost classics.
7. Along the Red Ledge (1978). It was around 1978 that music began to get exciting again, with disco, punk and new wave beginning to make inroads. And, the duo had just moved to New York City to begin soaking up these sounds. On this album, the hired session players reads like a who’s who in the new rock scene, with guitarists Robert Fripp, formerly of King Crimson, and Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen leading the way. This is where the foundation of their 80s success is located.
6. X-Static (1979). Slowly, our heroes are putting together the band that will carry the duo into the stratosphere of success between the years of 1980 and 1984. You can actually hear obvious touches of new wave and punk being melded to their sound.
5. H2O (1982). This album was the maturing of the rock & soul sound perfected by the Daryl Hall & John Oates band. There is an air of confidence on this album that had never been heard before. The track listing nearly reads like a ‘Greatest Hits’ album.
4. Daryl Hall & John Oates (1975). This one is known as “The Silver Album”, since the album cover is a metallic silver. This album represents the duo’s commercial breakthrough. Contains their first Top 10 hit “Sarah Smile”. This is the album that got the whole ball rolling for the duo.
3. Voices (1980). Voices was a slow burning album that sneaked up on the public, and before we knew what had hit us, we were knee-deep in great radio hits like their remake of the Righteous Brothers’ classic “You’ve Lost Your Lovin’ Feelin'”, and their now classics “Kiss on My List” and “You Make My Dreams”. This album had touches of Beatlesque songs, new wave, power pop, full on pop, punk, rock and a barn-burner of a soul classic worthy of Otis Redding called “Everytime You Go Away”, which became a #1 hit for Paul Young in 1985. But, the definitive version is this one.
2. Abandoned Luncheonette (1973). Initially, this album was not a hit. But, in the wake of “Sarah Smile”, the duo’s original label re-released the classic soul cut “She’s Gone” and the rest is history. This album is worthy of mention as a Philly soul classic as anything released by Huff & Gamble, Thom Bell, or any of the other production greats from the city.
1. Private Eyes (1981). Private Eyes was Daryl Hall & John Oates, as well as their conspirators in songwriting, Sara Allen and Jana Allen, telling the world they were ready to take over the radio world with their hit songs. We have two number one songs in the title song and “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)”, as well as “Did It in a Minute”. If this album had been released after Thriller, we probably would have had four more songs become big hits.
Daryl Hall & John Oates have been huge in my collection ever since my mom said she would buy ‘The Silver Album’ for me during the Summer of 1975. And, although some of the photos in the packaging of that album made the duo look like romantic partners, I could care less. The music is what captured me, not the image, which would change from album to album. In my humble opinion, Hall & Oates are the greatest duo in rock history, and remain my fifth favorite rock artist.
3 thoughts on ““How Does It Feel to Be Back”: Ranking All of Daryl Hall & John Oates’ Studio Albums”
I love Hall & Oates. H2O is a personal favorite of mine. We never had a child because of them though. 🙂
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Although it was a single, it is overlooked and largely forgotten, but there are few better Hall & Oates tracks than Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid from ‘Big Bam Boom.’
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Hall & Oates have played an important role in my life.