Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Daryl Hall & John Oates [extended]

  • Abandoned Luncheonette [Atlantic, 1973] B-
  • Bigger Than Both of Us [RCA Victor, 1976] C+
  • No Goodbyes [Atlantic, 1977] B+
  • Along the Red Ledge [RCA Victor, 1978] B
  • Voices [RCA Victor, 1980] C+
  • H2O [RCA Victor, 1982] B-
  • Rock'n Soul Part 1 [RCA Victor, 1983] B+
  • Big Bam Boom [RCA Victor, 1984] B
  • Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine [RCA Victor, 1986] C
  • Ooh Yeah! [Arista, 1988] C+

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Abandoned Luncheonette [Atlantic, 1973]
This comes down to a nice equation of folk duo and soul falsetto group, brought together with the best vocal and production pyrotechnics a studio can afford. The music rocks with a smooth sophistication, although it can get sententious as well as popsy cute; the lyrics diagnose romantic malaise with clinical expertise and occasional acuity--"Everybody's high on consolation," perfect. If not too perfect. B-

Bigger Than Both of Us [RCA Victor, 1976]
Now they're rich boys, and they've gone too far, 'cause they don't know what matters anyway. C+

No Goodbyes [Atlantic, 1977]
The three previously unreleased songs on this compilation--especially "Love You Like a Brother," an ironic double or triple whammy--define worldly, media-saturated, serially monogamous singles (as in singles bar, though I'm sure they wouldn't stoop so low) as well as the best cuts on the well-represented Abandoned Luncheonette. The three songs from War Babies take on larger issues of concern to singles--destruction by stardom, etc. B+

Along the Red Ledge [RCA Victor, 1978]
Do these guys still worry about being mistaken for the O'Jays? I suppose you could call them soulful, but in the style of one of those hairdressers (no imputation of sexual preference intended) who doubles as an unlicensed therapist. I admit that cut by cut and counting this is their most impressive album. Hall gets two tart ain't-love-a-bitch songs out of a broken romance that seems to have touched his "heart," while Oates puts his name on homages to Aerosmith and Talking Heads. But it's docked a notch because after all these years I still don't know which one's the blond. B

Voices [RCA Victor, 1980]
It wasn't inevitable that the return to form heralded in the trades should accompany the waning of whatever made them mildly interesting to the so-called consumer press, but the coincidence is worth noting. Except for "Kiss on My List" (number-one singles are laws unto themselves), the mildly interesting stuff is commercial filler: gently clever like "Big Kids," secretly dark like "Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear the Voices)." And for all the hoo-hah surrounding Daryl and his "repressed" solo album, his singing is as pallid as his partner's: "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" is the greatest thing to happen to oldies stations since Grease. C+

H2O [RCA Victor, 1982]
The bristling hookcraft and fussy funk of their crossover has never been more unmistakable, and neither has its small-mindedness. Only "One on One," the album's sole seduction song, breaks the waspish music into something bigger, and while their dispatches from the sex wars might gain heart if gender-reversed (women get partial lyric credit on no less than five of them) I just don't believe "Maneater" was conceived with Nona Hendryx in mind. B-

Rock'n Soul Part 1 [RCA Victor, 1983]
This best-of is where to get to know them, but I wouldn't sit around waiting for that marriage proposal if I were you. There's no denying the instant pleasure of such slick tricks as the seductive "One on One," the bitchy "Rich Girl," the inevitable "She's Gone," and for that matter the sexist "Manheater." But in this pop era, instant pleasure never carries a lifetime guarantee. B+

Big Bam Boom [RCA Victor, 1984]
What makes these guys so depressing is their definitive proof that instinctive musicality insures no other human virtue. Rival popsters, Bruce and Cyndi included, don't do nearly as much for Arthur Baker's hip-hop dub, which in this context is sly and graceful and goofy and catchy and thrilling, and they even have the good taste to like, you know, soul. Yet if in the end you think the music doesn't connect, you get a gold star--the affluent anomie I wish were only a pop-sociology cliché pervades not just the lyrics but the mix itself. And you want to know something even more depressing? Millions of record buyers either don't notice or like it like that. B

Daryl Hall: Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine [RCA Victor, 1986]
Bloated by endless codas, superfluous instrumentation, hall upon hall of vocal mirrors, and the artist's unshakable confidence that his talent makes him significant, these ten songs average almost five minutes apiece. Cut down to the trifles they are by a lightweight collaborator, they might qualify as likable pap. We'll never know. C

Ooh Yeah! [Arista, 1988]
Break up? Them? Nah, that was just a sabbatical, and to prove it here they are, crafting that platinum as craftily as they know how to justify their brand new advance. Daryl's stiff had nothing to do with it. Of course not. 'Cept that both records do overdo the overdubs, less fulsomely on this very model of second-hand black than when Daryl calls all the shots, but fatally nevertheless. I dare you to make out hitbounds like "Missed Opportunity" and "Rockability" or talismans like "Downtown Life" and "Keep On Pushin' Love" in the time it takes a music director to push reject. The album came out in May. It's dropping out of the top 200. It's not platinum. Justice abides in the world. C+