|Hall & Oates - Our Kind of Soul Live|
|Written by Dan Macintosh|
|Tuesday, 08 November 2005|
Hall & Oates has long been praised for their Philly soul roots. Yet for a while their music did a poor job of reflecting those primary inspirations. This new DVD, with its mostly classic soul covers, rights a few wrongs by focusing on the kinds of sounds that originally excited this unique duo, and made them exciting.
Back in the '70s, evidenced by beautifully soulful singles like "Sara Smile," Hall & Oates showed great promise of becoming the next Righteous Brothers, because they had that whole blue-eyed soul thing down pat. Daryl Hall was – still is – the face of the group, whereas one has not always been certain of John Oates’ exact role, other than being the shorter, curlier-haired, sweet-singing backup vocalist. Whatever the roles, these two made sweet soul together, providing more goose bump appeal with a string of other hits like "Rich Girl" and "She's Gone."
But then the '80s happened.
The '80s was a wonderful decade for one-hit-wonders, pretty video faces and fashion models who moonlighted as rock stars. It wasn't, however, the best period for musical purists. For those who loved lyrics and music more than fast edits and video clichés, this was a difficult era to stay afloat making music. You could either hope that one of your great songs luckily caught the world's attention, or you could modify your image to fit the superficial times. Hall & Oates was one of the acts that chose the slight career makeover, which led to a lot of forgettable music.
Unless you were a disco dolly back then, fluff like "Maneater," "Private Eyes" and "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" means nothing to you now. Sure, you may fondly recall the videos, but these were all the most disposable sort of pop. It's the kind of stuff that’s cute the first time you see/hear it, like Tickle Me Elmo or Furby dolls, but becomes unbearably annoying after a while and then haunts you for the rest of your life.
Not only did Hall & Oates change their direction drastically, they were also highly successful with this tactic, too. So much so, in fact, that many people today don't even know just how doggone good this act was/is.
Here’s the good news: "Our Kind of Soul" is as good as Hall & Oates' '80s music was bad. Granted, this is not original music. It is, however, a collection of great songs sung well, and it's mighty hard to find fault with that approach.
So just what is Hall & Oates’ kind of soul? This DVD reveals the duo's fine taste in music, but it's not so easy to categorize. For example, "I Can Dream About You" is included; not a '60s or even a '70s soul chestnut, but rather a Dan Hartman hit from the mostly-dreaded '80s. In fact, it's the kind of song Hall & Oates should have been recording during that decade, instead of some of the drivel they actually released.
Naturally, there's a whole lot of Philly soul going on here, which is a style most closely associated with Philadelphia International Records. Such specific Philly tributes include “I’ll Be Around” (The Spinners), “Used To Be My Girl” (The O’Jays) and “Love TKO” (Teddy Pendergrass). These inclusions make sense because Daryl Hall recorded a single early on with the Romeos, a group that also included Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell, who would all go on to make names for themselves on the Philadelphia soul scene. Hall has a direct connection with the scene, as well as a love for its music.
Although Philadelphia soul makes up a large part of this show, ‘70s soul in general is its most common denominator. Barry White is honored with a performance of “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love,” and “Neither One Of Us” recalls the great work of Gladys Knight & the Pips. “You Are Everything” was a big hit for that soulful harmony group the Stylistics, and the Five Stairsteps’ “Ooh Child” is also included. Not everything would fit onto That ‘70s (Soul) Show, however, as “Standing in the Shadows of Love,” a ‘60s hit for The Four Tops, opens this show.
Hall & Oates sound best on the slower, smoother stuff here. Daryl Hall has one of those amazing voices, which makes pain seem so real you can almost touch it. He doesn’t, however, do so well on the more gutsy material. “Rock Steady,” for instance, a staple of Aretha Franklin’s repertoire, would have been better left alone. It’s impossible to redo this song and not make listeners long for the Queen of Soul’s voice on it.
For the most part, these performances are arranged in a kind of acoustic, unplugged fashion, which is a good thing. It’s an especially appropriate move when contrasted with how Hall & Oates so thoroughly sold out to ‘80s technological excesses back then. Thinking back, it was such a waste to match Hall’s sweet voice to such gimmicky rock-pop songs. But with these vintage tunes, he sounds back at home where he belongs.
Isn’t it amazing to watch how artists return to their roots after all the hits have dried up? Many times, such moves are useless. But if those roots are strong, as they clearly are for H & O, it’s a welcome revisit. If you loved the pair’s “bad” hits – and shame on you if you did! – this DVD also includes bonus performances of “One on One” and “Maneater.” But these are only two of 20 songs, a small slice of the pie. There’s one more bonus performance, “Sara Smile,” and that one fits in nicely with the main section of the show.
Our Kind Of Soul ought to be everybody’s kind of soul, because this is definitely the good stuff. If Hall & Oates could only make new songs that incorporated many of these key soul elements, it might make us forget all the yucky stuff they recorded for the MTV kiddies. Even if this never happens, however, Our Kind Of Soul offers up a wonderful testament to our kind of Hall & Oates.
This set is presented in DTS Digital Surround, which is a wonderful way to fill a room with great singing. Daryl Hall’s voice has never sounded better, and this DVD does an excellent job in bringing that out.