Review : Daryl Hall - Laughing Down Crying
PopmattersHas Daryl Hall ever been cooler than he is now? The last decade has seen his work as half of Hall & Oates go from the 1980s nostalgia bin to the rock pantheon. He has become something of a pop culture icon, appearing on hip television shows from Will & Grace to Flight of the Conchords. The electro-pop duo the Bird and the Bee released a non-ironic album of Hall & Oates covers. Though hardly revolutionary, Hall’s Live at Daryl’s House webcast has featured forward-thinking acts like Chromeo and Company of Thieves.
This newfound respect has put Hall in something of an awkward position. Since Hall & Oates’ chart presence started to fade in the late ‘80s, the duo’s bread and butter has been the adult contemporary scene. That’s right, the safe, comfortable, retiree-friendly neighborhood where Sting and Rod Steward now live. Hipsters who grew up listening to “Private Eyes” on the radio may give Hall his credibility, but it’s still primarily their moms and dads who fill the seats at concerts and shell out for CDs.
Hall made his first solo album, the edgy Sacred Songs, with Robert Fripp. He is not exactly a stranger to more progressive types of music. Now would seem to be a great time for him to call on one of his alterna-rock fans like Ben Gibbard or some of his Live At Daryl’s House collaborators. He would risk alienating some of that core adult alternative audience, sure. But he would have a chance to prove that, in his mid-60s, he is capable of making music as revitalized as his reputation. Instead, Hall made Laughing Down Crying with longtime collaborators and studio pros Paul Pesco and Greg Bieck. Old Hall & Oates hands T-Bone Wolk, Mickey Curry and Charlie DeChant also make appearances....full text
BlogcriticsI am always amazed and somewhat intrigued by how different Daryl Hall’s solo music sounds compared to his work with John Oates. Is the true Daryl Hall the consummate pop artist who is half of one of music's most commercially successful duos of all time, or is he the edgy rocker of his early solo days? His new album, Laughing Down Crying, places him somewhere in the middle.
Now in his mid-60s, Hall has traveled a long and largely successful musical journey, from scoring close to three-dozen hit singles with Oates – including six that reached Number One – to developing his own popular webcast, Live From Daryl’s House.
Laughing Down Crying, Hall's first solo effort since 2004’s Live In Philadelphia, reflects the many styles that have influenced and been a part of his career, as elements of rock, pop, soul, and even a little gospel combine to form a somewhat eclectic but ultimately satisfying album.
The title track gets it off to a good start as an acoustic approach and tight harmonies create a folk/rock vibe. “Talking To You (Is Like Talking To Myself)” is more uptempo and hook-laden in contrast, while “Message To You” sounds like it could have been plucked right out of the Hall & Oates catalogue.
There are also some twists and turns along the way. With some deep bass lines laying its foundation, “Eyes For You (Ain’t No Doubt About It)” allows Hall to explore a funk sound. “Get Out Of The Way” assumes more of a modernized approach as programmed drums and layers of guitars combine with impeccable production....full text
StarpulseIt's fair to ask what kind of solo album Daryl Hall would make after 14 years and a world of changes. Since 1997's Can't Stop Dreaming, Hall reunited with John Oates, cut records, and toured globally. He ended a 30-year romantic and creative partnership, got married, became a stepdad, and created Live from Daryl's House, a homemade internet TV show that went into national syndication in 2007. In 2010, four days into these recording sessions, his producer and best friend T-Bone Wolk died suddenly of a heart attack (the album, dedicated to him, contains his final recorded performances). Laughing Down Crying is instantly recognizable, yet ambitious and understandably poignant. Hall plays loads of instruments here; he co-produced with guitarist Paul Pesco and keyboardist Greg Bieck. These ten songs reflect the range of music Hall's recorded, been influenced by, and encountered while doing his internet show. He doesn't shy away from what made him and Oates household names in the '80s; he embraces the songcraft but doesn't indulge in nostalgia. The title track opens with an acoustically driven folk-rock number; the melody is pure Hall. It grabs the listener instantly with its strummed acoustic guitars and laid-back backbeats. The vocal harmonies are pure '70s rock classicism in the refrain, and in them is a tight, rich hook. "Talking to You (Is Like Talking to Myself)" is more uptempo, its hook dead center. The dual harmony lead vocals touch on late-'80s and early-'90s pop but pushes past them. "Lifetime of Love" is an acoustically driven, blue-eyed soul number, with horns and a backing chorus that push Hall to soar over them, and his voice just gets better with age. The opening of "Eyes for You (Ain't No Doubt About It)" is a spacy, nocturnal, funky soul tune with a babymaker bassline and loop. "Save Me" employs slick gospel with an unforgettable chorus. "Wrong Side of History" would serve Hall & Oates well in the 21st century. Hall's interest in modern production and songwriting is revealed in "Get Out of the Way," with its big drum loops, wall of guitars, and Hall's voice calling up the musical storm around him. "Crash & Burn" is a gorgeous acoustic pop ballad, and set closer "Problem with You" has Hall taking on the blues via his Philly soul roots. Admittedly, Laughing Down Crying is comforting and familiar. That said, it offers plenty of proof that Hall is restless and still growing musically. It's the work of a master musician doing what he does best -- writing and performing beautifully crafted pop songs in terrific form -- while proving that not only does he have plenty left to say in the new millennium, but has everything it takes to compete in the marketplace. Thom Jurek, Rovi...full text
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