Daryl Hall has come along way since he took the role as half of the hit making pop duo, Hall & Oates in 1969.
The singer, songwriter, musician (keyboards and guitar), and creator/executive producer of the hit online (and now television) show Live From Daryl’s House (LFDH), has spent the past four decades creating a slew of hit songs and performing to sold out audiences worldwide.
With John Oates, Hall went from creating songs infused with folk-like harmonies to making some of the most melodic and memorable radio-friendly hits of the 1970s, including, “She’s Gone,” “Sara Smile,” and “When The Morning Comes.”
With colorful mismatch outfits (complete with huge unsightly shoulder pads and pleated pants (hey, it was the 1980s), Oates’ trademark mustache, and upbeat pop songs that seemed to become instant favorites - the duo’s popularity grew to epic proportions in the 80s, and their image made them two of the key poster boys for the MTV generation - sparking hit music videos for songs like “Private Eyes,” “Family Man,” “I Can’t Go For That,” “You Make My Dreams Come True,” "Maneater," and more.
But the 1990s and early-2000s ushered in a new era of music and discovery for Daryl Hall.
Although the mass popularity of Hall & Oates began to wane at this time, the duo did release five albums to their fans delight that sparked a couple of hits - including three studio albums, an album of R&B cover songs, and a Christmas album. See: H&O discography
But it was also during this time that Hall released two of his most notable solo albums - Soul Alone (1993) and Can’t Stop Dreaming (2003)- both of which ventured away from the type of music he and Oates were creating.
No longer was his music pop driven; in fact, there was not a mainstream hit on either of the albums.
Instead, Hall chose to release two introspective albums that would delve deeper into who he was as an artist, both musically and personally.
He had released two other solo albums in the past – the experimental Sacred Songs (1977) (produced by Robert Fripp, guitarist and member of rock band King Crimson), and Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine (1986), which spawned the hits, "Someone Like You," and "Dreamtime."
But Soul Alone and Can’t Stop Dreaming seemed to shape the singer into the artist he had strived to be respected as for years.
If ever there was a major shift in what fans had come to know as “the Daryl Hall sound,” it was definitely during this time.
Hall began to write lyrics that explored the emotions and challenges that he was experiencing at the time - like moving on (and keeping it together) when a loved one has passed away, relationships breaking up, the complications of beginning new relationships, and the confusion of it all.
Although he has never been one to be ashamed of the pop music he’s done in the past, it was Hall’s turn to show everyone that he had much more depth as an artist than they thought - including those nay sayers in the music industry and critics who had cast him aside for years as simply just a handsome face who made simple pop songs.
The studio musicians Hall brought in for his solo projects during the 90s, along with members of the Hall & Oates band (including the late T-Bone Wolk, who was Hall’s longtime friend and bassist/music director for Hall & Oates), were focused on a blend of R&B, funk, and smooth jazz on both albums.
It was also on these albums that Hall began to show listeners the broad depth of his voice more - not relying as much on the falsetto register that listeners had become used to, and expected.
Very seldom did he choose to reach those anticipated high notes, choosing instead to sing in a lower timbre on many of the songs.
Hall's changes were not warmly embraced by all, as many fans thought he had lost the ability to hit those notes that were heard in songs like "One On One," and "Have I Been Away Too Long" - plus, he was no longer making those catchy pop hits they used to hear frequently on the radio.
For some, the changes were welcomed signs of a seasoned performer who had only become better at his craft by adapting to the changes of his voice and the music he was producing at the time - while still keeping his vocal expertise and the soul in his singing in tact.
Yes, that Philadelphia soul - that heart wrenching, emotion stirring, goosebumps on your arm producing, soulful voice that has been ingrained in Hall since his early days of singing and growing up in Philly listening to the great artists of Motown of whom he drew his influences; singers like Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, and the Temptations.
Critics and others alike who never took Hall seriously as a music artist began to pay attention to his work, as it was no longer masked by an image.
Having solidified himself as a solo artist and a member of Hall & Oates, since then, Hall has taken his music career to another level.
In 2007, Hall had a “light bulb moment,” that would eventually turn into a multimedia sensation.
He'd toyed with the thought of inviting other musicians over to his house to perform a variety of songs just for the fun of it - and he wanted to have the performances filmed and placed on the Internet for viewers to enjoy.
The idea would soon turn into the monthly Internet web-show, Live From Daryl’s House, seen here.
Hall and his stellar band of musicians have performed with a number of different artists over the past four years on the show, including: John Oates, electro-dance duo, Chromeo; country singer, Jimmy Wayne; indie-rock and soul group, Fitz & The Tantrums; soul singer, Mayer Hawthorne; and legends Smokey Robinson and Todd Rundgren – just to name a few.
LFDH has progressed from Hall simply sitting on a stool with his guitar and telling stories about his songs before performing them to including cooking and interview segments with his guests who jam with him on everything from classic Hall & Oates tunes, to their tunes, to miscellaneous cover songs right in a comfy spot set up at Hall's house.
The web-show’s popularity has recently prompted the series to be brought to television, where it is now being shown in 95 markets.
With all of the recent focus turned towards Hall and his projects, more and more artists are coming forward to confess that they have been long time supporters of the singer's work.
Bands like Chromeo, The Killers, ?uestlove of The Roots, Travis McCoy of Gym Class Heroes (who has a tattoo of Hall & Oates on his hands), and many other artists have declared Hall's influence on them.
It has been eight years now since Daryl Hall released Can’t Stop Dreaming. And for years fans had anticipated a follow-up album that Hall signaled would be released “soon” in interviews; one that would possibly include some of his previous LFDH guests, he said.
But it wasn’t until Sept. 27, that we would all see the release of Laughing Down Crying - a new set of songs that takes listeners on another mysterious journey through the world of Daryl Hall.
Described by him in recent interviews as a "very aggressive album," Laughing Down Crying takes listeners on a rollercoaster ride through the 80s-era of Hall & Oates, his past solo work, and straight up acoustic-rock all at once.
Mellow at times, funky in spurts, and nostalgic all over, Laughing Down Crying definitely cannot be pigeonholed into one category.
After his longtime music collaborator T-Bone Wolk, passed away in 2010 during the beginnings of recording the album, Hall decided to bring in guitarist and noted studio musician, Paul Pesco to complete it – someone who is not a stranger to working with the singer, as he'd participated in the Hall & Oates band years ago.
But without Wolk's influence, Laughing Down Crying takes different directions in terms of sound, focus, and well - direction; the album definitely takes on a life of its own.
And that is not exactly a bad thing for Hall, who explored different genres of music on this album and stayed true to himself - instead of attempting to “reinvent" himself with a specific sound, trying out the AutoTune, or throwing Lady GaGa ( or someone of the sort) on some of the tracks.
The lead single, “Talking To You (Is Like Talking To Myself),” has an early-80s Hall & Oates vibe to it, a bit reminiscent of “Private Eyes” but without the emphasis on keyboard hooks throughout the song.
“Eyes For You (Ain’t No Doubt About It)," my personal favorite on the album, is laden with keyboards, bass, and an all around funky feel that may remind many of, “I Can’t Go For That.”
On the other hand, “Crash & Burn,” is an airy number infused with acoustic-guitar riffs that could possibly be a hit on the Adult Contemporary charts, while “Message To Ya,” is an upbeat pop song with a bit of a contemporary Gospel edge.
For those of you who were waiting for Soul Alone II, Can’t Stop Dreaming Revisited, or even Abandoned Luncheonette 2011; none of that happens here.
Laughing Down Crying is in a class all by itself and is certainly worth a listen.
I think it may be time for Daryl Hall to give up his title as the “Rodney Dangerfield of the Music Industry," one that has stuck with him for a while.
The artist who has been an influence and inspiration to many others may be finally receiving the respect he's strived for, and deserves.
Maybe now the folks at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would follow the Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame and induct Hall & Oates – but that’s another story all together.