Monday, March 26, 2012

"Private Eyes" by Hall & Oates (1981)

View the Premise & Ground Rules for Revisiting Vinyl.

Fun Fact:
The liner notes list all the instruments Darryl Hall plays on this LP; one of them is "Computerythm."  C'mon, he just made that up, didn't he?

Filed Between:
The "Hair" soundtrack and Tom T. Hall.

Key Tracks:
Looking for a Good Sign is that patented style of R&B where H&O TCBI Can't Go for That (No Can Do) is a great song with a great sax solo.  Head above Water has a nice, Police-ish vibe.

Obvious Filler & Swings-and-Misses:
Did It in a Minute and Your Imagination are the most obvious "obvious filler."  That list could get long here.  Mano a Mano.  Sigh.  That's the song written, composed and sung by John Oates and it confirms all those opinions that he's really just Darryl Hall's backup singer.  Need proof?  Here's the first vierse in its entirety:

  • Now I see a lot of people walking around and around.  Terra firma turned them upside down.  Too scared to reach out, maybe afraid of what they'll find - but a hand stuck in a pocket comes up empty every time.  Now you better believe the writing on the wall - all for one and one for all, woman to woman and man to man, face to face, heart to heart, hand to hand.

My Overall Rating of the Tracks Separately:
Average (2/4 stars)

Before revisiting "Private Eyes," I had my soapbox all ready.  It was dusted off and I was about to climb up and open today's entry with the assertion that you have to love Hall & Oates if you're a fan of music.  But then I listened to it.  Like Hall says in Some Men, "we ain't soldiers, so don't you Generalize."

When I dropped the needle and the title track kicked it off (assuming you start with Side A, not Side One... ugh), I was kind of surprised.  Private Eyes is not a great song.  It's a good song - to be sure - but it's not the song I remember it being.  And so, the retinting effects of nostalgia make their first real appearance in Revisiting Vinyl.  That was when I started to get nervous.

But it pulls out of that potential tailspin with some full-on R&B in Looking for a Good Sign.  And then it gets even better when that R&B gets blended with the pop aspirations of the first track into I Can't Go for That (No Can Do).

And then it stops cold in its tracks.  Pretty much everything else on the record is forgettable and REALLY repetitive.  In fact, it seems rather odd that it ends up being that way, since they add elements of so many different genres: R&B, eighties pop, raggae, new wave, prog and even something I will refer to as synth jugband - often within the same song.  But almost every track ends with a pedestrian line or couplet repeated over and over like a mantra.  Sometimes, you'll think it's all finally winding down and then they tack on an extra chorus for no good reason other than to test your endurance.

So, is it an album?  No.  It seems clever and playful to have both a Side A and a Side One, but it really just serves to prove that you're not even sure how people should experience your art.  It's like hanging an abstract painting sideways in a gallery and nobody noticing.

Up next, "The Dream of the Blue Turtles" by Sting.

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