I posted this on an Ann Powers-instigated Facebook discussion on blue-eyed soul: “Daryl Hall comes about as close as anyone did. What separates him from his forebears — white and black — is his sourness. Forget the songs and listen to his timbre; the guy is almost incapable of projecting warmth (even on “One on One” he’s turned on by the sex games, not the object of desire).”
On Laughing Down Crying, the solo album he released a few months ago, Hall compensates for the extinction of the musical landscape in which he and partner John Oates scored countless hits by singing in as open-throated a manner as we’ve heard since the early seventies. Writing and playing almost every song himself, Hall sounds unexpectedly lithe and confident; if he used Pro Tools or other laryngeal enhancements I’m going deaf (maybe hosting “Live From Daryl’s House” helped). A few years ago the arrangements — strummed guitars and the occasional discordant keyboard embellishment — would have sounded pedestrian, but remember H&O’s Do It For Love and how embarrassingly those two forgot the virtues of counterpoint and harmony. Hall remembers again. He also reacquaints himself with his nasty side, which for a lot of us who aren’t Robert Christgau is precisely what we loved about this rich bitch girl. On “Wrong Side of History (So Cold)” he even writes a conceit I haven’t heard in a pop song before. If you find a used copy of Laughing Down Crying, pick it up.