Still in Touch

Hall and Oates continue to tour as their old hits fill the airwaves.

Sometimes the hyperbole is warranted, such as when Daryl Hall and John Oates are billed the most successful recording duo in music history.

Back in the early and middle 1980s, when many of us were turning to post-punk, hip-hop and alternative music, Hall and Oates made the mainstream palatable with an unprecedented string of Top 40 hits--"Wait for Me," "Kiss on My List," "You Make My Dreams," "Private Eyes," "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)," "Maneater," "Did It in a Minute," "Your Imagination," "One on One," "Family Man," "Say It Isn't So," "Adult Education," "Out of Touch," and that more-than-respectable cover of the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling."

Hall and Oates--neither was available for an interview, according to their publicist--continue to tour on the strength of that success. They will visit Tucson for a performance Sunday night at the University of Arizona's Centennial Hall. The concert is being presented by the UA's Hillel Foundation, which will benefit from the proceeds.

The '80s may have been the bounty years for the Philly soul duo, but they made their best material in the decade previous.

Their oft-overlooked second album, Abandoned Luncheonette, is a shoulda-been soulful pop classic with not one weak song, and it sports the initial recording of the classic R&B tune, "She's Gone."

The Todd Rundgren-produced War Babies is atypical for Hall and Oates, but a brilliant wallow in grimy sci-fi-influenced hard rock, bolstered by studio-musician ringers that included Rundgren and most of his prog-rock band, Utopia. Compared to their hit-making formulas of later years, it's an oddball gem heard by few fans.

Then, in the late '70s, came hits such as "Rich Girl" and "Sara Smile," which remain staples of R&B oldie stations. Those tunes still enliven a staid radio format.

It's hard to believe, but time does move on. Nowadays, both the guys are both old enough to join the American Association of Retired Persons. Hall, 57, and Oates, 55, continue to tour with their "rock 'n' soul" revue and make new recordings, solo and otherwise.

Back in 1967, the two Temple University students met in the same freight elevator while fleeing a gang fight at a dance at Philadelphia's Adelphi Ballroom. Each was a member of an R&B band on the bill. They shared interests in classic soul and doo-wop.

Both worked apart in other bands for a while, and the cherub-voiced Hall made a name for himself singing back-up for such soul groups as The Stylistics, the Delfonics and the Intruders.

Their paths finally intersected again, and they signed to Atlantic Records in 1972. Recording-industry legend Arif Mardin produced their first album, the low-key acoustic-oriented Whole Oats, which went largely ignored on a national scale while the guys paid their dues on the Philly circuit.

A few years later with "She's Gone" and "Sara Smile," the duo was thrust into the spotlight, where they remained until the cusp of the '90s, a decade during which they made only two proper albums, Change of Season (1990) and Marigold Sky (1997).

Solo albums and oldies tours dominated those years, but Hall's been working solo since 1979, when he made the enigmatic and sometimes genius Sacred Songs, with the help of art-rock guitar god Robert Fripp. Their most recent solo records are Hall's Can't Stop Dreaming (1996) and Oates' Phunk Shui (2002).

But since the turn of the century, Hall and Oates already have matched their 1990s output with VH1 Behind The Music: The Daryl Hall & John Oates Collection in 2002, and last year's Do It for Love.

The pair isn't slowing down even as they approach their late 50s. This summer, they will tour alternately with the Average White Band and Michael McDonald. Talk about your blue-eyed soul extravaganzas!

Coming soon are live solo CDs from Daryl Hall and from John Oates, as well as a live duo CD. Those will be released directly through their fan club.

Sure, they have been honored with a spot on the Rock Walk, but what should really solidify their position as rock royalty will be the release of the two-CD set, Ultimate H&0, from BMG Records on March 23. The set will include 37 re-mastered cuts from the 1970s to the present.

Then, on May 18, a DVD collecting the duo's most popular videos from the classic MTV era of the 1980s will be released. Here's hoping it includes the duo's hokey-happy cover of "Jingle Bell Rock," their moving collaborations with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendrick of the Temptations and Hall's wonderful duet with Elvis Costello, "The Only Flame in Town."

Clearly, Daryl Hall and John Oates have more than enough quality material to fill up a concert.

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