One of the oddest but most pleasantly surprising musical collaborations of the '80s took place when Daryl Hall of the soon-to-be wildly popular duo Hall & Oates decided to make a record with the help of legendary progressive rock guitarist Robert Fripp. The result certainly sounded nothing like what either musician produced with his typical cohorts, and yet the visionary guitar textures championed by Fripp as a member of King Crimson seemed to bring out an esoteric but still accessible brilliance out of Hall. By the same token, Hall's gift for pop music songwriting exerted enough of its influence to keep the project from hurtling off into some nebulous noodling festival.
"Sacred Songs" and the other nine tracks on the 1980 album of the same name were actually recorded back in 1977, but RCA record executives shelved the record indefinitely, arguing that it wasn't commercial enough and too far removed from the already successful pop music Hall & Oates had made. Somehow, Hall and Fripp were able to secure the album's release prior to the '80s explosion of Hall & Oates, and even though it wasn't a smash hit, reviews and record-buyer response were strong. Of course, the LP's title track therefore qualifies as '80s music only by technicality, but its alignment with that particular decade of song is a small and welcome miracle. Both Hall and Fripp were clearly energized by their working relationship, and audiences familiar only with popular hits like "Maneater" or "Kiss on My List" owe it to themselves to spend some quality time with this track and the album on which it appears. Vocally, Hall continues to explore the high-pitched soul flourishes that define him as a singer, but he also delves into far more intricate musical and lyrical territory than the Hall & Oates banner could have ever afforded him. As for Fripp, it's obvious that Hall's melodic gifts and multi-faceted grasp of the power of the pop song provide him with a vibrant outlet for his production vision and virtuoso musician's ear. Ultimately, Hall's vocals take on a rock and roll snarl not heard in any of his other work of the period, supported ably by prominent piano and a galloping rhythm. Meanwhile, Fripp oversees the proceedings with a steady but unobtrusive hand, allowing some unique rhythms and saxophone to share space comfortably with his nimble, fluid lead guitar work. Hall certainly always sounds like he's having plenty of fun on the best tunes recorded by Hall & Oates, but here his vigor and passion reach new and exciting heights.
- Sample or download "Sacred Songs" here.
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