Happy 35th Anniversary to Daryl Hall & John Oates’ eleventh studio album H2O, originally released October 4, 1982.
Hall & Oates have been gifting the masses with blue-eyed soul since the early ‘70s. The Songwriters Hall of Famers met at a band competition in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, in 1967. Trying to escape gunfire, Daryl Hall and John Oates rushed onto a service elevator and became fast friends when they discovered they had a lot in common, particularly with music. They were inseparable from that point on. The mailbox at one of their apartments listed “Hall & Oates,” it resonated with them and they decided to use it as their moniker as they pursued their music aspirations.
As with most things in life, including bands, when you first start out, you’re on your sea legs, not quite adjusted or defined. Hall & Oates originally had more of a Crosby, Stills and Nash sound, with a hint of R&B. Their first three albums—Whole Oates (1972), Abandoned Luncheonette (1973) and War Babies (1974)—didn’t spawn any significant charting hits. However, “She’s Gone,” which was the fourth track on Abandoned Luncheonette, offered a glimpse into what their future, clearly-defined sound would be: Philly soul meets acoustic soul meets pop.
By the time the duo’s eleventh studio album H20 was released in 1982, they had definitely found their sound and already had numerous hits. “Sara Smile” and “Rich Girl” put them on the map in the mid ‘70s and by 1980, they were the kings of white-pop soul. No one else had a sound like them. In 1980, they released their ninth studio album Voices, which spent 100 weeks on the Billboard 200. “Kiss on My List” and “You Make My Dreams” were two of the highest charting singles from the album, reaching #1 and #12, respectively.
They kept the momentum going by releasing their tenth studio album Private Eyes the following year. Private Eyes was a massive success, with four hit singles, and is often considered one of the best albums of the ‘80s. It had a very new wave, soul, pop feel, and succinctly cemented their signature sound.
When H20 dropped in 1982, they were hot as skillet grease. The album had one of their biggest hits, “Maneater,” which stayed at #1 on the Billboard 100 chart for a record-breaking four weeks, and it was their bestselling, with 4 million units sold. This certified double-platinum album is funk meets synth, utilizing the prominent new wave sound of the ‘80s, while maintaining Hall & Oates’ R&B roots. “Maneater” is definitely the shining star on the album, with its slinky, methodic tempo and lyrical prowess.
“One on One” and “Family Man” were also chart-toppers, but every track offers something interesting. “Italian Girls” has an early ‘70s kind of Bay City Rollers feel and is the most soft rock sounding of all the songs on the album. “Guessing Game” is a catchy ditty that is akin to Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl,” upbeat, cheeky, fun. “Delayed Reaction” leans into the ‘80s synth sound and showcases Hall’s vocal chops. “At Tension” is a slower, funkier groove, closer to their familiar sound. “Crime Pays” is another funky number, reminiscent of a Prince or Morris Day and the Time groove, mixing head-bopping beats with a dance rhythm.
The eleven tracks on the record exemplify why Hall & Oates owned the ‘80s: great vocals, meaningful lyrics, and unforgettable hooks. H2O quenches the music lover’s thirst for musical sustenance and is a cool dose of soul-pop rock by this dynamic duo.