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Daryl Hall and John Oates - Our Kind of Soul

Our Kind of Soul is my kind of soul too.
Growing up listening to Daryl Hall and John Oates taught me everything I ever really needed to know about the power of soul. Through their famed rock and soul sound, I gradually found my own way to the Temptations, the Spinners, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Al Green, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Barry White and some of the other greats whose songs the duo make their own right here.
Daryl Hall & John Oates didn’t make their good name as soul purists. Instead they blended the soulful sounds they grew up with in Philadelphia together with rock, pop, folk and anything else that resonated with them. But Daryl and John would be the first to say that at the musical core, you will always find a deep and undying passion for great soul music. Their love for the soulful sounds that first inspired them always came across loud and clear wherever they happen to be on the musical map at any given time.
Now with the altogether stunning Our Kind of Soul -- produced with great heart and soul by Daryl Hall, T Bone Wolk and Greg Bieck -- Daryl Hall and John Oates have done much more than just gracefully tip their hats to some past classics. What we have here is no mere impressive musical museum piece. Our Kind of Soul is more than that -- this is intimate, revelatory soul music that’s been lovingly made very much in the present tense. Thirty years after “Sara Smile” first hit the airwaves, the duo aren’t just willing and able students of this remarkable music. They have become authoritative, inventive teachers. And here on Our Kind of Soul, they prove once and for all that imitation actually isn’t the sincerest form of flattery. Rather than just faithfully and professionally cover some of the greatest soul songs ever, the pair have made them their own -- bringing some of the most soulful songs of the Twenty Century alive and still very much kicking into the Twenty-First Century. One question remains: what exactly is soul? Where does this powerful music come from? It’s such a big and important issue I decided to ask the smartest person I know -- my six-year-old son Andrew. When I put this soulful matter to the kid, he thought about it for a few moments.
“Soul is what’s inside of you,” he told me finally. “It’s the best stuff in there.”
That was plenty good enough for me. Then a few days later, coming home from a ball game, out of nowhere he asked to elaborate. “Daddy,” he told me. “I think soul is what keeps you alive.”Informed of this definition. Daryl Hall lets out a warm laugh. “Out of the mouths of babes,” Hall says. Yes, and out of the mouths of Daryl Hall and John Oates comes true, enduring, living soul music. This is, without question, their kind of soul. And now thankfully, it’s all of ours too. David Wild 2004


LET LOVE TAKE CONTROL: From the start we knew Our Kind of Soul would be albums about making old songs feel new again. But we also wanted to include a few new originals too. John Oates, Billy Mann and I wrote “Let Love Take Control” -- a real gospel soul song that blends right into the picture. Billy’s a Philly guy and he really knows us. The first record he ever bought was “Rich Girl.” The way we work is we sit around and talk about what we want to say. That’s how “Do It for Love” and now “Let Love Take Control” came about. It’s like a group psychology session and out of that comes a phrase we hang the whole song on. Truthfully, I can barely describe the joy of making this music. We did let love take control. We basically did the whole thing in three weeks on a very small island in the Bahamas where I live. We came there to do some drum programming, and it all just flowed. The local people would come by and check out what we did each day. There was lots of community support -- the local church even lent us a bass. And in between takes, we’d just open my front door and look out at the ocean. This was a joyful experience and I believe that comes across in the music.

STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF LOVE: I read in the liner notes for the Four Tops box set something I’d always suspected – that the great Motown songwriting team Holland, Dozier, Holland were being influenced by people like Dylan around the time that they wrote this masterpiece. “Standing in the Shadows of Love” was sort of their version of a Bob Dylan song. You can hear that the way Levi Stubbs sort of shouted the melody instead of singing it. So I said to T Bone Wolk -- who was a huge part of making this album -- why don’t we try to do a sort of Blonde on Blonde version of “Standing in the Shadows of Love”? But since I’m not Bob Dylan or Levi Stubbs, I didn’t try to shout the melody. We did it our way. We even added a little bridge in the middle that for me transforms what was always a great, dramatic soul song.

I’LL BE AROUND: The original “I’ll Be Around” showcased the amazing Spinners and the whole ensemble of TSOP – The Sound of Philadelphia. But we had to make the song sound like us because there wasn’t much else there in the Bahamas to work with really. We set up a studio in my workshop -- a room about ten feet by twelve feet. We went down with the idea that we were just going to do drum tracks with our programmer Greg Bieck, an immensely talented musician. We ended up making the whole record really. Because we had such limited instruments, it gave us a true focus. We took “I’ll Be Around” from an acoustic point of view. This was really the most primitive recording I’ve done in years and that’s what makes it feel so alive. I go way back with the Spinners and Thom Bell, and the late great Phillipe Wynne is one of my favorite all-time singers. His phrasing and melodic choices were so unique. He was a big influence on me. If you listen to my original recording of “Sara Smile,” there’s a lot of Philippe Wynne in my phrasing.

USED TA BE MY GIRL:We love the music of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff and the amazing records they did with the O’Jays. And I always liked “Used Ta Be My Girl” as a song, but for me it wasn’t one of Philly Soul’s greatest arrangements. That’s one where I liked the song more than the record. So again we decided to really put our stamp on the song. Our version here is a lot different – it’s a lot funkier if I do say so myself. Throughout the album, we strip everything down to what works for us. That’s only right because I know just about every classic soul song from Philly started with a bunch of guys who got in a room and jammed things out. In our own way, that’s what we did all over Our Kind of Soul. We spent years and years experimenting and developing and trying to expand on a sound, but weren’t quite sure what it was. We were too far inside it. But in the Nineties, because we stopped for a time, we had the ability to step out of ourselves, look at ourselves objectively, and really know what it is we do that is unique.

SOUL VIOLINS– I wrote “Soul Violins” and instantly knew it would make sense on this album. This is a real soul song, and like a lot of my favorites, it came out of a real experience. Basically I hadn’t seen my girlfriend in a while. We were going through a rough patch -- as you do -- and thankfully we came through that. At the end of all that, I said to her, “When you walk in the room, I’m going to hear soul violins.” Then I started thinking that no one’s ever written a song with that sensation in mind – you know, that romantic background music that you hear in your head when you’re having a reunion with someone you haven’t seen in too, too long. That’s when you hear those soul violins.

I CAN DREAM ABOUT YOU: Dan Hartman said he wrote that song for us. Back in those days, we weren’t really doing covers, and happily Dan had a really big hit with himself. On “I Can’t Dream About You,” I think Dan was channeling us both us and the Temptations – that was around the time when John and I did were doing our big Apollo show with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks -- two of our favorite soul singers ever. I thought it was appropriate to include a song like “I Can Dream About You” because soul music is cross-cultural. Soul is beyond race. Also it was interesting to cover a song that was originally meant for us. Sadly, Dan is no longer here with us, but I’m happy that, however belatedly, he finally got his wish for us to sing the song. You might notice I changed a lot of the lyrics. I kept “I Can Dream about You” and “moving sidewalks.” Throughout the album, we were men on a mission who just took out whatever didn’t fit us.

DON’T TURN YOUR BACK ON ME: This was another deeply felt song that came out of the same separation situation that inspired “Soul Violins.” Sometimes you write the best songs when you’re feeling the most vulnerable. “Don’t Turn Your Back on Me Baby” was inspired by an emotion not unlike “Every time You Go Away.” As a song, I really love the way the verse is sort of murky and very intimate. Then the chorus hits you and suddenly it’s really different. It’s like the heavens open into a soaring emotional cry. “Something about the song reminds me of the sound of David Ruffin -- and trust me, that’s definitely a very pleasant reminder.

FADING AWAY:What a great song, and to think that it was never a hit. “Fading Away” is an old Smokey Robinson song that became a B-side for one of the early Temptations singles. This is one where I didn’t even listen to the original record -- I just recorded it from memory. All these years later, the song sounds modern and new to me as if I’d just written it myself. If I couldn’t remember the words, I sang what made sense to me. I completely changed the arrangement, and even added a bridge. On the record, the great Eddie Kendricks sang that for the Temptations. I changed the key, but I don’t even have to bother trying to channel Eddie. The truth is he’s always somewhere in there for me.

NEITHER ONE OF US (WANTS TO BE THE FIRST TO SAY GOODBYE): Obviously, Gladys Knight did a fantastic job on that song, but as much as I might love the Pips, I always thought that their arrangement was just a little bit jive on that particular record. That’s an amazing song that I always thought that I could sing and bring a different sort of poignancy to it. I wanted to break “Neither One Of Us” down to its most raw emotion. For me, doing it that way steps the song up a few notches, and this was already one hell of a song written by Jim Weatherly, who was responsible for a number of their biggest hits. We listened to that track after we cut it, and frankly, we started crying. It’s a very powerful, soulful song.

AFTER THE DANCE:I’ve always felt challenged by “After The Dance” because the background harmonies Marvin Gaye did there were so unique and so intricate they’re as important -- if not more important -- than the lead vocal. The other challenge was that Marvin never really sang any words, so I had to make some up. I sort of made up my own story based on Marvin’s amazing, ultra-soulful mumbling. Doing that song was like going to school. It’s such a unique, advanced piece of music. I definitely felt like I was collaborating with Marvin on that one. I’ve always been partial to that later period of Marvin’s work. He was at his most troubled then but also at his musical peak. He was definitely pushing the boundaries.

ROCK STEADY:That song truly does rock steady. The groove of the thing is just amazing. We wanted to see if we could make that into a man’s song because it’s quite rightly so identified with the great Aretha Franklin. By changing the key of the song, it really gives everything such a cool vibe. I cannot wait to play “Rock Steady” live. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from the soulful women singers, all the way back to my early days when I was listening to gospel music. I love strong singing – it doesn’t even matter if it was a man or a woman, rock, soul or gospel.

LOVE TKO:That’s always been one of my favorites. That’s an amazing song Teddy Pendergrass had a huge hit with and I love the Womack team’s writing. Yes, I have been called “Teddy Bear” in my day too, but for different reasons. When we got back from recording in the Bahamas, we did a few finishing touches in upstate New York. One of the guys we had in overdubbing was Bobby Eli who played guitar on so many great Philly records. I put that track up for Bobby and he started playing the original guitar part that he did. So now Bobby’s on “Love TKO” twice. I’ve been singing that one live in my solo shows for a few years now. That song’s just got something deep going on, and we like to go deep.

WATCHA SEE IS WATCHA GET: For me, “Watcha See Is Watcha Get” is just of those great songs that sound great every time you hear it. The Dramatics had a big hit with it originally, and John did a really great job on singing it. That makes sense because the way I see it the song is absolutely perfect for John. That song is John. With John Oates, what you see is what you get.


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