Hall And Oates fronting Utopia is what some reviewers have called the duo’s third album and there’s more than a nugget of truth behind their obvious sarcasm.
Written by: Eric
ARTIST: Hall And Oates
ALBUM: War Babies
SERIAL: SD 18109
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Daryl Hall – lead vocals, keyboards, mandolin * John Oates – lead vocals, guitars * Todd Rundgren – lead guitar, backing vocals * Don York – keyboards * John Siegler – bass * John G. Wilcox – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Can’t Stop The Music (He Played It Much Too Long) * 02 Is It A Star * 03 Beanie G. And The Rose Tattoo * 04 You’re Much Too Soon * 05 War Baby Son Of Zorro 70’s Scenario * 06 I’m Watching You (A Mutant Romance) * 07 Better Watch Your Back * 08 Screaming Through December * 09 Johnny Gore And The ‘C’ Eaters
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Hall And Oates fronting Utopia is what some reviewers have called the duo’s third album and there’s more than a nugget of truth behind their obvious sarcasm. Produced by Todd Rundgren with guest appearances from John Siegler and John Wilcox, the comparisons to Utopia‘s 1974 debut are apt.
According to dour accounts from Daryl and John, Todd like a long-haired Svengali took full control over the sessions and in turn created a very un-Hall And Oates album. Filled to the brim with white boy soul-pop, space-age glam and funky weirdness, their previous and critically acclaimed effort ‘Abandoned Luncheonette’ was in an alternate universe comparatively and ‘War Babies’ was sadly disowned by the band and baulked at by record buyers and programmers who just didn’t get it.
I never understood what the problem was really. Rundgren was and still is one of the greatest producers of our time and the fact his finger print smudges are all over this album was never a problem to my ears.
‘War Babies’ is experimental sure, but no more so than Hall’s once shelved ‘Scared Songs’ and opener ‘Can’t Stop the Music (He Played It Much Too Long)’ is classic, soulful Hall And Oates as is the brilliant ‘Is It A Star’ and who could ask for more?
Both should have been all over the radio but from here on Todd’s influence becomes increasingly noticeable especially in the vocal arrangements, recalling the best of ‘Something / Anything?’.
Hook heaven in the mid-tempo ‘You’re Much Too Soon’ and the epic ‘War Baby Son of Zorro’ while very weird and very Utopia is a killer tune that should have fit perfectly on progressive FM playlists. It’s not a perfect album and there are a couple things that don’t work namely ‘Screaming Through December’ which sounds disjointed, dark and in the end very unappealing.
The annoying grand finale ‘Johnny Gore And The ‘C’ Eaters’ reminds me of a glammed up Orchestra Luna or even early Meatloaf with too much ’50s kitsch wrapped up in tape effects and crazed voices to be enjoyable.
In the wake of such a poorly received album Atlantic dropped Hall And Oates, a decision I’m sure they would regret in the ensuing years with the duo becoming one of the biggest acts of the 1980’s and a cash cow for RCA.
Win some, lose some but based on the music of ‘War Babies’ they should have heard at least some of the potential. Ignore what you’ve read or heard elsewhere and buy the Wounded Bird reissue while it’s still in print.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)