Twenty-something years later have done nothing to diminish my enthusiasm. Songs such as Don’t blame it on love, which features Robert Fripp’s ethereal Frippertronic guitar trills, a sick Caleb Quaye buzz-saw guitar solo, mad chord modulations and an unreal multi-layered vocal harmony break right in the middle of Quaye’s solo, will leave you with your jaw on the floor- whether you like H and O or not! Serious music, with more stellar harmonies, classical-styled harpsichord and another killer Quaye solo, is one of John Oates finest songs. The band gets their soul shoes on for The last time (featuring a Spectoresque intro and George Harrison on acoustic guitar!) and the Gamble and Huff-like rave of I don’t wanna lose you.
But these songs aren’t the slicker pop-soul oriented efforts H and O produced in the 80s. These are tough, complex tunes with meaningful and sometimes poetic lyrics that reveal different meanings long after you’ve first heard them. RCA records probably thought that this would be the album that brought H and O into the big time, but instead, it was the worst selling album they’d had up to that point. Apparently, people who wanted Sara smile-part 2 couldn’t grasp the experimental nature of this collection- and people who were fans of the music being made by the musicians H and O were hanging out with at the time (Fripp, Todd Rundgren, Rick Nielsen, Lukather) didn’t take H and O seriously enough to pay attention.
It’s too bad. Had this album been a hit, H and O may have experimented further, instead of moving in the slick direction they took after this grand commercial failure. Of course, things worked out pretty good for them in the end. And even on their most popular albums they always made room for a few tunes that pushed the envelope. But if you want to hear musicians at the height of their creative powers, this is an album that will shock fans and doubters alike.
Kenneth Sherman, New York, NY, 12 February 2004