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SOLO ALBUMS: REMEMBERING, RENEWING

“THREE HEARTS IN THE HAPPY ENDING MACHINE.” Daryl Hall. RCA.

“I forgot just how to feel,” Daryl Hall sings, and it isn’t just a line from a love song. “Three Hearts” is a record of renewal in more ways than one, and it not only restores the feeling that’s seemed long gone from Hall’s work with John Oates, but makes it seem like those emotions matter in ways they never seemed to before.

“Hearts” doesn’t forgo the formulas that made Hall & Oates what they were--it just breathes surprising new life into them, redefining the duo’s spirited rock ‘n’ soul and giving it a delicious contemporary topping. In fact, though Oates is nowhere to be heard, “Three Hearts” sounds like the best Hall & Oates album ever.

Credit co-producers Tom Wolk and David A. Stewart for the brilliant pop gloss that’s thoroughly modern without announcing its modernness at every moment. But credit Hall himself for giving each song a surprising depth and maturity. The words might read awkwardly on the lyric sheet but he makes them make perfect poetic sense with his patented Philly-soul phrasing, turning in some of the most convincing vocalizing he’s ever done.

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And when he tells his girl to stop living in “Dreamtime,” he sounds like he’s singing it to himself, as he may well be. The whole album seems like a personal wake-up call in which taking risks and learning to cry are the best defenses against hardening of the arteries. Simple concepts, but to and through Hall, they come off as particularly soulful--but not at all doleful--revelations.


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