Wednesday, November 12, 2014

40 Year Itch : Wyatt Ear in the Atomic Age

   On paper it sounded like a great idea: team up Philly's blue-eyed soul sensations Hall and Oates  ("She's Gone") with Philly hit maker ("Hello, It's Me", Something/Anything and that soul medley on A Wizard, A True Star) Todd Rundgren producing. I'm sure Atlantic Records was salivating at the thought of a pop classic.  
    That's not exactly what they got.

    Instead they got a Hall and Oates eager to experiment with their sound and a producer who was knee deep in nut-so prog rock with his band Utopia. The result is War Babies, an album that nearly destroyed the duo's career. It also happens to be one of the most interesting listens of 1974. Those outtasight guitar solos are Todd and the backing band throughout is Utopia.

  "We wanted to cut loose from what we called the gingerbread'" said Hall, "the people who had seen us doing acoustic stuff in the folk clubs, who though that we were just these nice, safe folkie guys. Certain people in our initial fan base got violently upset about that album. We lost a lot of them, but I think that the fans we gained later, who carried us across, realized that we were innovators. I think that has characterized our creative direction ever since then."

  War Babies would be the final Hall and Oates album for Atlantic.

  Says Rundgren "So what? I didn't care what the label wanted. We weren't even pondering what they wanted, or their expectations, which I suppose was the issue. In those days, it was supposed to the era of freedom of the artist, and I think Hall and Oates took advantage of that. The label had other things in mind."

A month earlier, Todd Rundgren's Utopia released their first album. If you can sit through more than two minutes of this album, you're a bigger rock n roll fan than I. 

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