This is the story of two incredibly disparate musical camps clashing and making great music. On one side, you have pop chart perennials Hall and Oates, and on the other, prog pioneers King Crimson. The principals of each unit, Daryl Hall and Robert Fripp, would seemingly not exist in the same musical sphere, but somehow Fripp got together with Hall and produced Hall’s first solo album.
By 1977, Hall and Oates were in the throes of a continued upward arc, thanks to major chart smashes like “Sara Smile,” “She’s Gone” and “Rich Girl.” Meanwhile, guitarist Fripp had disbanded King Crimson three years before, and busied himself working with the likes of Brian Eno, David Bowie and Peter Gabriel. Who knows how these two thought to work together on a project? Perhaps Fripp wanted to work with a true standout singer (King Crimson usually had barely adequate to very good vocalists through the Seventies, but none the caliber of a Daryl Hall). Perhaps Hall was creeped out by Oates’ ever-growing mustache and needed a break.
The resultant album, “Sacred Songs,” was recorded in 1977, but wouldn’t be released for three years due to record company cold feet (“where’s the guy with the mustache?”). I gave this album a ride in my car for the first time in a while today. It’s a brilliant blend of slightly off-kilter pop, signature Fripp riffs, and occasional bursts of ambient “Frippertronics.” It was an experiment that worked artistically if not commercially.
Maybe the record company sat on the project thanks to the classic “bite the hand that feeds” song, “Something in 4/4 Time,” a not-so-subtle dig at label pressure to crank out a big hit (think Billy Joel “The Entertainer,” George Harrison “Blood From a Clone,” Nick Lowe “Shake and Pop“). This remains my favorite from this LP; Hall’s pop craftsmanship shines, aided and abetted by a shot from Fripp’s flask of weird.
This would be the duo’s only full-album collaboration (Hall would contribute to a couple of tracks on Fripp’s solo “Exposure”). By the time “Sacred Songs” came out, Hall and Oates (and Oates’ ‘stache) were bigger than ever, and Fripp put together a new band with Adrian Belew that would ultimately become the Eighties lineup of King Crimson.
I would love to see an episode of “Live From Daryl’s House” with Robert Fripp. They could finally perform “Something in 4/4 Time” live. Hall could sing lead on “21st Century Schizoid Man.” Fripp could set up his Frippertronics machine for a real ambient take on “She’s Gone.” Who are we kidding though, Robert Fripp doesn’t do these sorts of things.
Unless they are cheesy game shows.