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- Posted on Aug 27th 2010 4:30PM by James Sullivan
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But it was an age of major changes in music. Both punk and disco had emerged and then quickly gone mainstream, and Daryl Hall was feeling restless.
He was also dabbling in mysticism, studying the Druids, Kabbalah and (like the hard rockers Jimmy Page and Ozzy Osbourne, among others) the "magick" writings of the late occultist Aleister Crowley. Acquainted with fellow seeker Robert Fripp, a co-founder of the early progressive-rock band King Crimson, Hall asked Fripp to produce and play guitar on a planned solo project.
The album soon became part of Fripp's high-concept idea for an "MOR trilogy" – a three-release experiment with the "middle of the road" pop-song format. With Hall, newly solo ex-Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel and a solo record of his own, Fripp wanted to "investigate the 'pop song'" as a legitimate means of expression, as he once told Melody Maker.
Gabriel's self-titled release, his second, known to fans as the 'Scratch' album, came out in June 1978. Fripp's own 'Exposure,' was released the following year. But Hall's album, 'Sacred Songs,' recorded in 1977, sat on the shelf at RCA Records until 1980. The record company (and Hall & Oates manager Tommy Mottola, the future head of Sony Music) were "terrified" of Hall's esoteric new direction, Fripp later recalled.
According to Fripp expert Eric Tamm, 'Sacred Songs' was the first album to make full use of the tape-delay technology Fripp had been developing with Brian Eno. The technique was named "Frippertronics" by the guitarist's then-girlfriend, the poet Joanna Walton. Walton wrote lyrics for the 'Exposure' album; she later died in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.
The "MOR" albums shared ideas freely. Gabriel's features a track called 'Exposure'; Fripp's includes a version of Gabriel's song 'Here Comes the Flood.' The song 'NYCNY,' from Hall's album, shows up on 'Exposure' in an alternate version ('I May Not Have Had Enough of Me But I've Had Enough of You').
'Sacred Songs' advertised Hall's determination to make a pet project of his solo career. The title of the ballad 'Without Tears' was borrowed from Crowley's book 'Magick Without Tears,' and the singer's 'Something in 4/4 Time' was written as a sarcastic response to his label's fear that the album contained no potential singles.
RCA, queasy over Hall's arty turn, demanded that he scale back his vocal contributions to Fripp's album. So Fripp brought in replacement singers, including Van der Graaf Generator's Peter Hammill, who stripped down to a dressing gown and drenched himself in cognac before singing his parts.
By the time RCA released 'Sacred Songs,' in March 1980, Hall & Oates had struggled through a relatively fallow period of their own, falling short of gold status for their dance-oriented 1979 album 'X-Static.' Though 'Sacred Songs' reached a chart high at No. 58 in the US, it quickly disappeared, and Daryl Hall's solo career was put on indefinite hold.
While Hall & Oates were busy becoming the most successful pop duo of all time, 'Sacred Songs' remained out of print until Buddah records reissued it on CD in 1999. In the liner notes, Fripp declared Hall the best singer he'd ever encountered.