When The Morning Comes
After the relative failure of their debut album, 1972's Whole Oats, Hall & Oates worked in close collaboration with producer Arif Mardin to come up with a successor that established their influences and vision. Abandoned Luncheonette remains one of the duo's favourites.
When The Morning Comes is a breezy, reggae-flavoured opener that could well be used for an advert promoting orange juices or tasty breakfast cereals. With its gentle Bernard Purdie drum groove and lilting Calypso-style guitars, this is a nicely sunny opener to the album, complete with that “Aaaah-hooooo – hoo hoo hoo” hook in the chorus.
Had I Known You Better Then
I'm trying to work out whether this sounds more like Seals And Crofts or Simon And Garfunkel. I think there's influences on both sides on this acoustic guitar-tinged quiet ballad.
If you're more familiar with Hall & Oates' signature strident '80s rock and pop fusion, you may be a little surprised at Luncheonette's magpie mind. It's an album that swoops here and there with various musical styles. While this isn't one of my Top 3 picks of the album, it's still a nicely breezy ditty that has a quiet charm all of its own.
Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)
When I listen to music, I tend to picture certain times, places and scenarios. For some reason, the bongo-heavy smooth shuffle of this one reminds me of one of those 1970s Las Vegas casinos – full of suited, tuxedoed, hugely sideburned Bond wannabes trying to impress the ladies with a flutter on the roulette wheel. It's the kind of music that might crop up in the background of a classic Bond movie.
Las Vegas Turnaround is said to be about Hall's then-missus, Sara Allen, who would also end up co-penning some of the duo's biggest hits. Hall himself once described the first side of Luncheonette as the “magic” side, and with tracks like this one, it's easy to see why.
The magic keeps on coming with this stone cold blue eyed soul classic. She's Gone remains one of Hall And Oates' finest moments, arranged and composed to the highest order. Everything about this one works, whether it's the duo's close harmony vocals, the swooping chorus, that creepy descending orchestra note in the third verse, or the final brass-wah wah guitar face off in the final furlong.
Just one mystery remains: why oh why that promo video? It's as far removed from the song as the strange alien landscape where Hall & Oates are slumped glassy-eyed. Such a classic deserved more than what looks like one of those experimental public information films warning kids to say no to drugs.
I'm Just A Kid
I tend to get this side closer confused with Black Water by the Doobie Brothers. It's got that same kind of intro, but it's more laidback than the Doobies number one from 1975. This is a gentle acoustic ballad (but with some iffy lyric matter) to round off the first side, and while it's a case of “Follow that” in the wake of She's Gone, this is still more than acceptable – helped on the way by a big key change at the last hurdle.
The intro sounds like it's going to break into an instrumental version of the Neighbours theme tune. But in keeping with the eclectic nature of the album, the title track darts here there and everywhere, while overall sounding like something out of a Broadway show. The rather melancholy swing of the verses gives way to a jazzy saxophone-accompanied shuffle before tumbling into one of those big ballad torch songs for the chorus.
It just about works – the verses and the saxophone instrumental break work better than the dirgey chorus, which is hampered in the fade out by a dreary choral accompaniment. Mind you, that's my own personal taste talking, as I can't abide choral stuff – overall, it's a track that you can picture being performed as the finale of the Hall & Oates musical.
A swift contrast to the previous showtime, Lady Rain has actually been stuck in my head for the past couple of days since listening to the album again in preparation.
This is one of the earthier tracks on the album, a bluesy, funky number with some cool guitar work and a memorable hook of “Oh, Lady Raaaaaaiiiinnnnnn... is it I'll be going down in pain?” It's one of those songs that suddenly cuts off without a word of warning, as the duo holler “Is it I'll be going down-” and then cut! One of the best tunes on the album.
A maudlin ballad which revels in its plaintive misery. It's just Hall doing a sterling vocal turn while accompanied by a dramatic piano and flugelhorn. Side Two's, more often than not, of any album tend to pile on the slower numbers, and this is an effective example.
Everytime I Look At You
The longest track on the album and a return to the piecemeal approach of the title track. Everytime I Look At You is more down to earth than the Side Two opener though, kicking off with some bluesy wah-wah guitar. Hall's clipped vocals then give way to an extended guitar workout, nicely augmented by the backing horns and orchestration. As the end approaches, the song takes another diversion into a plaintive wail of “Baby it's goodbyyyyyyyeeeeeee!” as the pair out-emote each other. And just when you think that the track will fade out this way, it pulls the rug from under your feet by descending into a mad fiddle/mandolin hoedown.
A crazy mish mash, but it does sum up the album's eclecticism very well.