Picks and Pans Review: Change of Season
For a long time it seemed that Hall and Oates could do no wrong. They were Top 40 Rumpelstillskins, spinning pop-soul into platinum. As the '80s wore on, things began to run oil track as their compositions grew less infectious and their production style more bombastic. This album, as the title implies, marks a turning point. It's a surprisingly modest, often moving collection.
Highlights include the Chi-Lites—like Philly-soul sound of "Starting All Over Again" (a 1972 hit for Mel and Tim) and the pretty "Sometimes a Mind Changes," which recalls the folk-tinged mood of the duo's Abandoned Luncheonette from 1973.
Okay, Hall and Oates is really a duet in the same way that Wham! was. The customary quota of three songs, including the title track, is sacrificed to Oates's clumsy Johnny Mathis manqué of a voice. The real jewel, as it always has been, is Hall's singing, as sleek and strong as a circus aerialist.
There's one obvious commercial track, "So Close." You can tell from the song's impeccable production (Danny Kortchmar and Jon Bon Jovi doing their Ted Temple-man imitation) and from its backup band (studio aces Waddy Wachtel, Randy Jackson, Kenny Aronoff and Benmont Tench).
The rest of the album feels loose and casual. And this development does not smack of contrived measures by pop stars clinging to survive when the hits stop. Instead, it seems like a sincere, heartwarming return to a simpler style. (Arista)