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Published: Sunday, 11/21/2004

CD reviews: Hall & Oates continue to bring freshness to some classic songs

Thirty years or so may have passed since Hall & Oates began to refine blue-eyed soul with a series of now-classic releases, but Hall hardly sounds different today. And that means when he tears into the opening of the second track, "Standing In The Shadows of Love," their kind of soul becomes our kind of soul.

Oates says the goal of this disc, which combines 14 classics and three originals, was to treat the songs as if they were written today, i.e. not in a hands-off, reverential way, but as living and vibrant music. And that shines through on the duo's version of "I'll Be Around," on the funky "Used to be My Girl," and on a slowed-down, stripped-down reading of "Neither One Of Us" that is more poignant and heartfelt than the Gladys Knight version.

Hall & Oates set their own stamp on these songs - to the point of delivering a spine-tingling update of Marvin Gaye's "After The Dance" with a sultry rhythm, glossy and glorious harmonies, and another vocal performance from Hall that proves he understands soul.

The original material doesn't stand up well against the standards, and there's one cover that the duo should have left in the studio - Barry White's "Can't Get Enough of Your Love." No one - not even Hall - can make the song anything but White's.

But ironically, the very next track, "You Are Everything," is transformed by the duo. It becomes a bare-bones, deeply felt song.

"Our Kind of Soul" seems a natural release for Hall & Oates. Like Michael McDonald, the late Robert Palmer, and some others, they have always injected soul into their work, even in the glossy disco-esque days. And here, that quality in their music shines through on timeless songs made fresh again.

- RICHARD PATON

"Alfie's" a wonderful surprise, one of the better musical collaborations of Mick Jagger's storied career. His rough-around-the-edges voice meshes beautifully with former Eurythmics guitarist Dave Stewart's unique laid-back style on 13 songs the pair wrote, performed, and produced. That includes the instrumental tracks on the original score, with the help of composer John Powell. Jagger hasn't sounded this good in years, while Stewart seemingly knows how to play off Jagger's strengths to showcase his skills as a musician. Definitely one of the year's better soundtracks.

- TOM HENRY

Word Records, a label known for Christian music, breaks with tradition here with its first-ever non-gospel album. Carrying the banner is Travis, who is a perfect frontman for the benefits of redemption, having graduated from a youth of drugs, drinking, and violence. While these are country songs, not vehicles of preaching, they run through sagas of trouble and decadence, all the way to eventual redemption. Travis, known for the depths of his feelings as well as the depths of his resonant, bass voice, hasn't lost the touch. His vocals are still strong, as is his masterful song selection. He proves here that he still has stories to tell with his unique talk-sing delivery, backed by fine musicianship throughout.

- KEN ROSENBAUM

The Riddlin' Kids present a pair of perplexing propositions: can a punk band be pop? And can a pop band be authentically punk? In the case of the kids - who play at Headliners in Toledo tomorrow night - possibly. "Stop the World" bursts with the energy of punk with its driving, double-time rhythmic assault and guitars jacked up to overdrive. But those choruses and intricate harmonies are pure power pop. Tracks like "Talk of the Town," "Apology," and "Promise You Anything" form the muscular center of the disc and set the hyperactive tone that's somewhere between Green Day and Good Charlotte.

- ROD LOCKWOOD



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