Sacred Songs

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Sacred Songs
Studio album by Daryl Hall
Released March 1980 (1980-03)
Recorded 1977
Genre Art rock
Length 46:31 (original)
52:01 (CD issue)
Label RCA
Producer Robert Fripp
Daryl Hall chronology
Sacred Songs
(1980)
Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine
(1986)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[1]

Sacred Songs is American singer/songwriter Daryl Hall's first solo album. It was produced by guitarist Robert Fripp, who also played on the album.

The album was recorded in 1977 but Hall's label, RCA, did not release it for three years. According to Nick Tosches, who wrote Dangerous Dances, the authorized biography of Hall & Oates, "RCA refused to release Sacred Songs on the grounds that it wasn't commercial" (p 85). When finally released, sales were good, but there was no hit single.

Recording[edit]

Background[edit]

In the early 1970s, Hall had formed Hall and Oates, a partnership with guitarist/songwriter John Oates. They had produced several hit pop singles, but Hall had grown to feel artistically limited and in 1977 was much more concerned with expressing his own outlook on life and music than with making more hit songs.

Fripp had dissolved his group King Crimson in 1974, and after a sabbatical, returned to music with session work and other guest appearances.

According to the notes for the 1999 CD reissue of Sacred Songs, and to Eric Tamm's book-length study[2] of Fripp's music, Hall and Fripp first met in 1974. Already familiar with one another's work, the duo felt an instant rapport, and planned to work together.

In 1977, Hall and Fripp reconnected while Hall was writing songs for his solo debut; Hall quickly drafted Fripp as producer and guitarist. Hall wrote all the songs, except "Urban Landscape," (a Frippertronics solo), and "NYCNY" for which Fripp wrote the music and Hall the lyrics, and which appeared on Fripp's Exposure with different lyrics as "I May Not Have Had Enough Of Me But I've Had Enough Of You"

Sacred Songs was recorded in a rather short span of three weeks. Most of the songs were initially recorded with Hall singing and playing piano alongside Fripp's guitar work, followed by overdubs by Hall & Oates' regular touring band. Hall insisted on working with his own band rather than with the Los Angeles session musicians who had played on Bigger Than Both of Us, the previous Hall & Oates album; though the session players were uniformly excellent musicians, Hall felt their performances were hampered by a disconnectedness from the songs. The album was originally intended to be part of a trilogy of sorts with Peter Gabriel's second album and Fripp's Exposure.

Sacred Songs is notable as one of the first albums to feature "Frippertronics", the guitarist's tape loop system, to create the extended droning, synthesizer-like sounds on several songs.

RCA shelves the album[edit]

Very proud of the results, Fripp and Hall gave the album to RCA officials. Though still relatively pop-oriented, Sacred Songs was very different from Hall & Oates, and fearing the album might be unsuccessful and alienate Hall's mainstream fans, the company shelved the record, and release was postponed indefinitely.

Outraged, Hall and Fripp passed tapes of Sacred Songs to music journalists and disc jockeys. Tosches notes that a groundswell of interest was generated inside the music profession and from Hall's fans with a letter-writing campaign directed at RCA requesting the album's release (p 85).

Release and afterwards[edit]

Upon release, Sacred Songs sold fairly well, peaking at #58 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart;[3] however, there was no hit single from the record. It has since come to be regarded as a high point in the careers of both Hall and Fripp.

Afterwards, Hall recorded vocals for most of the tracks on Fripp's solo debut, Exposure, however due to pressure from RCA and Hall's management this was cut back to just two songs on the final release ("You Burn Me up I'm a Cigarette" and "North Star"). These are included on some CD versions of Sacred Songs. Nearly thirty years after Hall recorded these songs, most were finally released on the 2006 re-issue of Exposure by Fripp's Discipline Global Mobile label. In notes for the 1999 Buddah Records CD reissue, Fripp describes Hall as the best all-around singer he'd ever met and speculates that had Sacred Songs been released as planned in 1977 at the height of the punk rock zeitgeist, music fans and critics might have seen Hall not only as a good R&B and pop singer, but rather as a creative innovator comparable to iconic British singer David Bowie.

Fripp and Hall seriously considered forming a full-time band together (with bassist Tony Levin and drummer Jerry Marotta), but only Tony stayed while Adrian Belew and Bill Bruford replaced Daryl and Jerry, respectively, morphing into the Mark IV version of King Crimson.

Influences[edit]

Both the lyrics and musical sounds of Sacred Songs reflected Hall's personal philosophy. The lyrical content alludes to some of Hall's interests in esoteric magic (or "magick" as it is sometimes spelled). Rock music author Timothy White interviewed Hall for the book Rock Lives. In that interview Hall indicated that in 1974 he began a serious study of esoteric spirituality, reading books on topics like the cabala, the ancient Celts, and the traditions of the Druids. He also became interested in the life and beliefs of Aleister Crowley. Crowley coined the concept of Thelema, magick concerned with harnessing the power of the imagination and willpower to effect changes in consciousness and in the material universe. For example the album track "Without Tears" is based on Crowley's book Magick Without Tears (published in 1973).

Fripp shared similar interests in mysticism; he had studied with John G. Bennett, a disciple of G. I. Gurdjieff.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Daryl Hall except as noted.

  1. "Sacred Songs" – 3:14
  2. "Something in 4/4 Time" – 4:22
  3. "Babs and Babs" – 7:41
  4. "Urban Landscape" (Robert Fripp) – 2:29
  5. "NYCNY" (Fripp, Hall) – 4:33
  6. "The Farther Away I Am" – 2:52
  7. "Why Was It So Easy" – 5:27
  8. "Don't Leave Me Alone with Her" – 6:22
  9. "Survive" – 6:37
  10. "Without Tears" – 2:47

Bonus tracks[edit]

  1. "You Burn Me up I'm a Cigarette" (Fripp, Hall) – 2:20
  2. "North Star" (Fripp, Hall, Joanna Walton) – 3:10

Personnel[edit]

Additional personnel[edit]

Production[edit]

  • Produced & Mastered By Robert Fripp
  • Reissue Producer: Mike Ragogna
  • Engineered By Ed Sprigg
  • Assistant Engineer: Ted Spencer
  • Project Coordinators: Arlessa Barnes, Lisa Butler, Glenn Delgado, Christina DeSimone, Robin Diamond, Felicia Gearhart, Laura Gregory, Jeremy Holiday, Robin Manning, Ed Osborne, Larry Parra, Bruce Pollock, Dana Renert, Catherine Seligman, Steve Strauss

Charts[edit]

Album[edit]

Year Chart Peak
Position
1980 Billboard Pop Albums 58 [4]

Notes[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Nick Tosches, Daryl Hall/John Oates: Dangerous Dances (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1984). ISBN 0-312-35716-8
  • Timothy White, "Daryl Hall," in Rock Lives (New York: Henry Holt & Co, 1990), pp. 581–594. ISBN 0-8050-1396-2