Daryl Hall: Laughing Down Crying

After a 14-year hiatus from releasing new, original music, Daryl Hall is back to prove himself, yet again, as a songwriter. His new album, Laughing Down Crying, represents all the varied musical styles that live within the artistry of Hall.

Daryl Hall

Laughing Down Crying

Label: Verve Forecast
US Release Date: 2011-09-27
UK Releasse Date: 2011-09-27

There is little more that Daryl Hall can do to prove himself as a performer. Anyone skeptical of his soulful ability to sing across genres need only tune into his monthly web broadcast, now on syndicated television, Live From Daryl’s House. Month to month, he shares the microphone with fellow legends, such as Smokey Robinson, and rising stars, such as Nikki Jean. It is a true example and a fine illustration of art-meets-Internet innovation. Hall invented the LFDH innovation, and his stunning voice powers its engine.

Now, after a 14 year hiatus from releasing new, original music, he is back to prove himself, yet again, as a songwriter. Hall calls his new album, Laughing Down Crying, a “box set" of his mind. It represents all the varied musical styles that live within the artistry of Hall. The pop-rock single “Talking to You” demonstrates that he can still write the infectious and irresistible hooks that he and John Oates made famous throughout the 1970s and ‘80s.

“Eyes For You” has a casual-but-never-lazy, jazzy-but-never-easy smoothness that provides the perfect soundtrack for a midnight ride through the city lights. “Save Me” and “Message to Ya” present a one-two punch of soul-driven horn inflicted rock. Hall screams and shouts his way through the songs with the ferociousness of the barreling down train he sings about in the first verse of “Message to Ya”.

The rock of “Get Out of the Way” and the blues of “Problem With You” manage to sound both familiar and contemporary. “Problem With You” captures the last moments of Hall’s longtime guitarist, bass player, and best friend, T-Bone Wolk. Wolk died of a heart attack three hours after recording the song. Wolk’s untimely death, and the pain Hall must have felt following that death, undoubtedly, even if sadly, contributes to the best quality of Laughing Down Crying. The entire album is a navigation of the proximity that exists between joy and despair, triumph and tragedy, and love and death.

The emotionalism of Laughing Down Crying is complex, complicated, and contradictory. Through a confrontation with the complexity and contradictions of swinging from pain to jubilation, and back again, Hall offers a realistic atlas of a human being’s emotional geography. On the celebratory “Lifetime of Love”, Hall is ready to commit to a new relationship with resolve, strength and hope. A few songs later, he’s preparing for his own emotional destruction, on “Crash and Burn.”

The song that best captures the confused condition of the album’s heart is the title song. “Laughing Down Crying”, as a stand alone phrase, doesn’t make sense. Its cryptic nature is its point. In the same breath and in the same lyric, Hall seems to be singing about the loss of an old relationship and the beginning of a new one – the vanishing of a bygone era and the emergence of a new one.

Love should empower and ruin a person. It should destroy what existed before, and replace it with a new spirit, new mind and new identity. The self-destructive and creative process of love is at once terrifying and exhilarating. For many people, fear will defeat love and they will settle for an easy resolution that preserves what is comfortable and familiar. Fear gains more wins than losses in an American culture dictated by careerism and consumerism. People live their lives as torpedoes. They have a launch point and an ultimate destination, and therefore, will not tolerate any distractions. Love distracts, distorts and directs without concern for pre-made plans. “Laughing Down Crying” is a remarkable achievement because it captures and gives insight into the shifting reality of those whose hearts are on their sleeves and those whose understanding of life is that it is best lived on the emotional edges. The song has a bottom beat and melody. Its light drums and acoustic guitar riff leave the space for Hall’s voice to smoothly and soulfully ebb and flow and rise and fall through the emotional turbulence.

With the songs that make up this fine collection of American soul and pop music, Hall proves that with the pen and at the mic, his voice is more than capable of reaching the depths and heights of emotional truth.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.