Almost Hits: Hall and Oates, “Your Imagination” (1982)

This is the nexus point, for me, when Hall and Oates finally reached everything they had been grasping for in trying to blend their core R&B vibe with the too-cool nihilism of new wave.

True, “Your Imagination” only got to No. 33 in America and just No. 45 in the UK — a deflating end to a string of Top 10 hits spawned from 1981′s Private Eyes, highlighted by chart-toppers in the title track and “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do).” Really, though, “Did It In a Minute” (the album’s third single) had already signaled a slow down in the buying public’s fervor, stalling at No. 9.

Still, “Your Imagination” — an idiosyncratic deep cut about romantic paranoia, with a coiled, almost insectile synth-laden guitar signature — may have been the most interesting of them all. Perfectly pompadoured, yet still gritty and true, Daryl Hall displays this canny ability to blend Philly-crooner sensuousness with a smart Reagan-era detachment.

That sound — introduced with John Oates on 1980′s Voices and brilliantly expanded upon here — was their own.

As Hall and Oates continued tinkering with their band, they finally got the mixture just right here, too: “Your Imagination” combined a chugging bass cadence courtesy of the late T-Bone Wolk, who was making his debut with the band; another too-smooth sax turn by Charles DeChant (also featured in “I Can’t Go For That” then “Maneater,” among others), and a nasty little riff from guitarist G.E. Smith — who completely took over this song in a live setting.

Together, they helped push Private Eyes toward a pinnacle for Hall and Oates, both in terms of influence and in terms of MTV-period innovation. “Your Imagination” is a still-underrated blueprint for their turn-of-the-1980s aspirations, distilled into a moment of ear-wormy perfection.

Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.

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