Almost Hits: Hall and Oates, “It’s Uncanny” from No Goodbyes (1977)

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It’s not always easy to find an unfiltered moment like this from Hall and Oates — a pairing that has become so closely associated with genre-jumping mixtures of street-corner soul with modern new-wave verve.

“It’s Uncanny” is, instead, unreconstituted, urbane, straight-up R&B, with none of the 1980s-era additives that would soon begin hurtling Hall and Oates toward its status as the biggest-selling duo in history — and recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees. From its taut little horn-driven groove, to its grease-popping background vocals, to its soaring and then swaying fade, this track focuses in on every significant influence that surrounded H&O’s early years — from the Spinners to the Four Tops to the O’Jays to the Temptations.

Unfettered and without artiface, it’s the sound of Daryl Hall and John Oates connecting on an elemental level with the music that must have moved them to pick up microphones in the first place.

“It’s Uncanny,” an all-but-forgotten Hall-composed gem, was originally issued as a catch-up item by H&O’s former label Atlantic after H&O finally hit with “Sara Smile.” The same strategy had already worked with an edited version of “She’s Gone,” which went Top 10 some two years after its initial release in 1974. “It’s Uncanny,” maybe because it didn’t boast the same cross-cultural alchemy, stalled at No. 80, however.

For years, you could only find it as one of three “new” songs on 1977’s ironically titled No Goodbyes, which repackaged tracks from H&O’s first three albums for Atlantic — even though the duo had already issued two gold-selling subsequent projects for RCA in 1975’s Daryl Hall and John Oates (home to “Sara Smile,” their first Top 10 hit) and 1976’s Bigger Than Both of Us. (which spawned the chart-topper “Rich Girl” as well as Top 40 entries “Do What You Want, Be What You Are” and “Back Together Again”). It was later collected again on 1996’s Atlantic Collection.

That might make it seem like a throwaway, but “It’s Uncanny” is anything but. Instead, it’s the sound of a not-yet-famous band still fully aware of the legends upon whose shoulders they were standing. Along the way, Hall and Oates ended up creating the kind of ageless paean to love that would have found a comfy spot on albums by any of those musical heroes.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, 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 U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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