For an album as beloved and as famous as 1973's "Abandoned Luncheonette" to not be on a straightforward CD remaster somewhere in the world at a reasonable price is downright odd.
Up until now Hall & Oates fans have had to put up with bits of it on a "Best Of" or "Live Versions" on a pricey Box Set. But this superb two-disc reissue from Edsel of the UK which gathers up their first 3 albums on Atlantic (including "Abandoned Luncheonette") puts an end to that – and how. All three LPs are remastered to great effect and you even get 4 bonus tracks from 2 compilations covering the period. Here are the details…
Released as a 2CD set on 25 July 2011 in the UK, Edsel EDSD2103 breaks down as follows:
Disc 1 (75:35 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 11 are their debut album “Whole Oats”, released November 1972 in the USA on Atlantic SD-7242. It was eventually released in the UK on Atlantic K 50306 in September 1976
Tracks 12 to 20 are their 2nd album “Abandoned Luncheonette”, released November 1973 in the USA on Atlantic SD-7269 and January 1974 in the UK on Atlantic K 40534
Disc 2 (57:14 minutes):
Track 1 is “Past Times Behind” first released on “The Atlantic Collection” CD in 1996 (it’s an outtake from the “Whole Oats” sessions from April 1972)
Tracks 2 to 4 are “It’s Uncanny”, “I Want To Know You For A Long Time” and “Love You Like A Brother” which were 3 new songs on the “No Goodbyes” compilation album released March 1977 in the USA on Atlantic SD-18213 and in the UK on Atlantic K 50347
Tracks 5 to 14 are their 3rd album “War Babies”, released October 1974 in the USA on Atlantic SD-18109 and November 1974 on Atlantic K 50086
Edsel have been at this reissue game for a very long time so it’s no surprise that even at this price, the 32-page booklet offered here is superlative – Pages 2 to 7 deal with "Whole Oats", Pages 8 to 13 with "Abandoned Luncheonette" and Pages 14 to 23 with the bonus tracks and "War Babies". Pages 24 to 31 give you a history and appreciation of the albums and that period in their career by noted writer ALAN ROBINSON and in between are pictures of 7” singles, album labels, full-colour artwork and promo stuff. The text even references Ken Sharp’s fantastic work on the 2009 4CD Hall & Oates Box Set "Be What You Want, Be Who You Are" (which I’ve extensively reviewed elsewhere). As I say it’s impressive stuff. But the real fireworks lie in the sound…
Remastered by PHIL KINRADE at the Alchemy Studios in London, the sound quality is superb. The first album suffers a tiny bit from hiss, but by the time you get to the ARIF MARDIN production values of “Abandoned Luncheonette” and the expertise of TODD RUNDGREN on “War Babies” – the audio quality is gorgeous.
Highlights include “Lilly (Are You Happy)” which even in 1972 showed their soulfulness in a rock context, while it’s easy to see why “Goodnight And Good Morning” was chosen as their debut 7” single on Atlantic – it’s very upbeat if not a little lightweight. “I’m Sorry” was the follow up 45 in the USA and really should have gotten them noticed - but it tanked (amazingly they didn’t reach the US charts until 1976).
But what did get them attention was the quantum leap in song-writing and production quality on album number 2 – “Abandoned Luncheonette”. Even now its opener “When The Morning Comes” sounds as fresh as a daisy and still brings a smile to many a face – the remaster of it is just lovely. It’s followed by the acoustic guitar opening of “Had I Known You Better Then” which is now very clear - as is its slinky bassline. But that’s trumped by the punch of the gambling song “Las Vegas Turnaround…” – it’s incredibly good – and again stills sounds bright-as-a-button after all these years. Then there’s the big one and their real breakthrough – “She’s Gone” – the audio here is truly gorgeous – with Chris Bond’s Mellotron even more to the fore (the strings too). It’s also a treat to get the lesser-heard and completely forgotten “Laughing Boy” in great sound – it features Hall on a piano only with a solitary Flugelhorn backing him up (provided by Marvin Stamm) – very nice indeed.
Disc 2 opens with 4 lesser-heard sides including the excellent outtake "Past Times Behind" – an acoustic ditty as pretty as anything on the debut album. The upbeat "It's Uncanny" was released as a 7” single in late 1977. The "War Babies" album had Todd Rundgren at the controls and you can hear his influence on the trippy "Is It A Star?" and "Beanie G And The Rose Tattoo" (sounds like a “Hermit At Mink Hollow” outtake). But the air-raid sirens that open "War Baby Son Of Zorro" still sound like they belong to some other band - as does the metal jaggedness of "Johnny Gore And The C Eaters". "70's Scenario" is more melodic and "Better Watch Your Back" is good too, but little gets you away from the feeling that the vast majority of the album is a badly misguided mistake at trying a new direction. They would get their more natural soulfulness back when they signed to RCA in 1975 and released stuff like "Sara Smile".
To sum up – 3 full albums and more, great sound quality, superbly annotated booklet, tunes you love and some worth getting to know - and it’s cheap too.
Even if it isn’t all great - "The Atlantic Albums...Plus" is a very good deal indeed.
"The Atlantic Albums...Plus" will allow fans to sequence Hall & Oates' initial US and UK 45's as follows:
1. Goodnight And Good Morning b/w All Our Love
(September 1972 USA 7” single on Atlantic 2922)
2. I’m Sorry b/w Lilly (Are You Happy)
(November 1972 USA 7” single on Atlantic 2939)
3. Las Vegas Turnaround b/w I’m Just A Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like A Man)
(January 1974 UK 7” single on Atlantic K 19422)
4. She’s Gone b/w I’m Just A Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like A Man)
(February 1974 USA 7” single on Atlantic 2993 – charted at Number 60
September 1974 UK 7” single on Atlantic K 10502 with “Abandoned Luncheonette” as the B-side
Reissued in August 1976, USA 7” single on Atlantic 3332 – charted at No. 7
Reissued in the UK as a 4-track EP in September 1976 on Atlantic K 10828
A1 She’s Gone A2 When The Morning Comes
B1 War Baby Son Of Zorro B2 Lazyman
Reissued again in July 1981, UK 7” single on Atlantic K 11597 with “When The Morning Comes” on the B-side)
5. When The Morning Comes b/w Lady Rain
(July 1974 UK 7” single on Atlantic K 10459)
6. Can’t Stop The Music (He Played It Much Too Long) b/w 70’s Scenario
(November 1974 USA 7” single on Atlantic 3239)
7. Las Vegas Turnaround b/w Had I Known Better Then
(January 1977 UK 7” single on Atlantic K 10887)
8. It’s Uncanny b/w Beanie G & The Rose Tattoo
(April 1977 UK 7” single on Atlantic K 10915
The A-side is one of 3 new tracks on the compilation “No Goodbyes”
The B-side is on “War Babies”)