It's fair to ask what kind of solo album Daryl Hall would make after 14 years and a world of changes. Since 1997's Can't Stop Dreaming, Hall reunited with John Oates, cut records, and toured globally. He ended a 30-year romantic and creative partnership, got married, became a stepdad, and created Live from Daryl's House, a homemade internet TV show that went into national syndication in 2007. In 2010, four days into these recording sessions, his producer and best friend T-Bone Wolk died suddenly of a heart attack (the album, dedicated to him, contains his final recorded performances). Laughing Down Crying is instantly recognizable, yet ambitious and understandably poignant. Hall plays loads of instruments here; he co-produced with guitarist Paul Pesco and keyboardist Greg Bieck. These ten songs reflect the range of music Hall's recorded, been influenced by, and encountered while doing his internet show. He doesn't shy away from what made him and Oates household names in the '80s; he embraces the songcraft but doesn't indulge in nostalgia. The title track opens with an acoustically driven folk-rock number; the melody is pure Hall. It grabs the listener instantly with its strummed acoustic guitars and laid-back backbeats. The vocal harmonies are pure '70s rock classicism in the refrain, and in them is a tight, rich hook. "Talking to You (Is Like Talking to Myself)" is more uptempo, its hook dead center. The dual harmony lead vocals touch on late-'80s and early-'90s pop but pushes past them. "Lifetime of Love" is an acoustically driven, blue-eyed soul number, with horns and a backing chorus that push Hall to soar over them, and his voice just gets better with age. The opening of "Eyes for You (Ain't No Doubt About It)" is a spacy, nocturnal, funky soul tune with a babymaker bassline and loop. "Save Me" employs slick gospel with an unforgettable chorus. "Wrong Side of History" would serve Hall & Oates well in the 21st century. Hall's interest in modern production and songwriting is revealed in "Get Out of the Way," with its big drum loops, wall of guitars, and Hall's voice calling up the musical storm around him. "Crash & Burn" is a gorgeous acoustic pop ballad, and set closer "Problem with You" has Hall taking on the blues via his Philly soul roots. Admittedly, Laughing Down Crying is comforting and familiar. That said, it offers plenty of proof that Hall is restless and still growing musically. It's the work of a master musician doing what he does best -- writing and performing beautifully crafted pop songs in terrific form -- while proving that not only does he have plenty left to say in the new millennium, but has everything it takes to compete in the marketplace.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek