At the close of the '70s, Hall & Oates began inching toward a sleek, modern sound, partially inspired by the thriving punk and new wave scene and partially inspired by Daryl Hall's solo debut, Sacred Songs, a surprising and successful collaboration with art rock legend Robert Fripp. While 1979's X-Static found the duo sketching out this pop/soul/new wave fusion, it didn't come into fruition until 1980's Voices, which was their creative and commercial breakthrough. Essentially, Voices unveils the version of Hall & Oates that made them the most successful duo in pop history, the version that ruled the charts for the first half of the '80s. During the '70s, Hall & Oates drifted from folky singer/songwriters to blue-eyed soulmen, with the emphasis shifting on each record. On Voices, they place their pop craftsmanship front and center, and their production (assisted by engineer/mixer Neil Kernon) is clean, spacious, sleek, and stylish, clearly inspired by new wave yet melodic and polished enough for the mainstream. Thanks to the singles "Kiss on My List" and "You Make My Dreams" (and, to a lesser extent, their remake of the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" and the original version of the heartbreaking ballad "Everytime You Go Away," later popularized by Paul Young), the mainstream enthusiastically embraced Hall & Oates, and the ubiquitousness of these hits obscures the odder, edgier elements of Voices, whether it's the rushed, paranoid "United State," tense "Gotta Lotta Nerve (Perfect Perfect)," the superb Elvis Costello-styled "Big Kids," the postmodern doo wop tribute "Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear the Voices)," or even John Oates' goofy "Africa." Apart from the latter, these are the foundation of the album, the proof that the duo wasn't merely a stellar singles act, but expert craftsmen as writers and record-makers. The next few albums were bigger hits, but they topped the charts on the momentum created by Voices, and it still stands as one of their great records.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine