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John Oates took his time to release his first solo album -- about 20 years after Hall & Oates' commercial and creative peak, and 22 years after his partner, Daryl Hall, stepped outside of their duo for his superb solo debut, Sacred Songs. Unlike Hall, who delivered two ambitious, rock-oriented albums and then moved back to familiar pop-soul territory, Oates dives right in with pop-soul and lite-funk spiked with a little bit of acoustic folk, with the rather ridiculously titled Phunk Shui. Since he sang lead only on occasion on Hall & Oates albums (and never once had a hit single where he sang lead), it's been easy to take Oates' abilities as a vocalist for granted. Here, his smooth, soulful falsetto is front and center, and it sounds sweet and warm. It's nice to hear him given a showcase, but it's hard not to wish that the production wasn't quite as glossy, and that the songs were a little bit better, with hooks that actually caught hold. This sort of glides by on the surface, and while it's pleasant enough, it doesn't really offer much that's memorable. It's nice to hear John Oates step out into the spotlight, and he has the voice to be the lead -- maybe next time he'll have an album that provides a better vehicle for it. [Phunk Shui was initially released on Beyond in 2002. Later that year, a Japanese edition of the album added the song Mona Lisa's Eyes, which is better than many of the songs on the original record. In 2003, the year that Hall & Oates released their excellent comeback effort, Do It For Love, Oates' first solo album came out again on Liquid Records (distributed by Navarre). It was now called All Good People, and Mona Lisa's Eyes was officially part of the track listing.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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