Daryl Hall – Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine (1986)
purchase this album (Amazon)

You would have thought, in 1986, that a solo album from the taller, blonder half of Hall & Oates would be a can’t-lose proposition. The duo, led largely by Hall’s elastic voice and prolific songwriting, had completed a triumphant tour for 1984’s Big Bam Boom — the latest in a string of platinum hits — with a string of dates that included a stint at the Apollo with the legendary David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks (of The Temptations, you dope).

In a sense, things worked out exactly the way they were supposed to for Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine — the first single, “Dreamtime” (download), reached the top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100 — but in the end, Three Hearts sputtered out in the high 100s of the album chart. Though few people would have guessed it at the time, the record’s non-performance heralded a new age of sales irrelevance for one of the decade’s reigning chart kings.

Honestly, of all the shoulda-beens I’ve looked at in this space, this album might be the most bewildering; other than simple overexposure, I really can’t imagine why Three Hearts ended up being anything other than another platinum record on Hall’s mantel. Okay, so it doesn’t sound exactly like a Hall & Oates record — in fact, in some spots, it could even be considered experimental — but that shouldn’t have sounded the death knell for the project.

Try and tell me that tracks like “Foolish Pride” (download), “For You” (download), and “I Wasn’t Born Yesterday” (download) aren’t packed to the brim with the easy hooks and tinny overproduction that ruled the charts in 1986.

And, as on most other mid-period Hall records, Three Hearts is most compelling when he’s at his most pensive — witness “What’s Gonna Happen to Us” (download) and “Right as Rain” (download).

Ah well. Hall’s got enough hits as it is, right? Either way, a new copy isn’t worth $40. Perhaps one of these days, Sony/BMG will get around to releasing a remastered deluxe edition or something — maybe they’ll even include these remixes of “Dreamtime” (download) and “Foolish Pride” (download) — but in the meantime, download away.