NEW YORK -- Daryl Hall and John Oates, one of the most successful duos in recording history, decided to go their separate ways three years ago at the height of their popularity.
At the time it seemed like a strange decision, but the twosome has re-emerged with new vitality, fronting a magnificent band that is delivering one of the finest live shows of the year.
'We had become this thing,' said Oates. 'We were looking for ways to stay vital and also find our own identities.
'I think it was good for us to do it. We may have stayed away a little too long, if you want to look at it from a business point of view, because the world of pop music moves very quickly.
'I think a lot of people thought that maybe we weren't going to get back together anyway. We're kind of reminding people again.'
Hall pointed out that starting from scratch has been healthy for the partnership.
'In some ways we're forced to have to redefine ourselves to people,' he said. 'We didn't want to just go on being as good as our next hit single, being known as just a top 10 pop group. Now we have the challenge of expanding on the idea of what we are in people's minds.'
First they had to figure out what they were in their own minds, a task made difficult by the weight of nearly two decades of working together, as session musicians and writers on Philadelphia soul records before fronting their own band.
'Our problem has always been that we're schizophrenic,' said Hall. 'We both have one foot in the country and one in the city. We grew up in Pennsylvania with a strong exposure to a black, urban scene.
'With that is this polarization that you can't avoid between white rock and r&b music. We've always been trying to combine these disparate elements.
'For years and years we flailed around trying to figure out how to do it. That's why we switched around and were so chameleon-like. We weren't really sure what our style was. Around 1980 we finally figured it out when we started to produce ourselves. That's when we started having this string of pop singles.'
The hits, which included 'Kiss On My List,' 'Private Eyes,' 'I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)' and 'Out of Touch,' made Hall and Oates megastars but left them feeling trapped.
'We were on a giant roll of pop hits,' explained Hall, 'and whenever that happens you have an audience of screamers that are just there because you're the flavor of the year.'
So Hall went off to make the experimental solo album 'Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine' and Oates concentrated on producing and writing for other groups.
Hall, who said that he and Oates are 'like brothers,' stayed in touch with his former partner while the two were apart.
'When we both finished the projects we were doing,' said Hall, 'we were open to do anything. We started writing songs with each other and got things rolling again.'
The result is 'Ooh Yeah!,' an album put together primarily in the duo's home studios. 'We didn't have a band when we started this record,' Oates explained. 'We had to rely on our own musical energies to generate the album.
'As a result this album seems a little more introverted in retrospect, so I guess you get a quintessential version of our personalities. This is the beginning of a new era for us. It's the start of something else.'
That's apparent from the group's intense live act, where the new numbers dovetail with re-arranged Hall and Oates classics for a high-powered show that features standout performances from bassist Tom 'T-Bone' Wolk and guitarist Pat Buchanan.
'The band came together in the process of making the album,' said Hall. 'We were looking for a combination of musicianship and a certain kind of personality. The old stuff took on a new shape right away.
'In the other band everyone was a distinct personality and they played that way. We knew each other really well musicially, so it meshed, but not the way this band does because they give up their individual personalities in some respects for the whole, which I think makes for a better group. This band is funkier.'
As a result, the live Hall and Oates show often feels like a high-powered soul revue. 'Our feet are in two eras,' admits Hall. 'We came up in a time that's completely different from now, and to an extent we still carry it with us.
'I think that that's one of our main contributions, that we can bring that feeling to people, which everybody is trying to do. Terence Trent D'Arby's trying to do it, George Michael's trying to do it, but they're young so they don't know about it. They heard it on records. That's like us studying Cab Calloway records or something.
'Maybe they saw the TAMI show on video,' Oates concluded, 'but they didn't get a chance to see Otis Redding at the Uptown Theater and see the style of performance that defined that era. We're part of that.
'People who come to see us, even if they don't know it, they're seeing part of a tradition we're carrying on that not many people are carrying on. In fact, if you didn't live it, you can't carry it on. You can only simulate it.'