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Album Review

The major label Universal Music is the repository for the recordings the Righteous Brothers made in the 1960s, separately and together, for Moonglow, Philles, Verve, and MGM Records. Universal's Gold reissue series, like Sony BMG's Essential series, consists of two-CD compilations of label artists. The Righteous Brothers scored 22 entries on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1963 and 1974, 21 of which are included here. (The exception is a cover of the Jerry Butler hit "He Will Break Your Heart," which spent one week at number 91 as the B-side of the Top 20 hit "He.") Since the set contains 48 tracks in total, that means the format allows plenty of space for non-hits and album tracks. In the Righteous Brothers' case, it also allows for some of the many solo efforts of duo members Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley. (They recorded separately in 1963, then split up in 1967, and Hatfield partnered with Jimmy Walker as the Righteous Brothers in 1969 before reuniting with Medley in the '70s.) It's worth noting, therefore, that while Universal has licensed the three comeback hits the Righteous Brothers scored on Haven Records in 1974 (including the chart-topping novelty "Rock and Roll Heaven") from EMI, it has not gone after tracks Medley made for other labels, so his 1987 number-one duet with Jennifer Warnes, "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," from the film Dirty Dancing, released by RCA, is not included. Stylistically, that's just as well. Even stretching the collection to 1974 gives a somewhat deceptive sense of this act's popularity; of those 22 chart entries, 14 reached their peaks in 1965 and 1966, when the Righteous Brothers reigned as one of the ten most successful singles artists in the U.S. All their immortal hits — "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," "Just Once in My Life," "Unchained Melody," "Ebb Tide," and "(You're My) Soul and Inspiration" — came in that two-year period. The big hits were melodramatic ballads, in some cases produced by Phil Spector. Before that period, on their Moonglow recordings, the Righteous Brothers made rough R&B, examples here including Muddy Waters' "I Just Want to Make Love to You" and Ray Charles' "This Little Girl of Mine." After the hits subsided, they tried to re-create their popular sound and find equally memorable songs, sometimes by working again with songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (who had teamed with Spector to write "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'"). This material, which makes up most of the second disc, is often interesting (e.g., Medley's recording of Jimmy Webb's "Someone Is Standing Outside"), but rarely impressive for itself. There is more here than the average fans really wants, but it's hard to criticize the set for containing too much. There was room, so why not? (By comparison, Anthology [1962-1974], Rhino Records' 1989 two-disc Righteous Brothers compilation, is 16 tracks and 43-minutes shorter.) It's unlikely there will ever be a three- or four-CD box set on the Righteous Brothers, not only for commercial reasons, but because they don't really deserve one. And absent that, this is likely to be the most extensive collection of their work ever to be attempted.

Biography

Formed: 1962 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

They weren't brothers, but Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield (both born in 1940) were most definitely righteous, defining (and perhaps even inspiring) the term "blue-eyed soul" in the mid-'60s. The white Southern California duo were an established journeyman doo wop/R&B act before an association with Phil Spector produced one of the most memorable hits of the 1960s, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'." The collaboration soon fell apart, though, and while...
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Gold, The Righteous Brothers
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