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 the singers had some other excellent hit singles in a similar style, they proved unable to sustain their momentum after just a year or two at the top.
When Medley and Hatfield combined forces in 1962, they emerged from regional groups the Paramours and the Variations; in fact, they kept the Paramours billing for their first single. By 1963, they were calling themselves the Righteous Brothers, Medley taking the low parts with his smoky baritone, Hatfield taking the higher tenor and falsetto lines. For the next couple of years they did quite a few energetic R&B tunes on the Moonglow label that bore similarity to the gospel/soul/rock style of Ray Charles, copping their greatest success with "Little Latin Lupe Lu," which became a garage-band favorite covered by Mitch Ryder, the Kingsmen, and others.
Even on the Moonglow recordings, Bill Medley acted as producer and principal songwriter, but the duo wouldn't break out nationally until they put themselves at the services of Phil Spector. Spector gave the Wall of Sound treatment to "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," a grandiose ballad penned by himself, Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil. At nearly four minutes, the song was pushing the limits of what could be played on radio in the mid-'60s, and some listeners thought they were hearing a 45 single played at 33 rpm due to Medley's low, blurry lead vocal. No matter; the song had a power that couldn't be denied, and went all the way to number one.
The Righteous Brothers had three more big hits in 1965 on Spector's Philles label ("Just Once in My Life," "Unchained Melody," and "Ebb Tide"), all employing similar dense orchestral arrangements and swelling vocal crescendos. Yet the Righteous Brothers-Spector partnership wasn't a smooth one, and by 1966 the duo had left Philles for a lucrative deal with Verve. Medley, already an experienced hand in the producer's booth, reclaimed the producer's chair, and the Righteous Brothers had another number one hit with their first Verve outing, "(You're My) Soul and Inspiration." Its success must have been a particularly bitter blow for Spector, given that Medley successfully emulated the Wall of Sound orchestral ambience of the Righteous Brothers' Philles singles down to the smallest detail, even employing the same Mann-Weil writing team that had contributed to "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'." It's a bit of a mystery as to why the Righteous Brothers never came close to duplicating that success during the rest of their tenure at Verve. But they would only have a couple of other Top 40 hits in the 1960s ("He" and "Go Ahead and Cry," both in 1966), even with the aid of occasional compositions by the formidable Goffin-King team. In 1968 Medley left for a solo career; Hatfield, the less talented of the pair (at least from a songwriting and production standpoint), kept the Righteous Brothers going with Jimmy Walker (who had been in the Knickerbockers).
Medley had a couple of small hits in the late '60s as a solo act, but unsurprisingly neither "brother" was worth half as much on their own as they were together. In 1974 they reunited and had a number three hit with "Rock and Roll Heaven," a tribute to dead rock stars that some found tacky. A couple of smaller hits followed before Medley retired from performing for five years in 1976. The Righteous Brothers continued to tour the oldies circuit off and on in the 1980s and 1990s. It was while on one of these tours that Bobby Hatfield died suddenly on November 5, 2003.
The Righteous Brothers – Gold 2CD (2005)
Review by William Ruhlmann
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.
01. The Righteous Brothers - Little Latin Lupe Lu
02. Bobby Hatfield - Hot Tamales
03. The Righteous Brothers - Gotta Tell You How I Feel
04. The Righteous Brothers - My Babe
05. The Righteous Brothers - Koko Joe
06. The Righteous Brothers - Let The Good Times Roll
07. The Righteous Brothers - Try To Find Another Man
08. The Righteous Brothers - I Just Want To Make Love To You
09. The Righteous Brothers - Something's Got A Hold On Me
10. The Righteous Brothers - This Little Girl Of Mine
11. The Righteous Brothers - Bring Your Love To Me
12. The Righteous Brothers - Fannie Mae
13. The Righteous Brothers - You Can Have Her
14. The Righteous Brothers - Justine
15. The Righteous Brothers - Georgia On My Mind
16. The Righteous Brothers - You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'
17. The Righteous Brothers - The Angels Listened In
18. The Righteous Brothers - Just Once In My Life
19. The Righteous Brothers - See That Girl
20. The Righteous Brothers - Unchained Melody
21. The Righteous Brothers - Hung On You
22. The Righteous Brothers - Ebb Tide
23. The Righteous Brothers - (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons
24. The Righteous Brothers - The White Cliffs Of Dover
01. The Righteous Brothers - (You're My) Soul And Inspiration
02. The Righteous Brothers - Stand By
03. The Righteous Brothers - He
04. The Righteous Brothers - Go Ahead And Cry
05. The Righteous Brothers - Something You Got
06. The Righteous Brothers - On This Side Of Goodbye
07. The Righteous Brothers - A Man Without A Dream
08. The Righteous Brothers - Melancholy Music Man
09. The Righteous Brothers - Stranded In The Middle Of No Place
10. Bill Medley - That Lucky Old Sun
11. Bobby Hatfield - Hang Ups
12. Bobby Hatfield - Brothers
13. Bill Medley - I Can't Make It Alone
14. Bill Medley - Brown Eyed Woman
15. Bill Medley - Peace Brother Peace
16. Bill Medley - This Is A Love Song
17. Bobby Hatfield - Only You
18. Bobby Hatfield - My Prayer
19. Bobby Hatfield - Answer Me My Love
20. The Righteous Brothers - Woman, Man Needs Ya
21. Bill Medley - Someone Is Standing Outside
22. The Righteous Brothers - Rock And Roll Heaven
23. The Righteous Brothers - Give It To The People
24. The Righteous Brothers - Dream On