The “Listen Again” series went over well enough here in the Los Angeles area that your favorite rockin’ record reviewer decided to follow the lead of some L.A. TV execs and do a spin-off. In this series we once more examine previously-released albums BUT the platters we shall peruse in this particular series will be (Rolling Stone magazine) FIVE-STAR albums. In this edition we discuss The Righteous Brothers’ The Righteous Brothers’ Greatest Hits, (Vol. 1).
The Righteous Brothers were a famous “blue-eyed soul” singing duo made up of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield. Originally part of an L.A. group named The Paramours, they took their name from an experience they had while still with The Paramours. At the end of a gig a black marine cried out: “That was righteous, brothers!” When the pair broke away in 1962 to form their own act they named themselves The Righteous Brothers.
The pair recorded their songs from 1963 through 1975. Medley would sing the low parts and Hatfield would sing the high parts. The height of their success fell between 1964 and 1966 when they were on Phil Spector’s Phillies label. They performed their songs live up until Hatfield’s death in 2003.
Blue-eyed soul was very popular from 1963 through 1966 thanks to acts like The Rascals, Mitch Ryder and this pair. Released in 1967, The Righteous Brothers’ Greatest Hits, (Vol. 1) is a trim compilation of the pair’s very best. Clocking in at less than 37 minutes, there is no filler here.
The twelve tracks are some of the most memorable songs from the early Phil Spector/ “wall of sound” days as well as material from their time with Verve after the duo left Phillies. Even though the act was essentially only two male vocalists, the “brothers” often sounded like an entire choir. Indeed, they adapted a method used by the Isley Brothers and Ike and Tina Turner to a male team sound.
Side A contains 6 tunes and opens with the Spector-produced “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.” This giant of the genre went to number one in 1964 in the US and in 1965 in the UK. It is considered to be one of the best produced rock records to date and also is one of the most emotive.
This song would also set a format for additional hits to follow—specifically the use of Spector’s “Wall of Sound” and tremulous, near-paranoid lyrics set in a call-and-response pattern. This format would also be used in such songs as “Just Once In my Life”, “Soul And Inspiration”, “Go Ahead And Cry” and “Ebb Tide”. (The song would be re-issued five years later in the UK where it would hit number 10. The following decade would also see another UK re-issue of the tune in 1977. It would make it to number 42. Once more in 1990 another UK re-issue would emerge and take the number 3 slot.)
Other tunes from this time included here are “White Cliffs Of Dover” which hit number 21 in the UK in 1966 and “Just Once in My Life” which climbed to number 9 a year prior in the US. One of their later hits, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” also appears on this side along with “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons” and a truly fine cover version of “Georgia On My Mind”. The latter cover would even be a lesser hit scraping to number 62 in the US in 1966. Some critics believe that had this not been an old recording on the Moonglow label it would have been more successful.
Side B opens with another well-known Spector-influenced number, “Unchained Melody”. This was actually one of their most memorable and biggest hits ever. In 1965 it would take the number 4 slot in the US and the number 14 slot in the UK. (The song would climb the charts to number 13 and even take the number 1 slot on the Adult Contemporary chart in the US as well as the top slot in the UK when re-issued in 1990. The song would even be re-recorded for Curb Records that same year and hit number 19. The song went platinum.)
The second selection on Side B is the later hit “See That Girl”. This is followed by yet another early Phillies cut, “Ebb Tide”. In 1965 this one filled the number five slot on the US charts and scraped up to number 48 in the UK. (In 1990, it would be re-issued in the UK. There it would hit number 3.)
Also included here are “Guess Who?” and “Hung On You”. The closing cut is an excellent cover of “The Great Pretender”. Some critics believe this was very appropriate in that it serves as a reminder to all listeners of the dynamic duo’s doo wop origins and “impressive soul chops”.
The entire album would be re-released in Canada in 1973. It would not be forgotten in the 1980s either as it would be re-released on the Polydor label in the UK in 1981. In fact, as the years moved on additional incarnations would also appear on the racks.
Although while a few record companies would go on to release other compilations and even a second volume of greatest hits—including a CD featuring both volumes of hits, The Righteous Brothers’ The Righteous Brothers’ Greatest Hits, (Vol. 1)/Verve 6-5020 remains to this day the only five-star release and is still the purest collection of the true heart and soul of the artists at their very best.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.