Tag Archives: Bill Medley

Review – Bobby Hatfield, The Other Brother

****½ (4½ stars out of 6)

Confession: when I first fell head over heels in love with the wall of sound in the early 00s, it was by way of the Righteous Brothers. Being a die-hard soul fan, it took me a little longer to warm to the other parts of the Philles catalog. However, those glorious, soulful vocals by Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield?… Pure bliss! I was hooked rightaway. To this day, ‘Just Once in my Life’ is probably my favourite Spector production.

When singing together these guys were incredible but they could also pack a punch on their own as plenty of tracks on the various Righteous Brothers albums prove.

Allegedly, Bobby Hatfield was frustrated by the immediate attention bestowed to Bill Medley by Spector on follow-ups to ‘You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling’, but luckily Hatfield was given quite a few opportunities to shine amid shimmering, echo-soaked backing tracks. ‘I Love You (for Sentimental Reasons)’ and ‘Ebb Tide’ have always been especially dear to me, even more so than the iconic ‘Unchained Melody.’ (and let’s skip the discussion of who really produced that gem!)

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“Dammit Bobby. This is your final chance, or I’ll have Bill sing it!”
It’s about time Bobby Hatfield got his proper due and what better company to do his musical legacy justice than the fine folks at UK label Ace Records? They have just released a superb compilation with the apt title ‘The Other Brother’ that is a must-buy for any Cue Castanets reader.

The compilation displays the high standard we’ve come to expect from Ace projects; well-chosen tracks – including never before released recordings, beautiful cover artwork and very informative liner notes as well as top-notch sound quality. Believe me, ordering this release is a no-brainer. Your ears will thank you!

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There can be no doubt that Bobby was an extraordinary singer who made the most of the songs he was given, even though the material at hand on occasion was of lesser quality. There are a few instances of this on the disc but it doesn’t mar the overall listening experience. Bobby could obviously inject life and drama into even the most mediocre songs.

Having said that, there is an overload of great recordings on ‘The Other Brother’, none the least a smattering of previously unreleased songs of high quality which makes one wonder why they never saw the light of day. I’m especially fond of Bobby’s velvet-soft take on ‘Crying in the Chapel.’

Of particular interest for Spector connoisseurs is a hitherto unreleased version of ‘Paradise’; here reimagined as a mid-tempo soul song with a James Jamerson-type bass line, punchy horns and strings that bring forth a bit of the grandeur we know from the Spector-produced version with the Ronettes. Even though Bobby and the uncredited mystery producer involved do not achieve the same level of sophistication as the Tycoon of Teen, theirs is still a very good version – and one that’s very refreshing to hear after having played the Ronettes track to death.

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Besides this song and a few other nice, unreleased recordings, Bobby also turns in a fine version of ‘See that Girl’, which of course graced side 2 of the ‘Just Once in my Life’ Philles album by the Righteous Brothers.

Outside of recording as a Righteous Brother Bobby Hatfield wasn’t really that prolific. Eventually only issuing one album, the soulful ‘Messin’ in Muscle Shoals’ from 1971, his career was dogged by lukewarm reception to singles that were meant to test the waters for album projects.

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A planned solo album for 1969 fell on the wayside after slow ’45 sales which is a shame; two of the songs for planned inclusion on this scrapped album is on ‘The Other Brother’, but it’s a shame that Ace hasn’t included strong cuts like ‘My Prayer’ and ‘Answer Me’ since they showcase Bobby at his best.

On the other hand, the whole ‘Messin’ in Muscle Shoals’ album is included – if you like southern soul, this album is right up your alley. You could argue that some of these later songs could have been left off to make room for more 60s Hatfield-leads like the Righteous Brothers take on ‘I Believe’ or the sublime ‘Answer Me’, but that’s all a matter of taste.

Personally, I was glad to have ‘Hang-Ups’ as the collection’s lead off track since it’s probably my favorite solo Hatfield recording and thus makes for the perfect opener. When released as a single it was paired with the groovy ‘Soul Café’ which is also a welcome inclusion on the disc.

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All in all, this is a great and long overdue set highlighting different parts of Bobby’s career. Tip of the hat to compiler Tony Rounce and the rest of the team at Ace for continuously documenting the best pop of the 60s with care and affection.

You can order your own copy and listen to sound samples here:

https://acerecords.co.uk/the-other-brother-a-solo-anthology-1965-1970

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Brother Bobby Gets his Due

All Cue Castanets readers should definately make a mental note of April the 28th because this date sees the release of what looks like a really interesting Bobby Hatfield compilation by UK label Ace Records.

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The lovingly compiled and brilliantly annotated compilations from Ace Records have of course for decades been god-sends for all fans of classic 60s music, none the least those who crave the heavy thump of the Wall of Sound. We have Ace and its knowledgeable compilers like Mick Patrick and Tony Rounce to thank for must-buy sets like the Phil’s Spectre series, the three Jack Nitszche volumes and an on going songwriters series covering a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the Brill Building scene.

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The three volumes in the Phil’s Spectre series.

Turns out that Ace has turned its attention to legendary blue eyed soulster Bobby Hatfield whose incredible pipes intertwined with Bill Medley’s on some of Spector’s most majestic productions. In my book, the singles and assorted album tracks Spector cut with the Righteous Brothers are at the pinnacle of the Wall of Sound.

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‘You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling’, ‘Just Once in my Life’, ‘Hung on You’, ‘Ebb Tide’, White Cliffs of Dover’… Pure magic. Wearing your emotions on your vocal sleeve amid an abyss of echo and over-the-top backing has never sounded so good before or since. And yet, even though Bobby Hatfield’s stellar performance catapulted the Righteous Brothers take of ‘Unchained Melody’ to evergreen status, Bobby has arguably been somewhat overshadowed by his deeper-voiced brother. (and according to legend; Spector didn’t even produce the session despite the credit)

Bill Medley sang on the majority of the duo’s hits, at least during their mid-to-late 60s hey day, and he also had the more succesful solo career. At one point, Bobby Hatfield even had to team up with Medley-soundalike Jimmy Walker to continue recording and touring under the Righteous Brothers name.

But Bobby could hold his own – his voice was truly otherworldly when he sang in his upper register or sugarcoated songs with an effortless falsetto – case in point; check out the Righteous Brothers version of ‘I Believe.’

It is very satisfying to see that Ace has decided to put the spotlight firmly on Bobby’s cache of songs, both released and unreleased. The aptly titled ‘The Other Brother – a Solo Anthology 1965-70’ looks like a mouth-watering collection, not only highlighting the best and most interesting releases from Bobby’s struggling solo career,… but also treating listeners to some gems that never saw the light of day.

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It’ll be interesting to hear the newly unearthed tracks, none the least an unreleased version of the Ronettes classic that is ‘Paradise.’ I can’t wait to hear how Bobby tackled this fantastic song and to hear the extent of the production, whether it follows the style and arrangement of the then unreleased Ronettes version or perhaps represents a grittier, more soulful take.

‘The Other Brother – a Solo Anthology 1965-70’ is out on Ace Records on April 28th: https://acerecords.co.uk/the-other-brother-a-solo-anthology-1965-1970

Review: Introducing Darlene Love

It’s been a day since the worldwide release of Darlene Love’s new album and I am now able to publish a review of it, a little earlier than I had anticipated.

The review comes courtesy of fellow Spector-fan and Cue Castanets reader Bob Condren who has graciously offered to don the ‘guest blogger’ cap and offer another perspective on here. Which is something I’m very pleased with as I’m of the opinion that the blog will only benefit from other fans having their say. Remember, my vision for Cue Castanets is for it to be a kind of online fanzine devoted to all things Spector & the Wall of Sound. So if you have a good idea for an article, an interview, a review or something else you’d like to pitch, do contact me. You can reach me at cuecastanets(((@))))gmail.com and I’d love to hear from you.

I’d like to thank Bob for the fine review which is perfectly in line with my own initial reaction to the album; great to hear Darlene again; some of the new songs are stellar, some are pretty good, a few are so-so with the River Deep cover being pretty pointless and lame in my opinion. With this, I’ll let Bob talk us through the album and give his verdict.

Review: Introducing Darlene Love

**** (4 stars  out of 6)

Darlene Love’s new release, “Introducing Darlene Love,” may sound like an unusual title for an artist who has performed on so many legendary projects in the past 50 years or so. But for all her notoriety, including her work with Phil Spector, Elvis Presley, movies, TV and Broadway, she has never had a hit album. Steve Van Zandt has recruited an all-star list of veteran A-listers, including Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Jimmy Webb to try to turn that around.

Van Zandt has arranged and produced the songs filling them to the brim with horns, strings and a myriad of background singers. To most singers this would be overwhelming but not for Love… her voice is strong enough to break down the walls of Jericho!

Darlene & Little Steve - Building walls together
Darlene & Little Steve – Building walls together

The first song, “Among The Believers,” written by Van Zandt, initially sounds like a late 70s disco song, not unlike Donna Summer, with Asbury Jukes style horns. The next song is the Elvis Costello penned “Forbidden Nights” that also has an Asbury Park sound, though this time with a late 50s/early 60s rock ‘n roll feel.

A few more songs in, there is another Elvis Costello song called “Still Too Soon to Know.” This is a duet with her old friend Bill Medley, and it sounds as if it would work well on the Broadway stage. They are quite charming together. The Jimmy Webb tune, “Who Under Heaven,” is curiously similar at times to his classic, “MacArthur Park.” This may not be a coincidence as Van Zandt has been quoted as, somewhat jokingly, I think, asking Webb for another “MacArthur Park” for the project.

Van Zandt’s partner in rock ‘n roll crime, Bruce Springsteen, writes two songs for the project. The first one, “Night Closing In” is a full-blown homage to The Wall of Sound. It starts with a Clarence Clemons style sax solo (played by Clemons’ nephew, Jake Clemons) and builds with strings, Hal Blaine style drums, glockenspiel and I think, I may also hear some castanets in the mix. It is a great tune with haunting lyrics and if it had been written back in 1962, may have been a Philles hit, who knows? Springsteen’s other contribution “Just Another Lonely Mile,” while ambitious, is not as successful as “Night Closing In.”

Van Zandt’s fellow disc jockey on Sirius Radio’s Underground Garage, Michael Des Barres, wrote the powerhouse rocker, “Painkiller” with Paul III, and Love belts it out of the park. Love also does a great job with Van Zandt’s signature style soul ballad, “Last Time.” It is followed by a remake of “River Deep, Mountain High.” Love’s powerful vocal is a good fit but Van Zandt’s production does not have the unique quality of Phil Spector’s version with Tina Turner.

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After 12 songs dealing with affairs of the heart, the final two are in the Gospel mode, something that Love, whose father was a preacher, is familiar with. The penultimate song “Marvelous” is a simmering, slow tempo, powerhouse. The clarity, power and honesty of Love’s voice is at its peak on this one. On a roll, the final song, “Jesus Is the Rock (That Keeps Me Rollin”) is is an up-tempo number, that just about levitates the whole production.

If you’re a fan of the Jersey Shore sound, Spectoresque productions, or more to the point, a fan of Darlene Love, there is something for you on “Introducing Darlene Love.” 4 stars out of 6.

Bob Condren