Born to Be Together: could a more apropos title have been devised for a collection of the songs of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil? Married since 1961, the team both defines and defies the phrase “unsung heroes.” Without hit records as recording artists, Mann and Weil have never had the name recognition of their Brill Building-era compatriots like Carole King or Neil Sedaka, but these Grammy Award-winning Rock and Roll Hall of Famers are hardly unsung. If all they’d ever written was the most played song of the twentieth century, The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” they would have gone down in the history books. With over 1,000 songs reportedly under their collective belt and some 100 hits (not a bad track record, eh?) charted, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil are simply international treasures. Ace Records has recognized this with Born to Be Together, the label’s second volume of songs from their storied catalogue following 2009’s Glitter and Gold.
A 2004 theatrical revue starring the couple, They Wrote That?, made reference to one of the most frequent exclamations regarding their body of work. You might find yourself saying that yourself glancing the track listing of this 25-song compendium: “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” “Saturday Night at the Movies,” “We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place,” “Make Your Own Kind of Music.” But those hits are just the tip of the iceberg here.
Compilation producer Mick Patrick has expertly woven those familiar tracks (all in their most famous versions) into a tapestry that also takes in lesser-known versions of hit songs and true rarities. The disc also takes in compositions co-written by Mann and/or Weil with other luminaries, among them Gerry Goffin, Russ Titelman, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Ernie Freeman, and of course, Phil Spector. The specter of Spector lingers on both the majestic songs he produced (“Lovin’ Feelin’,” The Crystals’ “Uptown,” The Ronettes’ darkly seductive “Born to Be Together”) and those he co-wrote as recorded by others (Len Barry’s Philly treatment of “You Baby”).
After the jump: much more on Mann and Weil, including a full track listing and order link!
Phil Spector and Mann first collaborated when Spector, a regular at the Aldon Music offices in Manhattan, produced Mann’s songs for the Paris Sisters. And New York figured prominently in the songs of Mann and Weil. “On Broadway” is doubtless the team’s most famous big city song, co-written with Leiber and Stoller. It’s represented here in former Drifter Clyde McPhatter’s 1964 recording, released a year after the post-McPhatter Drifters’ hit version. Alan Lorber’s arrangement and Shelby Singleton’s production (for the Songs of the Big City concept album) is almost as lush as the Drifters’ original, hewing generally to the same blueprint. More adventurous is Spector’s production of “Uptown,” with Barbara Alston leading The Crystals. Spanish guitar and castanets enhance Weil’s empathetic lyrics and Mann’s beguiling melody.
Mann and Weil were only in their early 20s when their songs began setting the charts afire; naturally, many youthful themes permeated their songs. “Saturday Night at the Movies” is a deliciously un-ironic appreciation of the unbridled joys of love. The Drifters tune is set to an irresistible beat and equally memorable sentiment– “Who cares what picture you see, when you’re huggin’ with your baby, the last row in the balcony?” That same innocence is captured on Tony Orlando’s reading of “Bless You,” their very first hit from October 1961, mere months after their marriage. Aldon Music friend and competitor Carole King arranged the song’s strings and sighing, swooning “Bop shoo bop shoo bop” backing vocals.
The mature flipside of “Bless You” (“Bless you/Bless every breath that you take/Bless every move that you make so perfectly/And bless your little heart for lovin’ me!”) could be “Angelica,” heard here in Scott Walker’s 1967 recording. As so exquisitely sung by Walker at his most resonant, it’s brooding and altogether different from any other track here (“Angelica, there’s so much you never knew/So much I meant to say and do for you…”). Considerably breezier is Ruby and the Romantics’ “We’ll Love Again,” recorded as a possible follow-up to “Our Day Will Come,” and arranged by that song’s composer, Mort Garson, in the same bossa nova style. In his notes, Mick Patrick speculates that the oft-covered “Good, Good, Lovin’” was written as a follow-up to Dusty Springfield’s recording of Goffin and King’s “Some of Your Lovin’,” and that assertion certainly seems on the money listening to the song here. However derivative it was of their good friends’ song – a homage, if you will – it holds up in Bobby Hebb’s soulful, velvety rendition. “Just a Little Lovin’ (Early in the Mornin’),” introduced by Springfield on her seminal Dusty in Memphis record, is heard here in Carmen McRae’s 1970 single, which is appropriately cool and smoky if not as downright sexy as Miss Springfield’s original.
Dusty herself makes an appearance via “I Wanna Make You Happy” from the team of Weil and Titelman. (Multiple Grammy winning producer Titelman never found substantial success as a songwriter, but did he ever write anything less than a fantastic song? It seems unlikely!) The British soul queen’s vocal is incredibly (and expectedly!) sultry, although Ray Stevens’ arrangement is a bit much. When Dusty sings of sharing a kiss, the horns bleat rather too excitedly! But the melody surges with dynamics, the strings, percussion and brass all build to a dramatic crescendo. The most controversial arrangement on the new anthology is that of The Animals’ “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” a No. 2 U.K./No. 13 U.S. hit in 1965. The band took great liberties with Mann and Weil’s original song, some might say simplifying it in the process. But it’s hard to deny the sheer power of Eric Burdon’s scowling lead vocal and the primal instrumental attack of Mickie Most’s record. Similarly sneering is Slade’s 1970 recording of one of the most rocking songs ever written by the duo, “The Shape of Things to Come.” The song, ironically, came from the counterculture film Wild in the Streets, with a score from the rather not quite counterculture Mann and Weil team. But they were more than up to the task, as this song – a Top 30 hit for studio group Max Frost and the Troupers in 1968 – definitively proves.
Born to Be Together emphasizes the duo’s great versatility. Doris Day’s “Love Him” (recorded by Scott Walker with the Walker Brothers and other as “Love Her”) is as gorgeously restrained as “Shape of Things to Come” and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” are rip-roaring. It’s delivered in Day’s most tender, romantic style. In fact, the songs are as versatile as the composer and lyricist are. Another fascinating reinvention here is The Happenings’ freewheeling 1971 spin on “Mama” Cass Elliot’s “Make Your Own Kind of Music.” Mama Cass herself offers up the optimistic anthem “New World Coming” with those reassuring yet forceful pipes that were silenced far too soon. The most recent song on Born to Be Together is AC chart-topper “Rock and Roll Lullaby,” from 1972, as sung by the artist who’s recorded more Mann and Weil songs than any other: B.J. Thomas. His other signature hit from the team, “I Just Can’t Help Believin’,” can be heard on Glitter and Gold. Another stalwart interpreter of the duo’s ouevre, Bill Medley, closes out the set with his Mann-produced “This is a Love Song.” 1972 hardly marked the end of Mann and Weil’s songwriting career, as they continued to score hits (“Somewhere Out There,” “Here You Come Again”) over the ensuing years, and continue to write to this very day. (Among their recent projects: “Mercy of Love,” a collaborative effort with singer/songwriter Nikki Jean on her exceptional 2011 album Pennies in a Jar.)
Cass Elliot sings on this compilation, “There’s a new world coming, coming in peace, coming in joy, coming in love.” Though Cynthia Weil’s lyrics and Barry Mann’s music captured the sunshine pop zeitgeist of the era , the hopeful sentiment expressed is just as important today. As compiled and annotated by Mick Patrick, remastered by Nick Robbins and lavishly designed by Neil Dell with a 22-page booklet, Born to Be Together stands as a fitting tribute to one of the most deservedly honored songwriting teams of all time. Bring on Volume Three.
Born to Be Together: The Songs of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil is available now and can be ordered at the link below!
- Born To Be Together – The Ronettes featuring Veronica (Philips 126, 1965)
- Angelica – Scott Walker (Philips LP SBL 7816, 1967)
- Looking Through the Eyes of Love – Gene Pitney (Musicor 1103, 1965)
- You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ – The Righteous Brothers (Philles 124, 1964)
- I’m Satisfied (“The Duffy” Theme) – Lou Rawls (Capitol 2252, 1968)
- You Baby – Len Barry (Decca 32054, 1966)
- Saturday Night at the Movies – The Drifters (Atlantic 2260, 1964)
- Bless You – Tony Orlando (Epic 9452, 1961)
- On Broadway – Clyde McPhatter (Mercury LP SR 60902, 1964)
- Proud – Johnny Crawford (Del-Fi 4193, 1962)
- Uptown – The Crystals (Philles 102, 1962)
- We’ll Love Again – Ruby and the Romantics (Kapp 839, 1967)
- Love Him – Doris Day (Columbia LP CS 8931, 1963)
- Good, Good Lovin’ – Bobby Hebb (Philips LP PHS 600-212, 1966)
- I Wanna Make You Happy – Dusty Springfield (Philips LP PHS 600-174, 1965)
- The Girl Who Sang the Blues – The Everly Brothers (Warner Bros. 5389, 1963)
- We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place – The Animals (Columbia DB 7639, 1965)
- Shape of Things to Come – Slade (Fontana TF 1079, 1970)
- Love is Only Sleeping – The Monkees (Colgems LP 104, 1967)
- New World Comin’ – Mama Cass Elliot (Dunhill/ABC 4225, 1969)
- Rock and Roll Lullaby – B.J. Thomas (Scepter 12344, 1972)
- Something Better – Marianne Faithfull (Decca F 12889, 1969)
- Just a Little Lovin’ (Early in the Morning) – Carmen McRae with the Dixie Flyers (Atlantic 2736, 1970)
- Make Your Own Kind of Music – The Happenings (Jubilee 5721, 1971)
- This is a Love Song – Bill Medley (MGM 14025, 1969)
All tracks stereo except Tracks 1, 4, 5, 8, 11 & 17 mono