There’s only one word for Ace Records’ superlative new collection of the solo recordings of the late Bobby Hatfield: righteous! The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970 brings together 24 sides from the tenor half of The Righteous Brothers including the entirety of his 1970 MGM Records album Messin’ at Muscle Shoals, rare singles, all surviving previously unreleased tracks from both MGM and Verve (seven songs in total), and more.
The story of The Righteous Brothers’ 1964 hit “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” – the most-played record of all time on American radio – has been famously told and re-told, wherein Bobby Hatfield asks producer Phil Spector what he’s supposed to do while Bill Medley is singing the lion’s share of the song. “Go to the bank,” Spector admonished. But Hatfield had more than his share of solo moments with The Righteous Brothers at Spector’s Philles label; three of those timeless selections – “Ebb Tide,” its B-side “I Love You (For Sentimental Reasons)” and, of course, “Unchained Melody” – are all reprised here. By the time “Ebb Tide” and its flip hit the U.S. top 5 in early 1966, Medley and Hatfield had already left Philles for the greener, Spector-less pastures of Verve Records. They soon were outdoing their former producer at his own game with the thunderous “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration,” produced by Medley, but in February 1968, the duo broke up. Both stayed within the Verve/MGM Records family of labels for their own solo projects.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, Hatfield’s first session for Verve tapped the songbooks of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (writers of “Lovin’ Feelin'” and “Soul and Inspiration”) and Carole King and Gerry Goffin (who had penned “Just Once in My Life” for the Brothers). Medley would also draw on their catalogues. Hatfield’s debut 45 on Verve was Mann and Weil’s “Hang Ups,” the first track on The Other Brother. Though Hatfield’s typically soaring, soulful vocal was nonpareil, his production and Don Ralke’s arrangement couldn’t match the majesty of Medley or Spector’s past triumphs. It was backed by Bobby’s torridly tongue-in-cheek “Soul Café.” Both sides of his follow-up single are here. He wrote the driving, autobiographical “Brothers,” which was backed with a chugging arrangement of Clyde Otis’ chestnut “What’s a Matter Baby.”
Though his three subsequent Verve singles aren’t included here, six previously unreleased cuts debut from 1968-1969 sessions (including those for an unreleased Hatfield LP). From that very first session, Ace premieres Hatfield’s beautiful, string-laden take on Goffin and King’s oft-covered “So Much Love,” and an impressive version of Mann and Weil’s “See That Girl,” previously recorded by the Righteous Brothers with Medley on lead. Among the most exciting of the never-before-released tracks is Hatfield’s storming take on Harry Nilsson and Phil Spector’s dramatic “Paradise,” introduced by The Ronettes in 1965. He’s more than respectable with “Crying in the Chapel,” perhaps most famous in Elvis Presley’s rendition. The offbeat, jazz-flecked “In My Mind” and atypically rocking “What You Want,” a funky R&B nugget with Hatfield wailing at his toughest against a backdrop of brass and girl singers, showcase the singer’s versatility.
The Other Brother concludes with an expanded version of Messin’ in Muscle Shoals, the lone solo LP released by Hatfield during his lifetime. (It followed a short-lived “New” Righteous Brothers platter, which Bobby recorded with Jimmy Walker of The Knickerbockers filling in for Bill Medley. That album, Re-Birth, remains unreleased on CD.) MGM actually sent both Bill and Bobby to Rick Hall’s FAME Studios in the hopes of igniting their solo careers with a shot of down-home southern soul. Hall enlisted studio engineer Mickey Buckins to produce Hatfield’s album, featuring the usual cast of FAME musicians plus Bobby’s friends Barry Rillera of the Righteous Brothers’ band and Andy Denno. Ever game, Hatfield threw himself into the loose house style with abandon.
Quite a departure from the lush scale of the original Righteous Brothers productions or the pop drama of Goffin and King, Mann and Weil, and Harry Nilsson, Messin’ in Muscle Shoals still sounds fresh and funky. In addition to reviving such FAME staples as “You Left the Water Running” and “The Feeling is Right,” Hatfield recorded one of the earliest covers of The Beatles’ “Let It Be,” imbuing it with an appropriate gospel sheen and a dash of “People Get Ready” mid-song. Ever an underrated songwriter, Hatfield penned the album’s affectionate title track with Andy Denno as a tribute to the cats at Muscle Shoals. Denno also brought along the stomping “I Saw a Lark,” while Barry Rillera contributed the groovin’ “If I Asked You,” with Hatfield whoooo-ing with Beatles-style relish. He even adopts a gentle country twang on tracks such as Buckins’ “The Promised Land.” Ultimately, Messin’ in Muscle Shoals failed to deliver a hit or a signature song, but the Alabama recording locale nonetheless provided an exuberant change of scenery for the famous balladeer. Ace has rescued one outtake, “Woman You Got No Soul,” from the vaults. (It was originally slated as the non-LP B-side of “The Promised Land,” but the single never materialized.)
The Other Brother includes a colorful, memorabilia-packed 12-page booklet with compilation producer Tony Rounce’s fine essay. Nick Robbins has beautifully remastered. With so much of The Righteous Brothers’ catalogue still out-of-print or largely unavailable on CD, this collection couldn’t come at a better time. This is one soul café worth a visit.
- Hang-Ups (Verve 10598, 1968) (*)
- Ebb Tide – The Righteous Brothers (Philles 130, 1965)
- Soul Café (Verve 10598, 1968)
- Crying in the Chapel (scheduled for Verve LP V6 5067 – previously unissued)
- In My Mind (previously unissued)
- (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons – The Righteous Brothers (Philles 130, 1965)
- What’s the Matter Baby (Verve 10621, 1968) (*)
- Paradise (previously unissued)
- Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers (Philles 129, 1965)
- What You Want (previously unissued)
- So Much Love (scheduled for Verve LP V6 5067 – previously unissued)
- See That Girl (scheduled for Verve LP V6 5067 – previously unissued)
- Brothers (scheduled for Verve LP V6 5067/issued on Verve 10621, 1968)
- You Left the Water Running
- Let It Be
- If I Asked You
- The Promised Land
- Shuckin’ and Jivin’
- I Saw a Lark
- You Get a Lot to Like
- Show Me the Sunshine
- The Feeling is Right
- Messin’ in Muscle Shoals
- Woman You Got No Soul (scheduled for MGM 14171, previously unissued)
Tracks 14-23 previously released as Messin’ in Muscle Shoals, MGM LP SE 4727, 1970
Stereo except (*) mono