When The Righteous Brothers broke up in early 1968, Bill Medley recorded a couple of solo albums for MGM. Those two albums, 100% (1968) and Soft And Soulful (1969) make up this CD. The first is an album entirely of covers, a mix of soul tunes and pop standards. The second includes several songs penned by Bill Medley himself, including "I'm Gonna Die Me" and "Reaching Back."
Both albums have some great tracks, but the second is more consistent, feeling more like the results of a solid vision. When you think of the Righteous Brothers, you usually think of those great, powerful earnest love songs - and that type of song is represented in this collection. But some of the best are tunes like "Brown Eyed Woman." On the first album he strays into lounge singer territory with tracks like "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You" (made popular by Dean Martin), though his effort on that is excellent. The first record is uneven, not as far as the merit and quality of the songs, but in the type of song chosen, the style. I mean, "Let The Good Times Roll" and "The Impossible Dream" on the same record? Odd.
By 1974, Bill Medley had re-united with Bobby Hatfield, and they continued to perform together as The Righteous Brothers until Hatfield's death in 2003. Bill Medley also continued recording and performing solo material (certainly you'll recall his big hit with Jennifer Warnes in 1987, "I've Had The Time Of My Life" from Dirty Dancing). He is still touring.
This album will let you relive and re-experience Bill Medley at his prime.
"Brown Eyed Woman"
Bill Medley opens 100% with "Brown Eyed Woman." The music of The Righteous Brothers was sometimes known as "blue-eyed soul," and this song features the opening line, "You look at me and baby all you see are my blue eyes." Bill Medley has such a great voice, and in this song he's in Otis Redding, Ray Charles territory. He has raw emotional power, and it's put to great use in this song, with lines like "All of the years, all the hate and the fears/Have twisted your heart/Now you turn away/You won't trust what I say/And it's tearing me apart." This song also features fantastic backing vocalists singing "Stay away, baby," and then answering Bill's "I could love you so" with "No, no." I love that the backing vocalists disagree with him.
This is an excellent song, written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, who had written "(You're My) Soul And Inspiration" and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (the second written with Phil Spector), both #1 hits for The Righteous Brothers.
"Let The Good Times Roll"
I've always loved the song "Let The Good Times Roll," written by Sam Theard. (The disc credits Leonard Lee as the songwriter, but that's actually a different song by the same title. That's a great song too, as is basically every other song with this title.) It's a lot of fun, with some great work on horns. And because this is 1968, Bill Medley says, "Sock it to me, baby," which was the law back then.
I love that this version doesn't feel too polished. It feels more immediate, like a live track. Oddly, he introduces his guitarist in the middle of the song, as if this were a live performance. Just remember, "It makes no difference if you're young or old/You'd better get yourself together and let the good times roll."
"You Don't Have To Say You Love Me"
"You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" was a big hit for Dusty Springfield in 1966, reaching #4 on the U.S. chart, and #1 on the UK chart. Bill Medley's take on it is good, as he completely commits himself to it.
"The Impossible Dream (The Quest)"
An odd choice of covers is "The Impossible Dream (The Quest)." It seems so out of place. But actually a lot of folks were covering this song at that time, including Cher, The Supremes, The Temptations, Roberta Flack and Elvis Presley. It was written by Joe Darion and Mitch Leigh for the 1965 musical Man Of La Mancha. Sure, Bill Medley throws himself into the performance of this song, but it still seems so weird.
"Can't Make It Alone"
Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote a lot of great tunes in the 1960s ("Will You Love Me Tomorrow," "Some Kind Of Wonderful," "The Loco-Motion," "I'm Into Something Good," "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and "Porpoise Song," just to name a few). And their contribution to 100%, "Can't Make it Alone," is one of the record's best tracks.
It's one of those wonderful, earnest songs that begins quietly and builds so naturally to that level where Bill Medley feels at home, pushing his vocals. In this one, he sings, "I wouldn't blame you if you hurt me now/The way I hurt you then/But who else can I turn to/Baby I'm begging you/Please reach out to a dying man and let him live again." (Dusty Springfield also recorded this song, her version appearing on her 1969 record Dusty In Memphis.)
"Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)"
Bill Medley ends 100% with "Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)," a song written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley for the musical The Roar Of The Greasepaint - The Smell Of The Crowd (1964). And it definitely has a theatrical sound. This has a bit of a showy presentation, lacking the heart of some of the other songs. Dusty Springfield included this song on her 1966 record You Don't Have To Say You Love Me.
"Peace Brother Peace"
Soft And Soulful opens with a tune written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, just as the first record did. This one, "Peace Brother Peace," is definitely of its time. A late 1960s plea for folks to get along (back when people thought this was still possible, before we became cynical and selfish and even apathetic). Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Time for giving your hand to your brother/Time for changing the man that you are/Time to work out love on each other/Time for peace/Time for peace." It's not a bad song, and Bill's delivery of it is honest and impassioned. I really like the second half of the tune. There is a very definite break halfway through.
The song "100 Years" was featured in the 1969 film Riot starring Gene Hackman and Jim Brown. This is a song about a man in jail - "Ain't never seen a man like I was going to be/But now I'm doing time and time is killing me" - but who in his mind escapes at night to visit his woman. This is a good song, and I really dig how low his voice gets on the penultimate line.
"Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye"
"Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye" is a wonderful tune that was a hit for The Casinos in 1967. And Bill Medley's rendition is excellent, helped by some wonderful backing vocals. This is the kind of material that seems written specially for him. This is where he thrives. "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye" was written by John D. Loudermilk.
"I'm Gonna Die Me"
Bill Medley wrote several of the songs for Soft And Soulful, including "I'm Gonna Die Me," about being true to yourself, being your own person. It's also about race with lines like "I've tried so hard to feel my brother's pain/But when you're white it's just not the same." It's a good song. But when he sings, "I pity the fool," I can't help but think of Mr. T.
Bill Medley also wrote "Reaching Back" and "Something's So Wrong," and co-wrote "Street Of Dirt."
"When Something Is Wrong With My Baby"
"When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" is a great powerful slow song, the kind that gets under your skin. Again, this is the type of song that Bill Medley handles best. "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" was written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, and was a hit for Sam & Dave in 1967.
"Winter Won't Come This Year"
Soft And Soulful concludes with "Winter Won't Come This Year," another tune written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. This has a cool, jazzy late-night feel, with some nice work on piano. This one starts, "The leaves may tumble from the trees/Autumn may whisper in the breeze/But as long as I'm holding you here/Winter won't come this year." (And with its mention of snow and mistletoe, it might work well on a Christmas mix.)
CD Track List
- Brown Eyed Woman
- Let The Good Times Roll
- You Don't Have To Say You Love Me
- Run To My Loving Arms
- You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You
- The Impossible Dream (The Quest)
- Can't Make It Alone
- That's Life
- One Day Girl
- Show Me
- Goin' Out Of My Head
- Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)
- Peace Brother Peace
- 100 Years
- Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye
- I'm Gonna Die Me
- For Your Precious Love
- When Something Is Wrong With My Baby
- Any Day Now
- Reaching Back
- Street Of Dirt
- Something's So Wrong
- Winter Won't Come This Year
This special issue of 100%/Soft And Soulful is scheduled to be released on January 24, 2012 through Real Gone Music.