With all due respect to Bobby Hatfield, the Righteous Brothers were all about the big, booming yet soulful voice of Bill Medley.
Duets with Jennifer Warnes aside, Medley’s solo recording career feels like a footnote to his work with Hatfield and Phil Spector. Most of his albums have never been reissued on CD but Real Gone Music have produced an excellent twofer of his first two LPs, Bill Medley 100% and Soft and Soulful. The first includes an exemplary cover (widely available on YouTube) of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill’s Brown Eyed Woman which should have been a bigger hit than it was. Elsewhere, 100% follows the common 60s formula of throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. Medley’s voice is always a joy to listen to and, while he sounds more comfortable on the pop-soul covers than the show tunes, there is a glorious Righteous sound-alike version of Goffin and King’s I Can’t Make It Alone which did even less well on the charts than Brown Eyed Woman.
Soft and Soulful is even more satisfying with four Medley originals and some judiciously chosen covers (When Something Is Wrong With My Baby, Any Day Now) including this take on Jerry Butler’s 1958 hit. Perhaps not surprisingly given their contribution to the Brothers biggest hits, he included two more Mann and Weill tunes on the second album, Peace Brother Peace and the pretty but largely unknown Winter Won’t Come This Year.
While most of what followed these two recordings remains unavailable, Medley’s recent albums Damn Near Righteous and Your Heart To Mine (on which he revisits For Your Precious Love to arguably even greater effect than decades previously) are amongst his best. His voice has matured to a lovely soulful growl (think Joe Cocker without decades of substance abuse and a good deal more laid back) and he remains the definition of blue eyed soul.