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Righteous Brothers: Sayin' Somethin'

This is the moment in 1966 when the steam starting coming out of a Righteous Brothers juggernaut that, thanks largely to the ever-lovable Phil Spector, had all but invented the genre of "blue-eyed soul" during the preceding two years. Only 12 months after Verve Records had succeeded in prying the (probably very grateful) Righteous boys away from gun-totin' Phil for the then-unheard of sum of $1 million, not even Carole King and Gerry Goffin could keep the times from changing, and it shows on Sayin' Somethin'.

righteous_sayin.jpgNot that it's a bad album at all. But it's not very special, which given the Righteous Brothers' track record up till then constituted a major disappointment. Probably the most telling thing about the situation was that the other album that Verve recorded the same month as Sayin' Somethin' was Absolutely Free by Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention. The writing was on the wall: After two years of incredible, groundbreaking success in introducing the world of R&B and soul music to white kids in a way that no one ever had, by Summer 1966 the Righteous Brothers phenomenon was winding down in the wake of the British Invasion and the onset of the counterculture. Less than two years later, the duo was history.

Sayin' Somethin' had one charting single, its lead-off track, "On This Side of Goodbye," written for the Righteous Brothers by King and Goffin. The foursome, along with Spector at the Wall of Sound controls, had certainly struck lightning before with "Just Once In My Life" and "Hung On You" for Spector's Philles label. But although "This Side" had all of the sonic elements of those songs - as well as those of the Brothers' big Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil-written hits "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" and "(You're My) Soul and Inspiration" - it was nevertheless lacking something. The song has the same lushly orchestrated arrangements (by Bill Baker), the same kind of lost-love lyrics. The vocal skills of Bill Medley (baritone) and Bobby Hatfield (tenor) are still at their peak here, to be sure. So what's the problem?

"On This Side of Goodbye," despite its pedigree, is a song that feels like a knock-off. King's lyrics, which only a few years earlier seemed heartfelt, now seemed more calculated somehow:

I've had my taste of independence
Since the day I set you free
Now I don't bear the least resemblance
To the man I used to be

Cause baby things look much different now
On this side of good-bye.
Can't you find it in your heart somehow?
To give our love just one more try

It could be because the Righteous Brothers' usefulness to the Baby Boomers was ending quickly in 1966: By this time, their original fans were in college, protesting the Vietnam War, mixing with people of color. They no longer needed "acceptable" white guys interpreting soul music for them. After becoming exposed to the original material and to the more imaginative interpretations of blues and soul music by British Invasion bands, the Righteous Brothers were feeling quaint.

The irony, or course, is that despite not quite coming up to their earlier standards, Saying' Somethin', which was produced by Medley, has some very fine moments that make it worth listening to. For instance, their version of Leiber/Stoller's "I Who Have Nothing" is just classic blue-eyed soul, a winner by any standards. And Medley's basso profundo has never been more thrilling than it is on "Yes Indeed," in which the Brothers do a spot-on tribute to Ray Charles' 1957 version of the same tune.

Another cover of note is the novelty item "Along Came Jones," in which Medley and Hatfield reprise the comedy repartee of the Coasters' 1959 original. Again, even though it was a fine effort in and of itself, by 1966 the time for faithful recreation of R&B songs by white artists was over, which, even though overall it was a good and necessary thing, meant guys like the Righteous Brothers were probably cast aside a little too righteously by a generation which had become embarrassed by having its black music spoon-fed to it by a music industry that had turned out to be horribly racist.

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From Tommy Cash to Blue Oyster Cult, Bin Dive reveals rock's secret history. Send comments, suggestions, distortion and feedback to Don. You must include a real name to be considered for publication.



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Posted on May 14, 2007


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