Following his 1968 break with fellow Righteous Brother Bobby Hatfield, Bill Medley kicked off a solo career with this pair of releases for MGM. Both albums grazed the bottom of the Billboard 200, and three singles (“I Can’t Make it Alone” and “Brown Eyed Woman” from the first album, “Peace Brother Peace” from the second) charted short of the Top 40. It would be Medley’s last solo chart action for more than a decade, as he’d reteam with Hatfield in 1974 and forgo solo releases for several years afterwards. By the time he re-engaged his solo career in 1981, the music world and his place in it had changed, leaving this pair of albums the best evidence of the solo sound grown from his first run with the Righteous Brothers.
Following the Righteous Brothers’ falling out with Phil Spector (who had produced three Philles albums and four hit singles for them), Medley assumed the producer’s seat for the duo’s last #1, “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration.” In conjuring a convincing imitation of Spector’s Wall of Sound, Medley showed himself to have ambition and talent that was larger than the role of featured vocalist. As he took the producer’s chair for his solo records he leaned heavily on big band arrangements of blues, soul and stage standards that suggested he’d been listening to Ray Charles and other blues and soul singers. He creates a Spectorian crescendo for “The Impossible Dream,” shouts his way through “That’s Life,” sings at the ragged edge of his husky voice on “Run to My Loving Arms,” and chews the scenery with the Neil Diamond-meets-Blood, Sweat & Tears gospel-soul of “Peace Brother Peace.”
Soft and Soulful dials down the volume of 100% to provide more nuanced and soulful vocals, including tender covers of Jerry Butler’s “For Your Precious Love” and Joanie Sommers “Softly,” an intense performance of the title song from the 1969 prison film Riot, “100 Years,” and a version of Burt Bacharach’s “Any Day Now” that winningly slows the tempo of Chuck Jackson’s original and Elvis Presley’s contemporaneous cover. Medley wrote or co-wrote four of the album’s tracks, including the period proclamation of personal freedom “I’m Gonna Die Me.” Real Gone delivers the disc and six-panel booklet (featuring liner notes by Richie Unterberger and reproductions of the back album covers) in a folding cardboard sleeve that includes both front album covers. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]