Spector Soul vs. Righteous Brothers Soundalikes

Spector soul originally derives from Phil Spector’s work with the Righteous Brothers. Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield made their mark as white soul artists with a new style of soul music that Spector created by drawing on, in effect, two previous kinds of records that he had produced.

First, in early 1961, he cut some superb soul/R&B for Atlantic, such as Ruth Brown’s “Anyone But You.”

Second, in late 1961, he co-founded with Lester Sill the Philles label, where he reinvented girl group records with his wall of sound, such as the Crystals’ “Uptown.”

“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” “Unchained Melody” and “Ebb Tide” are as much a part of the Spector sound as “Uptown,” “He’s A Rebel” and “Be My Baby.” However, although there is a well-known association between the Righteous Brothers and soul music (blue-eyed soul), Phil Spector has not been given credit for making the sound of the Righteous Brothers’ hit records a unique style of soul music.

It is time to correct this oversight because there is plenty of evidence — namely, a large discography — to justify the recognition of Spector soul. In other words, Spector’s “Lovin’ Feelin’” was not only the most played song on the radio and television in the twentieth century, it was also one of the most influential.

Whether produced by Phil Spector or Bill Medley (and referred to as “Spector soundalikes”), songs by the Righteous Brothers are acknowledged as blue-eyed soul. Righteous Brothers soundalikes are also considered blue-eyed soul when the vocals are by white men, such as the Walker Brothers’ “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” or PJ Proby’s “I Can’t Make It Alone.” Of the latter song, Mick Patrick writes in his liner notes for the CD, Phil’s Spectre: A Wall of Soundalikes, “To classify it as merely a Righteous Brothers or Spector soundalike would be an insult. It would be more accurate to describe it as one of the best blue-eyed soul recordings ever made.”

Of course, when the vocals are by black men, such as the Dreamlovers’ “You Gave Me Somebody To Love,” a song may still be called a Righteous Brothers soundalike but not blue-eyed soul.

However, there are two reasons why the classification, “Righteous Brothers soundalike,” is very unsatisfactory and should be abandoned. First, by associating the Righteous Brothers with soul songs that have a wall of sound (“booming blue-eyed soul”), Phil Spector, the architect of the style of the Righteous Brothers, has been unjustly ignored.

Second, the term, “soundalike,” is related to gender, which is a critical problem that needs to be overcome. For example, a Righteous Brothers soundalike implies male singers. But a Spector soundalike can have male singers, as when Bill Medley produced the Righteous Brothers’ “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration,” or female singers, as when Medley produced The Blossoms’ “Stand By.”

When the singers are female, these Spector soundalikes have only been identified with girl group music. Consequently, only Righteous Brothers soundalikes have been associated with soul music. However, songs cut by women that sound similar to those by the Righteous Brothers (i.e., that are not Spector girl group soundalikes) have not also been considered soul music.

For example, Medley’s production of The Blossoms’ “Stand By” has as at least as much wall of sound as well as soul as the original version cut by Spector for the Righteous Brothers.

The term Righteous Brothers soundalike is race neutral because it applies to songs sung either by black or white men.

However, the term is gender biased because it does not apply to songs sung by women.

In contrast, the concept of Spector soul is both gender and race neutral. Songs by women can be as much Spector soul as those by men.

In Spector soul, women are equal to men as performers of soul music that has a wall of sound.

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