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“I Hunger For Your Touch” Collects 31 Recordings of “Unchained Melody” From Elvis, The Righteous Brothers, Many More

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Unchained MelodyIt began life as the theme to a 1955 B-movie that asked, “No locks!  No walls!  In the prison without bars!  What keeps men like these from crashing out?”  The film was Unchained, and the song was “Unchained Melody” with music by Alex North (A Streetcar Named Desire, Spartacus) and lyrics by Hy Zaret (“Dedicated to You”).  Though the movie – in which just a brief snippet of the song was sung by Porgy and Bess’ original Porgy, Todd Duncan – is hardly remembered today, the intensely romantic ballad  is anything but.  As such, it’s the subject of a new CD from Bear Family.  I Hunger for Your Touch: Unchained Melody offers 31 renditions of the song recorded between 1955 and 1985.  It joins the rare club of single-song CDs; other songs to have received similar treatment include “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” from Bear Family, and “Louie, Louie” from labels including Rhino, Ace and Jerden.

“Unchained Melody” received an Oscar nomination, losing out to “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing” from the movie of the same name.  But on the sales charts, it was an instant winner.  In addition to presenting Duncan’s original recording from Unchained, the new anthology includes many of the song’s earliest covers.  Les Baxter’s choral rendition on Capitol hit No. 2 on the U.S. pop chart, and not long after, Al Hibbler’s vocal version reached No. 3.  Mining the soulful potential of the North melody, Roy Hamilton took it to No. 1 R&B as well as No. 6 Pop.  “Unchained” was unstoppable.  Other early versions here are from rockabilly trailblazer Gene Vincent, vocalist Harry Belafonte (who sang it at the Academy Awards), and country legends Eddy Arnold and Chet Atkins.

Yet despite a steady stream of recordings continuing into the 1960s, “Unchained” didn’t achieve true immortality until producer Phil Spector and The Righteous Brothers (more specifically, Bobby Hatfield) brought it to No. 4 on the U.S. Pop chart in 1965.  It was first the B-side of the Carole King/Gerry Goffin song “Hung on You,” but DJs flipped the record, and the rest is history.  Over the years, this version kept “Unchained” on the radio, influencing nearly every version that followed and culminating in the song’s appearance in the 1990 blockbuster Ghost.  Upon its inclusion in the movie, the original 1965 recording and the Brothers’ new re-recording simultaneously resided in the Hot 100 for eight weeks!

Hit the jump for much more, including the track listing with discography and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Release Round-Up: Week of April 15

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Bee Gees - Warner Bros. YearsBee Gees, The Warner Bros. Years 1987-1991 (Warner Bros./Rhino)

A new five-disc box collates the Bee Gees’ E.S.P. (1987), One (1989) and High Civilization (1991) – the first two of which have bonus tracks – and 1991’s One for All live concert, released for the first time on CD. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Nas - IllmaticNas, Illmatic XX (Columbia/Legacy)

Queens’ favorite MC celebrates his landmark debut with a newly-expanded edition of the 1994 album with a bonus disc of rare remixes and unreleased tracks.

2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Donna LorenDonna Loren, These Are The Good Times: The Complete Capitol Recordings (Now Sounds)

Donna Loren is well-known for her appearances on television’s Shindig! and in the famous series of sixties Beach Party films, but Now Sounds’ new collection reveals her talents as a top-tier pop vocalist!  This expansive collection premieres previously unreleased material, and includes productions from David Axelrod and Steve Douglas, and arrangements by Jack Nitzsche, Billy Strange and H.B. Barnum – plus appearances by The Beau Brummels, Glen Campbell and the L.A. Wrecking Crew!  Look for Joe’s review Wednesday! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Black Sabbath boxBlack Sabbath, The Complete Albums 1970-1978 (Rhino)

A simple, compact box of all of Sabbath’s Ozzy-era albums. Perfect one-stop shopping! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Instant Funk Witch DoctorInstant Funk, Witch Doctor: Expanded Edition (Big Break Records)

The band’s second album for Salsoul, which followed up the hit single “I Got My Mind Made Up,” is remastered and expanded with three bonus tracks by BBR. (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.)

Lettermen First Four AlbumsThe Lettermen, The First Four Albums and More / Various Artists, Hard-to-Find Jukebox Classics 1963 (Eric)

Eric Records takes it back to the ’60s pop era with a two-disc compilation of albums from The Lettermen (including hit versions of “The Way You Look Tonight” and “When I Fall in Love,” plus 10 bonus tracks) and a set of rare singles and rarer mixes from 1963 (including the stereo debut of The Surfaris’ “Wipe Out”).

The Lettermen: Amazon U.S. (TBD) / Amazon U.K.
Hard to Find Jukebox ClassicsAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Written by Mike Duquette

April 15, 2014 at 07:47