Various Artists

I Hunger For Your Touch: Unchained Melody

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One of the great pop ballads of the last quarter of the 20th century, "Unchained Melody" has certainly endured. It began as a theme for the 1955 film Unchained and Les Baxter wound up taking an instrumental version to the top of the charts that year; not long afterward, it started to be recorded regularly, with Roy Hamilton taking it to the top of the R&B charts the same year. A decade later is when it became a standard, when the Righteous Brothers recorded an opulent, melodramatic version that became so definitive it wound up being a hit a quarter-century later when it was featured in the 1990 film Ghost. All these versions and many, many more are showcased on Bear Family's 2014 collection I Hunger for Your Touch: Unchained Melody, a generous 31-track disc that features nearly any version of note of "Unchained Melody." What's missing is Jimmy Young's U.K. chart-topping version from 1955 but most won't notice its absent, not when they're faced with so, so many dreamy versions from the '50s and '60s, along with a handful from the '70s and beyond. Only a few artists kick up the tempo -- Vito & the Salutations turn it into a hopping street corner harmony -- so that means the entirety feels rather sleepy, even when there are such major artists as Marty Robbins, Ricky Nelson, Harry Belafonte, Chet Atkins, Willie Nelson, Charlie Rich, Elvis Presley, Waylon Jennings, and Eddy Arnold featured. Everybody sang the song but they all sang it the same way, which means I Hunger for Your Touch is more of a cultural curio than compelling listening.

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