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#142 – A Christmas Gift For You (Phil Spector)

In 150-125, Top 150 on May 2, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Cover Art

Next up: Phil Spector’s 1963 Christmas Gift…AND JUST FOR ME! Well, no, not really. Its for ALL of us. That’s right, Mr. Spector released this album in Christmas spirit, and as a gift for you. Unfortunately, it was released the same day that J.F.K. was assassinated in the U.S., and as a result, didn’t sell well when it was released on November 22nd.

There are two strange things about this album. First, I listened to it just as its become warm and Summery, and as a true Canadian, I’m used to mostly cold winters,  and if all goes well, White Christmases. So listening to Christmas music while the sun shines bright and its 20 degrees outside doesn’t really feel right to me. But that’s okay. What really made this a weird album to listen to was thinking about the fact that Phil Spector was accused of the 2003 murder of Lana Clarkson, and in 2009 was found guilty and given a 19 year sentence. I found this out before I listened to this cheery album, so I will say it was strange listening to it and thinking about Spector’s current situation. Especially since the last track of the album, is Phil talking over “Silent Night” and thanking everyone for their support. It just made it feel weird.

Track Listing

  1. White Christmas (Darlene Love)
  2. Frosty The Snowman (The Ronettes)
  3. The Bells of St. Mary’s (Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans)
  4. Santa Claus is Coming To Town (The Crystals)
  5. Sleigh Ride (The Ronettes)
  6. Marshmallow World (Darlene Love)
  7. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (The Ronettes)
  8. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (The Crystals)
  9. Winter Wonderland (Darlene Love)
  10. Parade Of The Wooden Soldiers (The Crystals)
  11. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (Darlene Love)
  12. Here Comes Santa Claus (Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans)
  13. Silent Night (Phil Spector and Artists)
If you Google Phil Spector you will probably find one of two things: Lana Clarkson or the Wall of Sound. Let’s move on from Spector’s personal debacle and talk about the music, shall we?
The Wall of Sound was Spector’s signature technique which he developed at the time. It was a very layered sound that was created by large groups of instruments play in orchestrations (the example that’s given a lot is acoustic and electric guitars playing in unison) which gave a very full sound, and also played great on the radios and music players of the time. You will hear that familiar ring on this album, if you give it a listen.
Spector is an incredibly established song-writer and producer. He co-wrote Ben E. King’s “Spanish Harlem” and as a session musician, played on the Drifters’ track “On Broadway”. In 1961, Spector founded his own record company, Phille Records, with a partner.
Spector was married to Veronica “Ronnie ” Bennett, a member of the infamous “Ronettes” girl-group, which he also managed from 1963 to 1974. This Christmas album features the musical talents of the artists on his label, Phille Records, including The Ronettes, Darlene Love, The Crystals, and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans. A number of classic Christmas recordings were created on this album, including Sleigh Ride and Frosty the Snowman, sung by The Ronettes. And for any of you Springsteen fans (don’t worry – I won’t Bruce-bash), his recording of “Santa Clause Is Coming To Town” took some inspiration from The Crystals recording on this album. Pretty great!
Its a nice Christmas album because its got that warm, classic sound, which might be partly due to the “wall of sound” Spector is so-well known for. If so, then now I know why I love records like this so much!
If you don’t think you’re ready to listen to this album now, don’t worry. I understand. But put a reminder in your calendar on December 1st so that when Christmas rolls around, you can have a listen to this classic album with a glass of eggnog or a hot chocolate. I think you’ll enjoy it.

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