Saturday, December 25, 2010

Phil Spector's Christmas Album

This iconic Christmas album has been released several different times under three different titles. The original album on Philles Records in 1963 was titled as “A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records.” The initial reaction to the record was not as strong as subsequent issues of the album as it hit the record stores the same day as John F. Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963.

Subsequent reissues on Philles were released under the title of A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector.” When the album was reissued on The Beatles’ Apple Records label, the artwork was changed and re-titled as “Phil Spector’s Christmas Album.” It was this particular reissue that had the highest chart position on Billboard’s Christmas Chart at number 6.

Famous for featuring Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound,” the album featured the talents of Philles recording artists Darlene Love, The Crystals, The Ronettes, and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans. Spector’s recording technique included massive layering of instruments playing parts in unison and then recording these parts using an echo chamber.

Phil Spector in more festive days

Spector’s technique has been criticized by some for obscuring the vocals with the instrumentation. Others have lauded Spector as a genius for creating the sound that he compared to the arrangements of Richard Wagner.

Darlene Love: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

I heard Darlene do this song on the Letterman show the other night and her version was as powerful as it was in 1963. While the original single release did not achieve national success, it epitomized the album’s sound. Originally intended for Ronnie Spector to sing lead, Phil felt that she didn’t quite have the vocal power to do the song justice; therefore, Darlene Love was asked to try her hand (er, voice) at the tune and the rest is history.

The Ronnettes: Sleigh Ride

Ronnie and the Ronnettes, however, did get to shine on “Sleigh Ride,” a version that manages to still get much airplay despite the more popular version by Johnny Mathis.

The Crystals: Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

If you are familiar with Bruce Springsteen’s version of this tune, you will automatically hear the inspiration of the The Crystals’ version in his rendition.

The Album – Part One

The Album – Part Two

The Album – Part Three

This will be the last album feature for some time. Beginning next week, our Saturday feature changes from albums to those “near misses” of musicdom. Have a Merry Christmas.

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