September 1, 2016

I remember the very first time I remember hearing – not listening to, but hearing a classic Phil Spector-produced song, and I still remember it to this day. It was probably somewhere around 1968 or ’69 (could have been later). It was summer (or was it fall?), and my folks had won for us kids a box of old 45 RPM records at a church fair raffle. The records were obviously from someone who had long outgrown their collection because the majority of the records were from the very early ’60s; I don’t think there was anything in there later than 1964.

The raffle was on a Saturday, and that night, we were going through the collection to see if there was anything good. And I remember distinctly having my musical ear rocked by the very first strains of The Ronettes’ classic “Do I Love You?”: a sensual guitar/bass intro backed by horns and the echo of percussion welcoming Ronnie Spector’s sultry, longing vocal. It threw me for a loop – actually, still does! – and began for me a love and respect for Spector and his “Wall of Sound”.

It was in the summer of 1963 that Spector began what would come to be widely seen as, if not his greatest achievement (folks typically associate that with The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” or “River Deep, Mountain High”), then his most ambitious and original, that being “A Christmas Gift For You”. For not only did Spector create something virtually never achieved before: an album of pop classics in a (for then) contemporary setting that just so happened to be Christmas songs, he created arrangements around those songs that would make they themselves standards in their own right, songs that are still played every year, songs that sound as fresh and original as they did fifty years ago.

Rather than go into it here, I post about this album every year in my “Holiday Ode to St. Phil” here.

“A Christmas Gift For You” never really got its due, primarily because it was released right around the time JFK was assassinated. It took seven years and the arrival of Spector at The Beatles’ Apple label (to work on Let It Be) for it to be re-released and experience, albeit belatedly all the acclaim it was due and presently holds. And it’s not just me who holds this album in such high regard: it’s actually the only Christmas album that typically appears on the all-time greatest album lists by both Rolling Stone and Billboard

Merry Christmas!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:08 | Comments Off on The Great White Shank’s Top Ten: #9: Phil Spector’s “A Christmas Gift For You”
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