Back to MonoPhil Spector Christmas

“He’s the one who likes all the pretty songs…and he likes to shoot his gun.” — Kurdt Kobain

“I am a big man (yes I am) and I have a big gun.” — Trent Reznor

So this is a box set.  Actually the biggest box set on the list so far.  It’s four discs, including three discs of Phil Spector “classics” and the Phil Spector Christmas album (the Christmas album actually shows up later on the list at #142, which is surprising since they consolidated so many other albums into box sets and greatest hits packages…maybe someone at RS missed the memo that this was included here…or maybe it’s just that good).  Anyhow, I purchased this on eBay for $36.00 after being outbid several times (I refused to go over $40 for this set).  Prior to owning this, my only experience with Phil Spector was his work with the Beatles on the “Let It Be” album and his work with John Lennon on the “Plastic Ono Band”, “Imagine” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll” albums.  Actually, there is a great story about how Apple Records hired Spector to remix “Let It Be” without Paul McCartney’s consent (and Paul was pretty much running Apple at that point), and when he heard the “Spectorized” version of “The Long and Winding Road”, he demanded it be changed back to its original form…which the label declined to do (leading eventually to the “Let It Be…Naked” release 33 years later).  George Martin was also upset because Phil Spector got the producer credit on that album when Martin had essentially done all of the work in the studio.  And apparently Spector and John Lennon had it out several times and weren’t speaking to each other by the end of the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” sessions.

But at any rate, this box set is pretty much all of the songs that Spector wrote and produced during the prime of his career.  Of course, he really doesn’t perform on any of them (maybe a guitar lick or piano part here or there), but he produced and recorded most of these tracks using his “Wall of Sound” method (from what I’ve read, he set up mics in a room and recorded ensembles instead of individual instruments).  And from a nostalgia standpoint, this box set is fun.  It takes you back to the glory days of sock hops and drive-ins and car-hops and Happy Days and all the stuff I totally missed out on as a child of the 70s.  It’s a little heavy on the girl groups, with most of the songs coming from the Crystals, the Ronettes, and Darlene Love, but there are a few mega-hits from the Righteous Brothers and a Ben E. King song too.  Ike and Tina Turner even show up towards the end.  Disc 1 is the most fun and Disc 3 has the most famous songs.  Disc 2 kind of drags, and well, the Christmas album is just very Christmassy.  I think my show choir has performed pretty much every song on that record.  But even as much fun as this set is, I just can’t get over the fact that Spector is currently serving 19 years to life for murder.  And the woman he murdered was actress Lana Clarkson of “Amazon Women on the Moon” fame (I remember watching that movie countless times with Satan, the Elusive One, and the Artistic One while we played poker in Mr. U’s basement).  Apparently he picked her up at a bar, took her home, and shot her accidentally while waving a gun in her face.  Not cool dude.  Just not cool.

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Other lists: “Be My Baby” is #22, “River Deep – Mountain High” is #33, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” is #34,  “He’s a Rebel” is #267, “Walking in the Rain” is #269, “Spanish Harlem” is #358, and “Unchained Melody” is #374 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Tina Turner is #63 and Phil Spector is #64 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists.  Tina Turner is also #17, Ronnie Spector is #69, and Darlene Love is #84 on the list of the 100 Greatest Singers.

Ch-ch-changes: This set dropped one spot from its original position due to the inclusion of CCR’s “Chronicle”.

My favorite track: “Unchained Melody”

Honorable mention: “River Deep – Mountain High”

Quote: “Downtown he’s just one of a million guys.  He don’t get no breaks and he takes all they got to give, ’cause he’s got to live.”