PERMANENT RECORDS: IT'S A MARSHMALLOW WORLD IN THE WINTER
Due to Holiday complications, we're posting early this week. But at least it's part of the festivities, and now you have time to score this record before the actual day!
Permanent Records is a year-long project. Each Friday (or thereabouts), I will post a new entry about one specific album, chosen due to its significance to myself as a fan. Though the list is numbered, a particular record's placement should not be considered a ranking. There will be 52 albums in all. This is the penultimate edition. One more to go! (Thank Christ!)
02. VARIOUS ARTISTS - A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR YOU FROM PHIL SPECTOR (1963)
Personnel: Phil Spector, Darlene Love, The Ronettes, Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, The Crystals
Producer: Phil Spector/Label: Abcko
I'm not the greatest fan of Christmas. This should shock no one. I am a curmudgeon. I am a Grinch. People have even been known to replace "Grinch" with "Mr. Rich" in the song from the cartoon. (Yes, you're a mean one, Mr. Rich.)
I might like Christmas better if it weren't for Christmas music. Let's be honest, it's awful stuff. As with anything, exceptions prove the rule and some good things come along every once in a while. I like Low's holiday one-off for its many moods, though my real tastes gravitate to the darker tones, like Erasure's suicide-laced "She Won't Be Home."
That said, I could be fine with Christmas music if it was all produced by Phil Spector.
I have a deep and dirty love for Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. For all the influence of African American musicians, the Beatles, Pet Sounds, and Elvis on modern rock 'n' roll, I really think there would be no music as we know it today without ol' crazy Phil. Most hiphop backing tracks are nothing but digital-age versions of the Wall of Sound, piling on the instruments to create an ear-tickling melody out of cacophony. Let's not forget, too, that Phil produced the Ramones. Even punk dug his platters.
A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector takes traditional Christmas music and hangs it on the Wall of Sound. Bing Crosby must have had to turn down his hearing aid to process Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans singing "The Bells of St. Mary's" as an R&B ballad, complete with orchestra, bells, pile-driver drums, and Soxx's soaring voice. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" just doesn't sound the same without the spoken intro the Crystals give their version, a quiet warning placidly leading us into girl group harmonies, various bells of both the jingle and ding-dong variety, and again, the most drums Spector can fit into one recording studio. Not to mention a sax solo that predates all sax solos being crappy. And only Phil would have real horse's whinnying on the Ronettes' rendition of "Sleigh Ride" while using coconut shells or something to make the sound of their hooves.
The album is a blast. The sound of it is upbeat and fun, and you have to love the sincere "thank you" that Spector delivers over the top of a "Silent Night" backing track on the final cut. It's goofy in the most honest of ways. I listen to this disc and I feel like I'm having Christmas dinner with the Goodfellas. Joe Pesci hit the turkey with his car and Martin Scorsese's mom cooked it.
Forget the choral pabulum, forget anything by a current diva (my lovely Christina A. included) or novelty junk taped off of Dr. Demento. This is all you need, the only Christmas record that doesn't have death in it that should even be allowed near your stereo.
Phil Spector made it for us. It says so in the title. Don't disappoint him.
Reminder: As always, this post is full of links to Amazon. Click on any one of them when shopping, and Amazon will shave a few pennies off their take to give to me. So, if my reviews make you all hot and bothered and you just have to own one of the things I'm talking about, use my link and contribute to buying me more stuff to review. (Those reading a Live Journal feed will likely have to click to the actual blog page first before heading over to Amazon, though.) Either way, thanks for reading.
Current Soundtrack: Bloc Party, A Weekend in the City
Current Mood: aggravated (by the holidays)
All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich