Phil Spector Presents The Philles Album Collection (Legacy)

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Some of the songs in this collection are well-known—”Chapel of Love,” “Be My Baby,” “He’s a Rebel,” and “Da Doo Ron Ron” among them—but the real appeal is the more obscure selections

 

In his happier years—i.e., before he was convicted of the murder of Lana Clarkson and packed off to prison—Phil Spector was one of the most successful songwriters and producers on the U.S. popular music scene. He worked with everyone from the Beatles (Let It Be) to Ike and Tina Turner (River Deep – Mountain High) to The Ramones (End of the Century), but is best known for creating the “Wall of Sound,” lush orchestrations (including doubling or tripling on many parts) that became part of the sonic identity of 1960s girl groups like The Ronettes and The Crystals.

The Philles Album Collection offers an encyclopedic look at Spector’s development of the Wall of Sound. This seven-CD collection, although covering only three year’s worth of releases, takes you from the beginnings of this distinctive style in The Crystals Twist Uptown (1962) to its full flowering in The Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica (1964). The Philles Album Collection includes the first six albums released on the Philles label—the others are He’s a Rebel (The Crystals, 1963), Zip-a Dee-Doo-Dah (Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, 1963), The Crystals Sing the Greatest Hits, vol. 1 (1963), and Philles Records Presents Today’s Hits (1963)—plus a disc of unreleased B-side instrumentals by the Phil Spector Wall of Sound Orchestra.

Some of the songs in this collection are well-known—”Chapel of Love,” “Be My Baby,” “He’s a Rebel,” and “Da Doo Ron Ron” among them—but the real appeal is the more obscure selections, including “Frankenstein Twist,” “Please Hurt Me” (yes, that is the title, prefiguring the better-known “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)”), “Do the Walk,” and “I Shook the World.” Many of the top songwriters of the day are featured on these discs, including Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (“Uptown,” “On Broadway”), Jack Keller and Larry Kolber (“What a Nice Way to Turn Seventeen”), Gerry Goffin and Carole King (“He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)” and “No One Ever Tells You”), Jack Keller and Larry Kolber (“What a Nice Way to Turn Seventeen”), and, of course, Spector himself. It’s well to keep in mind that Spector wasn’t thinking in terms of the pop album as a distinct art form: These are collections of hit singles (or would-be hit singles), and should be taken on those terms.

If you’re a Spector completist, you will definitely want The Philles Album Collection. If you like the Wall of Sound but don’t need quite so much detail about how it came to be, and also would like to hear a wider selection of Spector’s work, a better choice is The Essential Phil Spector. This two-disc collection, also released by Legacy, contains 35 tracks from the years 1958 to 1969, including quite a few from the girl groups featured on the Philles Album Collection. Spector’s range and versatility on these songs is simply boggling. The first song in the collection, “To Know Him is To Love Him” (1958), was not only written, arranged, and produced by Spector, but also features him on the recording as a singer (with Annette Kleinbard and Marshall Leib, he performed The Teddy Bears). Spector wouldn’t equal that feat again, but he wrote or produced all the songs in this collection (many were arranged by Jack Nitzsche) for a variety of artists, including Ben E. King (“Spanish Harlem”), Curtis Lee (“Pretty Little Angel Eyes”), The Righteous Brothers (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “Ebb Tide,” and “Unchained Melody”), and, of course, The Crystals, The Ronnettes, the Alley Cats, and Darlene Love. That’s quite a legacy. The Philles Album Collection: B; The Essential Phil Spector: B+ | Sarah Boslaugh

RIYL: Be My Baby: The Very Best of The Ronnettes; Da Doo Ron Ron: The Very Best of The Crystals; The Best of the Girl Groups vols. 1-2

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