But I wanted to bring some focus back to the genius music he produced and one of my favorite box sets of all time: Phil Spector: Back to Mono. It’s has three discs of Spector singles and the full length Spector Christmas album as the fourth disc. It’s an overview of the Wall of Sound, with its huge drums, layered production and diverse instrumentation. You can also hear that Spector introducing Latin elements into pop songs in a time when that was not yet commonplace.
Of course it has the hits and Phil Spector’s hits are among the best pop songs made: “Be My Baby”, “He’s a Rebel”, “Then He Kissed Me”, and “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling” among them. Then there are many other songs you’d recognize, but the real value in the set are the lost gems hidden in here. I love Ben E. King’s “Spanish Harlem”, a light and straight-forward soul ballad with some great orchestrations and fun vocal lines. Lee Curtis’ “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” borders on doo wop and has a driving rhythm and a fantastic chorus. “Uptown” by the Crystals is a Latin-tinged love song with a great pre-chorus->chorus build.
“Heartbreaker”, also by the Crystals, has a harder groove and more swagger than most of Spector’s numbers, putting it closer to a Motown track than most. It also has a classic sax solo in it. Treasures’ “Hold Me Tight” is built upon a percussion line than may be close to “Be My Baby”‘s in how good it is. The vocal melodies are also really catchy. It holds a fairly rare distinction of being a Beatlest cover that is much better than the original.
This is really a fantastic box set and I recommend it to anyone that’s interested in oldies, girl group or soul music.
While going through some of my stuff, I found an extra, unopened copy of Phil Spector: Back to Mono. I bought this with my own money, but I’ll give it away to one lucky reader. To enter to win the box set, leave a comment with the song on the collection you most look forward to listening to again and again by 11:59pm Sunday July 19. (See here for tracklist.) I’ll pick one winner at random. Be sure to put a valid email address because I’ll need to contact you to get an address to ship it to if you win. This contest is open to residents of US and Canada only.
You can buy it at amazon.
Update: The contest is closed and with the help of random.org, I’ve chosen Will as the winner. Thanks for the entries!