My what a box set: Phil Spector: Back to Mono; win a copy!

Phil Spector is more in the news for being a convicted murderer these days than anything else. Before that, people may know him for screwing up Let It Be (at least in the opinion of one knight).

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.

The Crystals – Heartbreaker (mp3)

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Treasures – Hold Me Tight (mp3)

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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!



11 Responses to “My what a box set: Phil Spector: Back to Mono; win a copy!”

  1. Austin Kaus says:

    This whole thing looks amazing but, as a big Harry Nilsson fan, I’ll be skipping to “This Could Be The Night” as soon as possible.

  2. Will says:

    Picking one song from this box set that I would want to listen to over and over is a rather difficult task, since I most look forward to discovering new ones. However, if I must pick one, I’d have to say it would be the Treasures’ version of “Hold Me Tight.” Yes, the Beatles were influential and being all psychedelic – but at their core, Lennon and McCartney were just really brilliant pop songwriters. So, I think when you combine their songcraft with Phil Spector wall of sound, the result is nothing but spectacular. Now, things may not have turned out the same with Let It Be – then again, I never listened to that album, and thought, “this doesn’t sound right.” Its still a strong album – it’s no Abbey Road – but its still a good Beatles album.

    Fun note about Phil Spector was he tried to make his comeback in 2003 with Starsailor. The song he produced – “Silence is Easy” – is pretty good and I imagine that will go down as the last Spector production. Interesting career to say the least.

  3. Natalie says:

    I’d like to acquaint (or in the case of some of the songs, reacquaint) myself with all of these songs. But mostly, that version of Ben E. King’s “Spanish Harlem” that I believe you’ve mentioned before.

  4. Danielle says:

    I’m with Natalie. Way back in my theatre days, I was the house manager for a one man cabaret show with this fantastic performer whose name I can’t recall now, but I NEVER got sick of “Spanish Harlem.” I still smile every time I hear it.

  5. Moses says:

    This will win no points for originality and won’t win me this contest, but I’d channel my inner Brian Wilson and listen to “Be My Baby” on repeat. At parties I host, I’ve always found it pretty satisfying to play BMB right before “Don’t Worry Baby”… or to play it before any of the countless songs that use the opening boom… boom-boom, cha! (at one point, the BMB wiki had a partial list of these songs; you can find it by poking around the history section of the wiki and comparing previous versions).

    Judging from the response of individuals at the party to the tunes, you can quickly find out who knows their music history!

  6. Colin says:

    Consider this my entry. I’m ready to be hit with the wall of sound.

  7. Colin says:

    Oops. I neglected to mention the song I’ll be listening to on repeat. I think that would have to “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes. It reminds me of roller skating in elementary school.

  8. G says:

    I just don’t think pop music gets any better than Be My Baby. I dont think I can hear that song without chills going down my back. So, sign me up for having chills over and over and over again!

  9. david says:

    the ronettes’ “you came, you saw, you conquered”

  10. jsong says:

    Call me sappy… I can’t help but be happy when I hear Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.

  11. Tor Hershman says:

    I wanna hear “It’s Too Late, Baby”

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