Album: Phil Spector, The Philles Album Collection (Sony Legacy)


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The Independent Culture

Not for nothing was Phil Spector known as the Tycoon Of Teen: Philles, the label he formed a year earlier with old-school record executive Lester Sill, became in 1962 Spector's alone, making him, at 21, the youngest label head in America.

Though Philles' main currency was pop singles, the label did release a few albums, the most notable being the legendary A Christmas Gift For You, the hardy seasonal perennial frustratingly not included as part of this 7CD box set. Indeed, the long-player was a form he disdained: anticipating download-era attitudes by about a half-century, he described albums as just "two hits and ten pieces of junk", a point of view confirmed by his own early releases. When The Crystals' Twist Uptown failed to perform commercially, it was swiftly withdrawn, Spector slapping on the group's two recent hits "He's A Rebel" and "He's Sure The Boy I Love" and reissuing it as He's A Rebel. Both albums are included here, like a literal echo of old industry practices.

"He's A Rebel" provides a perfect illustration of Spector's ruthless approach to his artists. With The Crystals out on tour and unavailable to record the song, he simply acquired another girl group, The Blossoms, and had them record it as The Crystals. The lead singer, Darlene Love, then went on to have hits both as herself and as Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans - notably the epochal "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - and in all probability contributed to The Ronettes' output too. Love's is one of the most crucial voices in the development of the girl-group sound, challenged only by The Ronettes' Ronnie Spector. They're certainly the most soulfully effective, evoking the wrong-side-of-the-tracks, rebel-chick quality crucial to Phil Spector's aesthetic.

The producer's celebrated Wall Of Sound remains idiosyncratic, even bizarre, with the monstrous banks of keyboards, guitars and strings, the prominent Latino rhythmic elements which brought flamenco and tango into pop, and the weirdly foregrounded percussive flourishes, like the castanets on The Crystals' "Another City - Another World", louder than the entire string section. But while he may have claimed to be making "little symphonies for the kids", frequently here the overwhelming impression is of vast resources squandered on paltry material like "Frankenstein Twist", or ill-judged attempts to cash in on some passing trend, as with Bob B. Soxx's vain snatch for the folk bandwagon, "This Land Is Your Land". But Spector's disdain for all but hits is best exemplified on the instrumental B-sides compilation Phil's Flipsides, by The Phil Spector Wall Of Sound Orchestra, which nevertheless offers the opportunity to examine his techniques unencumbered by vocals, often on trifles titled to highlight Wrecking Crew members such as Nino Tempo, Sonny Bono and Hal Blaine.

Apart from the hits compilation Philles Records Presents Today's Hits, by far the best stuff included here is to be found on Presenting The Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica, for which Spector reserved his most potent musical brews. In many cases, it's possible to spot the specific sonic strategies nicked by Brian Wilson from tracks such as "Do I Love You?", confirming the old saying about how genius steals. In this case, from another genius, however flawed.

Download This: He's A Rebel; Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah; Be My Baby; Baby I Love You; Da Doo Ron Ron