Tuesday, July 17, 2007

No. 64: Back to Mono (1958-1969)

Band: Phil Spector (though, actually, it's a various artist situation)
Album: Back to Mono (1958-1969)
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: There are record producers and then there are Record Producers. Phil Spector is the second. The "Wall of Sound" technique is nearly as influential as an any single artist.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I'm becoming less and less interested in these greatest hits compilations, especially boxed sets. This is a triple-disc set that collects so many great singles, it's hard to even take it all in.
Best song: Because there are so many great tracks, it's tough to pick one or another. I'll say "Be My Baby," because most consider it to be the perfect example of the Wall of Sound.
Worst song: The final track on the set, "Love Is All I Have to Give" isn't great.
Is it awesome?: It's pretty great.

Let's talk about what most people my age know about Phil Spector: This photo. Most people in their 20s don't know of Spector from his knob-twiddling of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" or "Be My Baby" or that he mixed "Let It Be."

What's great about Spector is that he decided the Wall of Sound to be "a Wagnerian approach to rock & roll: little symphonies for the kids." It's a brilliant description as we all know what Wagner did as a composer and for Spector to emulate him in the 60s was revolutionary. The sound he produced on songs like "Be My Baby" and "Spanish Harlem" was emulated on "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Club Band," only the no. 1 record on this list.

Or how about "River Deep -Mountain High?" Probably Ike and Tina's best song, Spector considered it to be his best song. How about "Unchained Melody?" It's been covered almost as much as "Yesterday" or "Stairway to Heaven," and don't think that the production doesn't have something to do with that. Or "Chapel of Love?" "He's a Rebel?"

All brilliant. Wagner (anti-Semite he was) would be proud of this little nerdy Jew from the Bronx.

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