Album no. 37/1001
It’s only 75 days until Christmas, so there’s no better time to listen to the 1963 classic, A Christmas Gift For You.
Most of you probably know Phil Spector as the super weird bloke accused of murder back in 2009. But back in the day he was a pretty important guy in the music scene, responsible for creating the ‘Wall of Sound’ and he had a hand in some of the biggest pop songs in history like ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’ and ‘Unchained Melody’. He also worked on ‘Let It Be’ with The Beatles and ‘End of the Century’ with The Ramones. So that’s exciting.
On this album, artists like The Crystals and The Ronnettes turn some classic Christmas tunes into pretty epic pop anthems.
Have you listened to this album before?
CL: I haven’t. I don’t usually listen to Christmas music, except for Christmas day, but even then I have a very specific soundtrack: The Peppermint Kandy Kids. It’s great – 10/10 would recommend.
NK: I had no idea this existed. Also, your peppermint candy freaks are pretty weird. My mum always went for the Elvis christmas album. It’s no good, but what Christmas album is?
CL: This is your typical Christmas album, filled with traditional favourites, but they’re done in a contemporary way. ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ is easily the best on this album – and the only original song on here. ‘Sleigh Ride’ is great too. ‘Winter Wonderland’ sounds incredible – the harmonies are SASSY. It’s also probably my favourite Christmas song, so maybe I’m a bit biased.
NK: I disagree! ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ is the best track, sung The Crystals (who did ‘Then He Kissed Me’, a Saturday night jukebox staple). I have no strong feelings about ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ one way or another, but I love this version. Well done Phil.
When would be the best time to listen to this?
CL: Well Christmas time, obviously.
NK: Not walking home from work on a warmish Cctober afternoon, which is when I did. I actually think this album is ill-suited to an Australian Christmas. If it’s snowing outside I think you’re more likely to enjoy this. A northern hemisphere Christmas, sure, but in oz maybe try July.
Why has this album been included on the list?
CL: Looking past his questionable actions (like murder 😐 ), Phil Spector had a MASSIVE influence on music. Before him, so much pop music sounded… empty. There wasn’t a lot going on. But old mate really shook things up, creating these incredibly dense songs with layers and reverb and all that fancy stuff. Have a read about the Wall of Sound if you’re interested in how he actually achieved it.
NK: Do you know what, I know he produced everything and was a writer on ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’, but I think it was pretty cheeky of Phil Spector to put his name on this as the artist. His production was pretty insane, two or three or seven of every instrument, but he wasn’t doing the singing or the playing. Shout out to Darlene Love, The Crystals, The Ronettes, Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans (?!?!), and all the session musicians who played on this. You deserve more credit.
CL: That’s fair.
Will you be listening again?
CL: I could MAYBE find room for it in my Christmas day listening schedule. Maybe after round 3 of The Peppermint Kandy Kids.
NK: Speaking of the session musicians on this album, two names really jump out at me: Sonny Bono – percussion, and Leon Russell – piano. Sonny Bono obviously was the lesser partner of Sonny and Cher, while Leon Russell is the reason Joe Cocker refused to tour America for ten years. That’s pretty crazy to me, having two people who go on to influence pop music in a substantial way relegated to the liner notes. I am going to play this album at my dad’s family Christmas, and I am going to refuse to turn it off until it’s finished. I’ll let you know how it goes.