What does Christmas sound like? I think Christmas sounds like sleigh bells and brass. To others, Christmas may sound like something else. Perhaps Christmas sounds like Mariah Carey or like Gene Autry. Perhaps, Christmas sounds like a 60s album, like A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector.
As I was listening to this Christmas album, I had several thoughts. First, I know a lot of these arrangements. They are still popular today, 32 years after first released. Seriously. Second, why is this on the Rolling Stone list? I will grant the fact that this is an excellent Christmas album – perhaps one of the best Christmas albums released. However, it is a compilation of arrangements of already released songs. These songs are not new, just rearranged, and rerecorded with different artists. So, why is it on the list? Next, who the heck are these artists? The singers featured were ones already working with Phil Spector. Were they under contract? Probably. Have I ever heard of them? No. Who the heck is Darlene Love? She has talent but did she release anything else? I can google it but I probably will just add it to the bottom of my to-do list.
Phil Spector. My first thought upon reading his name was: Who the heck is Phil Spector. Well, it turns out that he was a producer back in the day. He is known for developing the “Wall of Sound.” This is a music production formula he described as “a Wagnerian approach to rock and roll.” This Wall of Sound is pretty interesting. The basis of it is that it is created by having a number of instrumentalists, acoustic and electric, perform the same parts in unison, adding musical arrangements for large group of musicians up to the size of an orchestra, and then recording using an echo chamber. It creates a big sound. Literally a wall of sound.
Interestingly enough, Phil Spector became the subject of two trials for murder and received a second-degree conviction. He is currently serving a prison sentence of 19 years to life and will be 88 years old before he is eligible for parole. Hey, at least he gave us a great Christmas album before his descent into crime. Apparently, he did not like being spurned by women, having drawn his gun on a number of women before one was actually shot.
Musical groups featured:
- White Christmas
- Marshmallow World
- Winter Wonderland
- Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
- Santa Claus is Coming to Town
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
- Parade of the Wooden Soldiers
Trivia Factoid: The lead singer for The Ronnettes was Veronica Bennett, AKA Ronnie Spector, Phil Spector’s first wife.
- Frosty the Snowman
- Sleigh Ride
- I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans
- The Bells of St. Mary
- Here Comes Santa Claus
- Silent Night (with Phil Spector)
A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector was not an immediate success due to its initial release. It was released the day that JFK was assassinated, November 22, 1963. From what I understand, the country was not in such a great state for wanting to celebrate. It has since been released several different times on several different labels. These tracks are still widely played on the radio and, to me, sound like Christmas. Christmas as I hear it in my head. Christmas with a definite 1960s vibe.
Do I think it should be on the Rolling Stone list? No. Do I think that it is a great album worthy of its success? Yes. I just do not think that a compilation of rearranged, already popular pieces should be on a list of the greatest albums of all time.
Go take a listen to this album and enjoy these secular Christmas songs. Enjoy the feeling of Christmas on this, the best time of year to listen to this album.
Have a very merry Christmas and listen to some great music. Hint: The Beatles will now be streaming as of tomorrow! Boom! Merry Christmas to us all!